Finalist category: IT Volunteer of the Year Award 2014
St Albans and District Café Net was founded in 2002, with the intention of providing basic computer and internet training, delivered by a team of volunteers. Café Net provided support to their local community for over a year, before taking a break. In 2003 the community came together again to form Computer Friendly, and set up a drop-in centre at their local Community Centre, where they’ve been running classes now for over ten years.
Computer Friendly is a non-profit organisation, funded by Café Net, and staffed by a team of experienced unpaid volunteer trainers who offer drop-ins, information, advice and guidance, beginner’s classes, and computer software courses. The key objectives of the charity are to assist anyone in St Albans and District, including disadvantaged and excluded people, in gaining valuable computer skills. Attendees range from those who are retired, unemployed or disabled, from diverse groups.
John Talbot is a full-time volunteer, and has been giving up his time to Computer Friendly for nearly ten years, they deliver training to a wide range of local people using classroom activity, surgeries and drop-ins. He co-ordinates their 36 volunteers, matching them up with the needs of 600 people every year. He also ensures that the technology needed to run courses on the volunteer’s laptops with Wi-Fi access is up to speed and operating efficiently, and with help maintains the organisations 30 laptops.
John has also co-ordinated the funding effort of the organisation, which during the last few years of austerity has meant that the organisation has been close to collapsing due to lack of funds. He has however succeeded in obtaining sufficient funds to get them through this difficult time. As the external funding has subsided, Computer Friendly have had to restrict their advertising budget, and so developed a newsletter which is circulated six times a year. It helps to recruit students to the courses which may be seen in the timetable on the last page of each newsletter.
“An award such as this will give him the recognition he deserves and the thanks from colleagues and local community for the excellent work he does.”
Melvyn Teare, Chairperson at St. Albans City and District Café Net
The training that John has delivered, and his support in the interview and recruitment process has ensured that not only does Computer Friendly have the most experienced staff available, they are paired up with attendees that require support in an area that the volunteer enjoys most. Over the past decade Café Net has helped over 4,000 people get online.