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Hub for the Hadhams: Volunteers needed to teach isolated pensioners how to connect with others and services online

Isolated and vulnerable residents will be taught how to stay connected with their families, friends, communities and essential services thanks to a new community initiative.

Award-winning volunteers Claire Uwins and Jan Williamson are setting up a technology advice centre at Little Hadham village hall – dubbed Hub for the Hadhams – where volunteers will show elderly members of the community how to carry out a variety of tasks on a digital tablet, such as making video calls, watching catch-up TV and ordering prescriptions.

"This will allow a faster recovery from the pandemic’s impact on their loss of face-to-face connection with their families, communities and essential NHS and other services," said Claire.

Jan Williamson, left, and Claire Uwins (43858610)
Jan Williamson, left, and Claire Uwins (43858610)

Claire and Jan received prestigious awards in 2020 in recognition of their efforts in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Claire was awarded the British Empire Medal in October in the Queen's Birthday Honours list and Jan, chair of the village hall, was presented with a Hero of Hertfordshire award by Robert Voss, Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, and Henry Holland-Hibbert, the High Sheriff.

The pair hope that by Easter, when most of the community's vulnerable pensioners will have received their Covid-19 vaccines, they will be able to open Hub for the Hadhams, which is predicted to cater for a vast population as Much Hadham Health Centre has 6,500 patients on its books across a wide rural area.

In the meantime, Claire and Jan hope to recruit a team of volunteers to act as digital champions – people who will buddy with the elderly residents and show them how to get the most out of their digital tablets.

Claire Uwins (43770449)
Claire Uwins (43770449)

"People don't know how to volunteer at the moment, but it's just teaching them to just open their hearts and come and play," Claire said.

They are keen to hear from anyone willing to help – they do not need to be an IT whiz as training will be provided.

Claire and Jan aim to build a library of digital tablets which will be loaned out to the OAPs. To fund this, the pair have set up a Crowdfunding campaign and have so far raised almost £6,000. They hope to reach £7,500.

"For every additional £150 we raise, we can secure another digital tablet and tailor it to a local vulnerable or frail resident’s need for their personal wellbeing and safety," Claire said.

Jan Williamson (43858635)
Jan Williamson (43858635)

Claire and Jan hope their hub will be seen as a pilot and inspire others to set up similar schemes.

"We also hope to galvanise other communities to do something similar with their ailing community assets during 2021 to social and digital connections for their residents," said Claire.

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