Tag Archives: Sheffield City Council

Doing IT?

29 Nov

IT Club has enjoyed it’s 5th successful session, with numbers steadily rising from 8 attendees at the first session to 17 at yesterday’s…  Volunteers are growing week by week as well, with three people now committing to attend regularly to assist members  with skills using email, web based publishing sites and reading.  As the activity develops the evidence of the need for  it is mounting up -so it seems like a good time to answer the question – IT Club –  why do it..?

On 11th September 2011 RASAG held it’s second “Happy Eid For Everyone” party, pictured above.   The majority of the budget was used on food making sure that there was a wide selection of dishes from around the world, freshly cooked with “whole food” ingredients, all suitable for our majority Muslim membership…  The party was open for everyone in the community and we aimed to cater for the enjoyment of a born and bred white Sheffielder, just as much as for a person or family from a different culture.

Our main intention in organising an event as a refugee/asylum seeker group, is to ensure that it is accessible to the hardest to reach people, including those who through the workings of the UK asylum system have been made destitute with no legal status to allow them to work and no recourse to public funds.  Good food, good music and the certainty of a friendly welcome all ensure that our parties are accommodating to someone living in enforced destitution.  Thanks to RASAG teaming up with the welcoming organisation Sheffield City of Sanctuary, “Happy Eid…” enjoyed a fabulous turnout of almost 200 people – African Arabic , Asian and Persian dishes were enjoyed alongside the sounds of DJ Ebo, and Shangra band Yakam Jar Bu – people danced, and laughed and were merry – even the tinned fruit and ice cream dessert was received with rapturous enthusiasm!  To the untrained eye the old school hall was the picture of affable comradery, but from RASAG’s p.o.v, the people who couldn’t raise a single smile, who’s foot never tapped to the beat and who didn’t exchange a word in sociablity were the only ones who mattered and they were dotted throughout the room like shadows in every corner.  Which raised the question – as a group, is it enough to simply afford a welcome to those most in need at occasional gatherings?  If the best we can do as a community group is provide a jolly a few times a year, are we really doing anything at all?  So IT Club was born.

The idea is very simple – four hours of high speed internet access on 11 PC’s, a box of additional resources including Flip cameras, ESL textbooks, dictionaries etc, a shared hot lunch and a small amount of petty cash to reimburse travel expenses for unwaged participants and volunteers – oh and printing is free with the room by default, although the line did have to be drawn when someone wanted to print a whole book!  There is no pressure  for people to prescribe to a specific line of learning, and in fact those who come along expecting a structured IT lesson are quickly put right.  The shared blog space (http://rasagcomputerclub.wordpress.com/) and encouragement to use email, Youtube, facebook and Twitter alongside learning basic IT skills, such as log on, shut down, highlight, double click, make IT Club more like a conversation club online.  Just like Sheffield’s highly successful conversation clubs, IT Club is not only open to refugees and asylum seekers, but to everyone who wants to talk and share, forming a community.

That’s what we’re doing – and we’re going to keep doing IT.

A Problem You Don’t Have…

14 Nov

If you’re reading this post, you probably don’t need to attend RASAG’s IT Club…

Free internet access is thankfully on the rise, but when so many of us are connected at home and out and about on smart phones, wireless devices and WiFi it’s hard to imagine having to make an appointment to get an hour online. Having secured one’s hour at a library, community learning space or similar, the task of logging onto the system and navigating away from the homepage is likely to take a sizeable chunk out of the designated time. Even for the most seasoned cyber surfer under an hour will be at best a couple of emails, bit of a nosey on facebook and possibly some gentle Youtubing. Or of course if there are serious tasks to be done, you could perhaps search for and download the details of a job or two, investigate your car insurance or plan a journey. So what about people who don’t know how to set up an email account, or use Google or open a programme?

With thanks to Sheffield City Council’s now closed Small Grants fund RASAG has been running an IT club on Mondays,11 – 3 at Sharrow Old Junior School. The grant which we received in March enables us to hire the IT Training Suite (£25 p/h), to buy a small amount of teaching resources and to refund bus fares to qualifying participants, ie. those who are unwaged or entirely without income. Thanks to an element of match funding from the Community Forum, we are also able to provide a hot lunch. The combination of transport assistance and food makes us an ideal facility for anyone who does not have personal internet access and who is on a tight budget.

RASAG IT Club is open for everyone, whether they’ve never switched a PC on in their life or they’re written an encyclopaedia on computer engineering. The four hour time slot means that anyone who attends is able to secure a meaningful amount of time online and have free use of a printer. All IT clubbers are encouraged to help each other out and if they are not in need of help themselves, they will certainly find they are able to help others. Top priorities include getting everyone set up on an email account and using this and other medium as a form of communication; a simple example of this would be new email users exchanging messages with each other. Today we established a group blog and six IT clubbers are authors so far, see http://rasagcomputerclub.wordpress.com/

Literacy is the greatest barrier to learner progression and enjoyment at IT Club, so reading support is the key need within the group. If a person is literate in any language, they will be able to use a computer and may have ESL needs that can be addressed with online activities. However, if the person cannot read any language, then ESL activities will not help them to use a computer. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere at the IT Club ensures that everyone gets a chance to try new things, learn and practice new skills and meet people who learn in different ways and all have something to teach.

Some of the things that have proved to be important to IT Club goers so far include having access to music and videos from other cultures, using email, facebook, twitter and other platforms to communicate with people and being able to download job applications, funding applications and print coursework and formal letters. It’s so satisfying to see facilities being used and enjoyed, and a wide variety of people gaining substantial benefit from them. Viva IT Club!