Following up on my recent discussion with Launchpad Reading volunteers Pam & Diane, I returned to meet Robert Hill to find out how volunteers are also helping on the education side of the service.
How did you get involved in volunteering?
I was a schoolteacher in a London comprehensive until December 2011 when I retired, having taught IT for the previous 20 odd years.
Having retired I spent the first 6 months or so doing the odds and ends, doing things in the house that kind of stuff, but I had it in my mind that I wanted to do something… I considered what there was around; I looked at the National Trust volunteering, but I didn’t fancy that, it seemed like a lot of standing around. I thought about the stereotype of being in a charity shop volunteering but didn’t fancy that.
I think it might have come up through the RVA email that Launchpad were looking for someone with IT skills to help the IT group here and that was three years ago.
What does the volunteering involve?
The sessions run on a drop-in basis and we work on the basis of whoever walks through the door you teach them… You can’t pick and choose, whoever comes in I teach them.
Taking this morning as an example; we had one person checking their emails, there was another person who had never touched a computer before so we were getting them started, another person was doing an online food handling courses and another doing a touch typing course, so it is a real variety.
We are just here if someone gets stuck, if there are little techie bits. With others we can help them through with things like setting up an email account… It is often about how do I use the Internet to search for things I’m interested in but we can also do things like introducing spreadsheets and PowerPoint.
What do you get out of it?
I don’t really go along with this making my contribution to society, The Big Society, and all this. You know after 37 years of teaching I have done my bit! But, as I say to people “I don’t play golf, I’m hopeless at DIY so what else am I going to do with my time now I’m retired?”
“Having been an IT teacher for 20 years, this is something I can help people with, so I do”
The week can drag on a bit, particularly in the wintertime, unless, as someone said, you have a peg in the week to do certain things, and doing this gives me a focus.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about volunteering?
You need to think about what you are good at, what skills you have to offer. I think often people take for granted the skills they have and undervalue them, but those skills can be of real benefit to someone.
Inspired? Current volunteering opportunities with Launchpad include: