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An Invaluable Presence: Digital Champions in the Vale

An older man in a library with a tablet

In a rapidly evolving digital world, the ability to navigate the online world has become essential. For many, however, being online and using digital tools can be daunting. This is where Digital Champions step in, acting as positive catalysts for change.

Digital Champions play a pivotal role in various settings, including libraries, hospitals, care homes, and housing associations, where they support individuals on a one-to-one basis or in small group sessions. Sometimes, these champions are people who are new to volunteering but want to pass on their digital skills, or they might already be a member of staff or volunteer within an organisation who want to develop their digital skills and support others. Crucially, they don’t need to be a technology expert, just someone who wants to help others get online.

In this blog, we’ll hear from Paul and Melanie in the Vale of Glamorgan, where there is a thriving network of Digital Champions supporting the Vale of Glamorgan Libraries, complimented by the Vale Tablet Loan Scheme.

Digital Communities Wales (DCW) are supporting the Vale of Glamorgan Libraries and Glamorgan Voluntary Services (GVS) to recruit, train and place Digital Champions in all 9 libraries across the county. The Digital Champions are available to support members of the public with their digital skills and confidence, and this support is also accessible to local organisations or those working with people living in the Vale.

Melanie Weeks, Senior Librarian with the Vale Libraries reflects that, “The Vale Library Digital Champions have really helped us to provide focussed, one-to-one digital help to our customers. They have the time to really talk to people about their digital and online needs and then guide them through every stage. For example, Digital Champions have helped people connect with family and friends, stay safe online and fill in online forms. Our Digital Champions are a natural extension of library support and their presence in the library is invaluable.”

Digital Champions often emerge from a desire to both give back and acquire new skills. As one of the Vale Library Digital Champions, Paul, shared, “I started volunteering several years ago when I was not working and was looking for an interest and also something to put on my CV. I have stopped and restarted volunteering as commitments allow.”

Paul continues, “I was put in touch with Glamorgan Volunteering Services (GVS) and Newydd Housing (later Vale of Glamorgan Library service) who had a Volunteering Digital Champion position available, which was of interest as I am interested in computers.”

In Paul’s role as a Digital Champion Volunteer, he’s found a sense of fulfilment in assisting others: “I am based in Dinas Powys Library on a Wednesday morning and assist people who have queries or problems with their laptops, mobile phones, or tablets. I enjoy being a Digital Champion volunteer, mainly because I enjoy meeting people and helping sort out their computer problems.”

Digital Champions foster a sense of community, creating an environment where people can come together, learn from one another, and share their digital experiences. This not only enhances the learning experience, but also combats isolation and loneliness as well. Paul’s experience demonstrates the sense of purpose and community building that often accompanies the role of a Digital Champion. He mentions, “If someone was considering volunteering as a Digital Champion, I would encourage them to do it as it is very enjoyable, you meet people, and you are doing something worthwhile.”

Paul’s journey as a Digital Champion underlines the valuable contributions of digital volunteers – in a fast-paced digital world, Digital Champions empower those who might otherwise be left behind. By patiently supporting with the basics of using digital devices, they give individuals the confidence to engage with technology, opening doors to online services, community, education, connection, and countless other opportunities.

Whether you’re considering volunteering or an organisation looking to embrace the potential of digital champions, their positive impact on individuals and communities is undeniable.

If you’re interested in developing Digital Champions in your organisation, get in touch with Digital Communities Wales.