Lakes College students volunteer in libraries to help the local community

Lakes College Level 3 Health & Social Care students have been volunteering as Digital Access Volunteers at Whitehaven and Workington Library, delivering a total of ten sessions. The students have been working with disabled service users to teach them valuable digital skills that will be useful to them in everyday life.

The students were assisting individuals in using the NHS choices website and showed them how to navigate the site and find out about a healthy lifestyle. They also showed the service users how to make appointments to see a doctor without going to the doctors’ surgery. Another activity the students took part in was showing service users how to make and use an email account so they can communicate with friends and family and use websites that require email addresses.

Becky Sutton, 17 from Workington, is one of the Lakes College students participating in the scheme. She comments: “During my time volunteering I assisted a lip reading group showing individuals how to create and use an email account. The individuals all had hearing impairments so we had to ensure we spoke clearly so they could understand us. I found the experience really rewarding as I knew I was making a difference to the service users’ lives. I am also a shy person so found that this built up my confidence each time I took part.”

Student Chloe Scott, 17 from Whitehaven, adds: “I worked with a service user to teach them how to use the NHS choices website. We also discussed her interests and I found out that she liked cooking and baking so I showed her how to search for recipes online and she found a chocolate truffles recipe which she was going to make for her mother on Mother’s Day. Eventually I want to be a nurse and specialise in Mental Health Nursing, so this experience has helped me to develop my skills in adapting sessions and the way I communicate with different individuals depending on their needs and personality.”

Each volunteer received training before the sessions and were given information on the service user they were assisting so they can tailor the session to each individual’s interests and current abilities to help them to get engaged in the session. The students are given criteria to meet with each service user before the sessions.

Tanya Daniel, Community Service Officer at Whitehaven Library, said: “We decided to take part in the Digital Inclusion project because we wanted to help people become more digitally abled and so that the service users would eventually be able to learn how to access our online resources. We were grateful when the Health & Social Care students came forward and offered their time to help with the project. The students were crucial to the running of the project and we couldn’t have done the sessions without the help from the college as they were the only volunteers we worked with. The students acted appropriately, politely and patiently at all times and I was very impressed with their performance.”

Chris Nattress, Principal of Lakes College, comments “This has been a fantastic opportunity for our students to participate in an activity that helps members of the local community. They have made an impact on the lives of a number of individuals which they should be incredibly proud of. In addition, the project has also given the learners the chance to gain real world skills in the sector that will help them when seeking employment in the future.”

The project is run by Cumbria County Council and is funded by the Tinder Foundation, a charity which helps people by focusing on digital inclusion, community learning, and tackling social challenges through digital solutions.