In our group of Methodist churches in Colchester the Covid19 crisis soon showed us that, for some period ahead, we would be relying to a huge extent on technology for all communications and, following on from that, realising that some are not going to be able to take part in church and social life as fully as they usually do, due to limited use of technology.
A reference at a Citizens Essex meeting to a university “Tech Champions” project in Reading made us think that this might be something that could help us. We have the University of Essex in Colchester, also a member of the Citizens Essex alliance, and we’d previously had some contacts with students on another project, which our members had enjoyed, so Juliet, our organiser, brought us together with the volunteer service of the Students Union at the university.
Juliet and the volunteers did some intensive preparation, and we’ve just had our first Zoom meeting between a group from Methodist churches in Colchester and a group of volunteers from the university. We’ve agreed to start with very basic stuff for those using technology in a very limited way. Our members who joined the meeting came away really enthused and full of admiration for the willingness of the volunteers to design, adapt and deliver assistance to our members. Currently we are focussing on equipping minimum users of technology with basic guides to loading and using Zoom, so they can join in groups, and see their friends as well. This, we anticipate, would alleviate some of the increases in loneliness and isolation felt since lockdown started. The volunteers also have in mind whether a bespoke service to cope with individual problems might be possible, providing all are happy within safeguarding protections.