Opinion

VOLUNTEER VIEW: Volunteers helping others improve computer literacy

Northwest Computer Literacy Instruction Corps was established in 2009 and had about 7 volunteers in 2014.

Purpose: Northwest Computer Literacy Instruction Corps’ mission is to educate the public in using computer technology to attain their employment and personal enrichment goals. Northwest Computer Literacy Instruction Corps addresses the fundamental need for computer knowledge and skill development in our community. Volunteers encourage life-long learning and deliver training through classes and tutoring at WorkSource Whatcom. Everyone is welcome, especially those whose information technology skills no longer meet minimum requirements in the workplace.

The focus is on the basics, the skills and knowledge necessary to use a computer and the Internet independently. The goal is to teach customers what they see in a software program, in email or on a web site; how to use the tools and how to problem solve. All classes are beginner-level and emphasize step-by-step learning, repetition and practice. One volunteer describes his role in the community as “preparing people to participate in the local economy.”

Volunteer highlights: Northwest Computer Literacy Instruction Corps celebrated its 5th anniversary in 2014 and is proud to have sponsored over 30 individual volunteers. Last year, volunteers supported over 200 individuals who improved their IT skills and knowledge. Bellingham/Whatcom County residents participated in 107 tutoring sessions and 29 classes in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint with many completing all three classes.

Many volunteers say their reason for volunteering is to keep their skills fresh and to “give back” to the community. When asked why they stay, “seeing learning in action” and “seeing the ‘light bulb’ come on when a customer understands how to do something” are the most common responses. Volunteers also share in a customer’s success. “It’s amazing to watch a customer who was nervous and unsure one week, give a PowerPoint presentation with confidence and courage a week later.”

Wish list: Northwest Computer Literacy Instruction Corps would appreciate gift certificates or cards to local business for volunteer appreciation and recognition. Financial donations would be put toward training opportunities, team meeting supplies and refreshments and the annual volunteer recognition event.

Volunteer needs: Northwest Computer Literacy Instruction Corps is recruiting tutors and instructors (training is provided). If you are comfortable with computers, enjoy helping people learn; believe gaining technology skills is important; have patience and value quality customer service, consider volunteering with Northwest Computer Literacy Instruction Corps.

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