Glack’s ‘silver surfers’ make waves on the world wide web

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Jim Feeney from Glack had toyed with the idea of getting to grips with computers for years, but it was only seven weeks ago he plucked up the courage to ‘log on’ and enter the virtual world.

The fresh faced 70-year-old joined the beginners course being held at the local GAA club at Brolly Park, and says it’s one of the best decisions he has ever made.

“It seems these days everyone is using computers and sending e-mails and what not, so, I said to myself, it’s time to learn,” said Jim, as the more than 20-strong group of all ages chatted, engrossed in their laptops.

“It has been brilliant doing this,” says Jim. “Last week we learnt how to send e-mails and I know that is something that’s natural for most people these days, but that’s a big thing. I remember looking at people on computers, pushing buttons and away the thing went and wondering where did it go. Now I can do that. The course has been a good start and I will keep it up and build on what I’ve learned. It’s a whole new world; something I had thought about for years.”

Supporting Communities NI facilitated the training as part of their “Digital Champion Initiative”, and the initiative was funded by the Department of Finance and Personnel as part of the ‘Go ON NI’ campaign taking place throughout Northern Ireland.

“The project aims to support, train and develop Digital Champions. A Digital Champion is someone who commits some of their free time to learn more about the benefits of using a computer and the Internet and share their skills with others. Trained Digital Champions receive their OCN Level 1 in Computer Essentials free of charge as part of the initiative,” said tutor Eleanor Coyle. “Myself and my colleagues, Roisin Hamilton and Stephanie Brolly, greatly enjoyed facilitating the course and we are looking forward to developing further training and events to promote Digital Inclusion in the Glack Community. Our thanks to the volunteers and participants who supported the training and kindly hosted the sessions at the local GAA hall.”

For 74-year-old Joe Lynch, it has been a great experience.

“I had a chance to do a computer course years ago with work, but I thought I would never need it,” laughs Joe. “It’s great and a powerful way to find out things. It has been brilliant. It’s about building confidence and getting rid of the fear of computers; even just switching it on. I’ve a computer at home, but I didn’t even know how to get her started!”

Both men say the other aspect of the course is the camaraderie and sociable element.

“I live beside Jim, but there are times I wouldn’t see him or the others for ages, maybe just at Mass, so I think we’re a better community for this. Whether you’re nine or 90 - forget about age - what we’ve had is a free education, more or less, and isn’t it great? And it means I can keep up with the grandchildren and find out about the GAA too!”

Mary Lafferty says her motivation for doing the course was a letter from her bank telling her she would have to access statements online from now on.

“It scared me a bit at the beginning, but sure you have to give it a go,” said Mary. “I’m really glad I did it, and I am going to get a computer. I think it’ll take a while before I really get comfortable but, it’s all good. It’ll be good to keep up with the grandkids, although they laugh at me learning about computers in the Glack shack!”

Local SDLP councillor Orla Beattie said the idea was to bring the world of virtual learning and computers to the people of Glack in an atmosphere where they felt comfortable.

Colr. Beattie said a recent survey by Glack Community Association resulted in people expressing a desire to learn more about the use of computers.

“It’s been such good fun, and it’s important the participants have been able to learn these new skills in an environment they’re at ease with, and have a bit of craic along the way,” added Orla. “Hopefully we will be able to do this again because a lot of people, once they heard how good this was, said they’d like to do it.”