DigiLocal People – George

George began volunteering with DigiLocal in April 2018. He supported our weekly club in Yate until the COVID-19 pandemic closed all our in-person clubs. George then joined our move online and supported young people every Thursday evening. For many young people, our clubs were the only educational content they were receiving as many schools were not able to operated online at the start of the pandemic.

George supporting a young person with their Scratch code at Emerson’s Green Library

With the return to in-person clubs, George joined our club at Emerson’s Green. A change in work place meant this was easier for him to make each week.

We asked George why he spends an hour of his time each week supporting young people as a volunteer mentor with DigiLocal.

So the key reason is that I really like being a software developer and learning about computers so helping out the next generation in terms of educating, I am all for it. 

There is great evidence on the benefits of volunteering for those volunteers. DigiLocal works closely with STEM Learning and other volunteering support organisations to ensure our volunteers are fully supported and beneficial to volunteer mentors, as well as those being mentored. The statistics are great, but we wanted to know what George gets out of volunteering with DigiLocal

What I get out of volunteering is a lot of satisfaction!

As I have already mentioned, I really enjoy being a software developer and seeing the young people having a eureka moment in terms of understanding how computers work, gives me satisfaction. 

It is like putting a seed in their mind and watching that seed grow. 

There are lots of opportunities to volunteer, with national organisations as well as smaller local charities like DigiLocal. Why did George choose DigiLocal?

They are local! I was born in Bristol and lived there the most of my life. It was the right choice. 

As noted before, George has been volunteering with DigiLocal since 2018. When volunteers join there’s no formal commitment to keep volunteering for a specific length of time. Our clubs run for as long as we have young people that would like to attend, and volunteers willing to support them. Keeping the club experience fresh and exciting for volunteers over such a long period is a key part of why we try to do at DigiLocal. So what kept George coming back?

It has and still is, a great experience. Truly wonderful working with young people and the other volunteers.  An enjoyable experience. 

Inevitably over such a long volunteering period, there will be many memorable moments. We were keen to hear of a couple that stood out for George in particular.

When a young person ask for assistance after trying to code at home – in a environment of teaching 

Young people showing initiative and going for it. 

There are also, inevitably, times when things don’t go well.

This is a tricky one as it has been really fun. Prior to volunteering at DigiLocal, I have never really worked with young people but everyone is very supportive. I was able to get in the swing of things. 

Supporting the volunteers is a core part of what DigiLocal does to ensure that young people from underrepresented backgrounds have the opportunity to discover and develop their digital talents. We’ll leave the final words to George.

I have been volunteering just over 4 years and it has been nothing but pleasure and will recommend volunteering to anyone to get involved.

George recently spoke about his volunteering on the Laura Rawlings Show, listen below

From left. Laura, Souya, Pandora, John, and George
(BBC Radio Bristol, Laura Rawlings show, 24 July 2022)

DigiLocal People – Souya and Pandora

Souya is a new volunteer with our club in Southmead. Pandora is a young person attending our Southmead club. Both attended our morning with Laura Rawlings at BBC Radio Bristol and you can hear their pieces at the end of this post. We also wanted to give Souya an opportunity to share her thoughts in written form.

From left – Laura, Souya, Pandora, John, George

We started by asking why Souya began volunteering with DigiLocal.

I took advantage of free clubs that were part of the community in my youth such as swimming lessons, sporting initiatives and IT introductory sessions. 

Due to that experience, I feel that it is important to volunteer in clubs that are part of the community and benefit people who may not have the means to access certain opportunities.

I believe it is important to have the representation of people from many walks of life. 

Although I am now a Graduate Civil Engineer I believe we are going into a cyber influenced future so introducing subjects such as coding to young people helps equip and empower them for the future.

All our DigiLocal volunteers work in industry and bring their real-world experience to the clubs. This gives young people the opportunity to see real engineers in action, solving problems alongside the young people. This is obviously a huge benefit for the young people but we wanted to know what Souya got from supporting the young people.

Satisfaction!!! Being able to encourage and facilitate the learning of young people from under-represented backgrounds to get involved in something different inspires me.  Being able to play a small part in a young persons’ learning and development – even if it is just one hour of coding a week provides me with an incredible sense of achievement.

There are lots of charities and groups that rely on their volunteers to bring benefit to their communities. We asked Souya why she choose DigiLocal over the many volunteering options available to her.

At the beginning I didn’t know anything about DigiLocal. I wanted to volunteer at a club that is consistent, was within the engineering or technology sector and was an accessible location so that I could incorporate the volunteering opportunity into my schedule. 

As DigiLocal managed to meet my criteria, I chose to volunteer there.  Now that I know more about it – I wouldn’t want to volunteer anywhere else!

Our clubs run for 1 hour each week. This is quite a large commitment for someone with a busy professional and personal life. We wanted to know what kept Souya coming back to the club each week.

Watching the progression of the young people every week is encouraging and exciting. 

The improvement is gradual but consistent and very evident in how  much their confidence grows from one week to the next.  

I feel  that there is a huge shortage of volunteers and it is important to have the representation of people from many walks of life so I have decided to carry that mantle.

With everything we do there are high lights and low lights. We asked Souya what some of those high lights were.

Watching the young people show their creativity and enthusiasm. 

An example of this is when a young person asks questions which are very different to what is mentioned in the instructions booklet.  Showcasing their abilities.  I am reminded that young people’s minds are open and eager to learn and we should encourage that.

We also asked about the times things don’t quite work out.

Inevitably life gets in the way and I am not able to volunteer all the time.  That is one of the reasons I believe there is a need for volunteers.

If you’d like to volunteer with DigiLocal, check out our volunteering page for more information. You can hear Souya and Pandora talking to Laura on the audio links below:

Souya talking to Laura Rawlings, BBC Radio Bristol, 24 July 2022
Pandora talking to Laura Rawlings, BBC Radio Bristol, 24 July 2022