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Students eager to lend a hand

Ruth Wedmen has not seen her brother in a number of years. He moved from Canada to Germany, and from her home at Elmira District Community Living, it is not easy for Ruth to communicate with him. This week, Ruth attended a computers class and learned how to compose and send an email; her first will be to her brother.

Ruth is one of eight EDCL residents who attend the beginner’s computer class, held every Monday evening. Each week, the residents are matched up with students from the Elmira District Secondary School leadership class.

“Basically every week we have a different lesson plan set up,” said project co-coordinator and EDSS student Chelsey Schnurr. “This week we covered email and in the past we have helped them to learn how to use Microsoft Word, Publisher and Internet Explorer.”

Schnurr and her co-coordinator Victoria Hurst volunteered to lead the class because they believe that computer use is a key skill that can help people to perform their day-to-day activities more efficiently.

“Computers are needed for almost everything these days,” said Hurst. “You can use them for research, to find a recipe, or even something as simple as looking up when a movie is playing.”

The class is filled with people with a wide range of abilities when it comes to computer use, some of whom have never used a keyboard before and others who are adept at shortcuts and techniques.

“One of our students, Andrew, probably knows more about computers than we do,” said Schnurr. “He is teaching us a few things.”

Tami Schaafsma is the primary case manager for the ‘Trying it on for size’ program at EDCL, which gives residents an opportunity to understand what it is like to live independently. She says a program like this one is extremely helpful.

“In our program, we see what each person’s strengths are and what supports may be needed,” she explained. “This was a need that just wasn’t being met. Computers are everywhere – you go to the grocery store and there are computers. Some people are fearful of computers because they just don’t know how to use them and this was a need that was not being met.”

And the enthusiasm is exceptional from both parties. The Grade 11 and 12 students volunteer their time each week and enjoy seeing the progress, and some EDCL residents have battled coughs and colds just to make sure they can make it to their class.

“They love it,” said Schaafsma. “Besides being about learning to use the computer, it’s a social environment and it gets them out into the community. It’s so beneficial.”

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