Rural Life NOVEMBER 2018 65-Year-Old Craftsperson and Activist Receives Overall Award At 2018 open eir Silver Surfer Awards. nobody to Skype.” The training can have a profound impact on people’s lives, Jennifer explains. “One lady who came to us who is a carer for her husband. She has a half day respite once a week, which she used to spend doing her shopping. She came to a class and learned how to do online shopping and now she does her shopping at home and she has her half-day respite to go and meet friends, get her hair done or whatever it is that she wants to do.” Broad reach This year, Jennifer estimates that 3,000 older people will benefit from the 10-hour, one-to-one training. “We are the only service that does one-to-one training and it is by far the best way to teach anybody of any age something new.” Demand for the classes is high, with waiting lists in many locations. The programme operates in towns and cities across Ireland. “I think there are about seven counties that we are not in, but we are trying to expand that depending on funding and resources, but we have opened new classes this year in Kilkenny, Offaly, Wexford, Tipperary, Carlow.” Classes are run in community venues, like libraries or parish halls, with most courses running in the daytime. “A lot of older people don’t like going out at night time so most of our classes are run during the day. We do run a few evening classes and in Cork we have one Saturday class.” Age Action also provides one-off classes in secondary schools where transition-year students provide the training. Jennifer says this is great because there are 25-30 tutors working at one time, however, the work with the transition year students is only a once-off and not a fulltime service. Corporations are also providing training as part of the corporate social responsibility initiatives. lem. However, a lot of background work is required to establish the courses and funding and manpower present challenges. “If you think of the resources that go into training 3,000 people this year, that’s up to 2,000 volunteers – some volunteers will volunteer continuously – that’s a lot of phone calls. It’s a lot of putting people in the same room, on the same day at the same time. Our administration cost to put all of that together is quite high, as well as for the resources to train our volunteers and providing materials for them. We do this on a shoe string.” There is another cohort of citizens that the courses don’t cater for and, Jennifer says, it is her long-term ambition to make this training available to people who are in their homes. “This is a pet project for me because our long-term aim is to supply a Getting Started at Home Programme. We don’t have that service at the moment, but that is where we want to go. If you think of people who are housebound maybe due to illness, disability or people who are in a caring situations who don’t have the time to come out to a class, to be able to provide a Garda-vetted, trained volunteer tutor who can go to their home and help them get set up is amazing. The isolation someone feels being housebound could be improved if they could get online and connect with the outside world.” Volunteer support Jennifer describes the 2,000 volunteers as the backbone of the programme and explains that they come from a variety of backgrounds and experience. “We get a lot of people who are retired and college students, who have spare time, it’s across the board and volunteers are from all sectors of the community who want to do something and it’s quite and easy way to volunteer in the sense that it’s two hours once a week, so it’s not a huge commitment…Our volunteer tutors are our biggest, most precious, most wonderful resource. We couldn’t do this without volunteer tutors.” 70 Big ambitions Jennifer says finding volunteers and venues isn’t a prob-