How the Computer Learning programme started?
Narrated by R. Billingham
Sovereign House GH started the Computer Learning Programme for children in Salford, Greater Manchester. It’s a story with many plot twists, that are still being continued today. It’s the story of how one woman, Irene – Founder of Sovereign House GH, saw a need and made something happen. Sovereign House GH works to empower and improve the lives of disadvantaged children. Irene and her husband, after relocating to Greater Manchester, were heartbroken to hear of the poverty affecting families in Salford, one of the most deprived areas in Britain, and were desperate to do something about it. They could see the untapped potential in the children of Salford, and this drove them to create change.
It all started with research. For Irene and her husband, this looked like simply starting conversations with people in Salford. Very quickly, they noticed a theme developing. We all know that computers are used everywhere – every workplace is run by them, and most homes have one. But in Salford, many people cannot afford to buy one, meaning that many local school children were falling behind with their work, due to a lack of IT knowledge. Irene knew that computer skills are increasingly in demand in the job market. If these kids had somewhere to learn these valuable skills, their chances of bettering their lives and being successful in school and beyond would skyrocket! Her idea of launching a computer learning programme was born. Once she shared her vision with the team and agreed by the board, the next challenge was to find a location…
They wasted no time scouring the local area for a venue to host their Computer Learning Programme for the children of Salford. Driving around the area, one day Irene spotted Langworthy Cornerstone Community Centre. It stood out to her, so she went inside, asking to speak to John Phillips, the Chief Officer of the centre. Later on, during her meeting with John, Irene told him all about her idea for the programme, but was honest about not having money to pay for the use of the computer suite. Surprised at being asked for a freebie, John agreed to allow Sovereign House GH to use the IT suite for a few months, initially. Amazed at John’s generosity, Irene immediately started her workshop.
They quickly set to print flyers to advertise the start of the upcoming computer learning project. Having recruited one volunteer, they set to distribute the flyers within the Langworthy Cornerstone vicinity. They gave themselves 10 weeks to prepare for the launch of the Project. Having costed the project, and knowing how much the initial cost will be, they decided to have a fundraising event. Phil recruited a friend and work colleague, whilst Irene also recruited a few friends. They approached one of the local supermarkets and booked to have a bag-packing event to raise awareness of the project and raised some funds towards the initial cost. They also printed application forms and left them at Langworthy Cornerstone reception to be picked up by interested parents. The next quest was to get a computer teacher for the start of the classes.
They started asking around for a computer teacher. Meanwhile, Fortune, a computer teacher was also looking for ways to share his knowledge outside of the school curriculum! Irene got wind of it and quickly arrange a meeting with him on a Sunday afternoon. It was a feeling of ‘Deja Vu! Fortune came on board, and started planning the lessons, whilst giving some of the trustee’s tutorials and sites to self-learn! Within a few weeks of giving out the flyers, 28 applications have come in! Sovereign House GH only had access to 10 computers! How do you choose which child to bring on board?
After starting with 13 children sharing 10 computers – not the most convenient – it was all hands on deck, and everyone, including the charity’s trustees, jumped in to volunteer. Fortune, had a professional background as a computer teacher and designed a learning plan for the classes to follow. When he moved away, he handed over to Elyse, a programmer, who still works hard to teach our students. 2 years after setting up the programme at the Langworthy Cornerstone, Sovereign House Gh runs 7 classes, 3 days a week. We could not have done this without the help of John, the Cornerstone’s CO! Because the demand is growing rapidly, we are working to add extra days of classes to our schedule so we can reach even more local young people.
The purpose of this Computer Learning Programme is to empower young people to enter the job market in the future. The programme nurtures creative thinking and problem solving, and helps children to recognise their potential and boost their confidence in what they can achieve. As well as boosting their skill-set, they also have loads of fun and build great friendships along the way. Here at Sovereign House GH, we also teach life skills to our learners via additional mini-workshops, discussing topics around issues such as bullying, cyber-crime, bereavement, respect for others, leadership skills amongst others. We keep the classes small, so we can work with the children according to their individual learning pace and style. We have partnered with the local universities who have provided us with wonderful volunteers.