“I’m really pleased about the community reporters project going on and I hope it don’t come to an end”

Amy Amy left school at 14 with no qualifications. She left home as the environment was very unsupportive and she then became involved with class A drugs, became addicted, and began living a very transient lifestyle. Then after the birth of her first child Amy spent 6-years trying to learn how to manage and control her addiction.

She became involved in the community reporter’s programme simply because the shutters on the derelict shop were open and Amy was curious to see what was happening so she walked passed with her dog and looked in. Amy and her dog were invited in for a further chat about what was happening over a cup of tea and some biscuits.

Amy had not engaged in any learning since leaving school at 14 and felt quite scared by the prospect. She also had no experience at all in using a computer and had never been on the Internet. Amy found it hard at first not to stigmatise herself with her previous history and took a lot of persuading that she was worthy of becoming a valued part of the community reporters programme.

When Amy began attending the community reporters programme she spoke of how her friends and the family of her boyfriend were giving her a “hard time” for coming to the project taunting her that she was going to become “All posh and up her self” for learning new things, and they would actively try to disrupt her attendance by turning up at the house as she was due to attend sessions. We therefore had to help Amy re-present her involvement with the project as a way to ease her ability to attend the sessions. By telling her friends that she was volunteering in order to upskill and increase her work prospects they were more accepting of her coming to sessions – but this flagged up that learning for learning’s sake was not a culture that was supported in her close environments.

Amy is a very clever woman who is naturally eager to learn about anything so her learning outcomes are difficult to quantify, as there were so many. Some of the key areas were understanding community infrastructures, what is an AGM, what is a residents association, council infrastructures, complaint processes, local history, housing association infrastructures and roles.

Other outcomes involved learning how to be open to learning without feeling stupid for asking questions, and developing a self-belief . Through an initial ICT assessment it became clear that Amy had no experience in using a computer, and had little understanding of key computer terms such as knowing what the desktop was, what Word was, or how to use a mouse. After a few weeks into the project her computer literacy still has big gaps but she can confidently shoot a film, capture it to the computer and do simple editing. She now also understands when, why and how to compress a film then upload it to the Internet.

Amy has also how to work with photographs online and now regularly contributes to the community website. Amy is now starting to benefit from discovering the world wide web world. She says, “I feel like I can get my head around the computer now I have been show that I can not break it and the internet is able to help me in so many ways. It’s just like full steam ahead cos once I know where to start then I like to go away and learn in my own space.” One of her new favourite pastimes is to de-clutter her house by selling things on E-bay and making some extra money for herself! Amy has benefitted from the sessions so much that she is now involved in sustaining the community reporters project further as one of the volunteer’s

This challenges her at the level of her self-belief and self-confidence as she is terrified that people attending will know more than her and she will be humiliated, but it is so important to her self-development that she is rising to the challenge. This opportunity is also extremely important to her as it reinforces that she is no longer stigmatised for her past and that she has a brighter future.

In summary about her experience Amy says, “I’m really pleased about the community reporters project going on and I hope it don’t come to an end – I’d be disappointed and that because I feel like a lots happened through them coming to Huncoat and I’ve learned a lot, confident enough on a computer and that and I want to hopefully get other people to feel the same. We’re opening up on a Wednesday, I’d be really suited like with the responsibility, if there’s problems occur then I’ll sort it out with the person to do with the computer, so I’m just really pleased with it.”

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