“Volunteering is a two-way street. When you help other people, you enrich your own life … you learn from those you teach,” says Ron Sander. Sander is a recently trained facilitator who’s helping absolute beginners learn how to use computers as part of the UBC Leaning Exchange’s Contributing Through Computers program. The program is based in the Downtown Eastside – a place the UBC Learning Exchange is proud to have called home since 1999, offering programs and tools to neighbourhood residents from its location at 612 Main Street.
Sander and Heru Baskoro are just two residents giving back to their community through this initiative while learning something new and making new connections at the same time.
Leading others, learning together
The idea behind Contributing Through Computers is that local residents lead basic computer skills workshops. By bringing community members together, and having community members lead the workshop, everyone benefits — building knowledge, skills, and self-confidence, in addition to fostering a heightened sense of belonging and community.
For Heru Baskoro, teaching others in the community was especially rewarding. “For non-English-speaking people, learning how to use [a] computer is a nightmare because information … is in English.” Through the program, Baskoro has been able to help others, lending an ear so they can ask questions, repeat themselves and make mistakes — all while learning and gaining overall confidence.
An immigrant himself, Baskoro understands what it’s like. He felt he could help by getting involved in Contributing Through Computers. “… I [wanted] to share my experience [with] people who have ‘computer phobia,’ to let them know they don’t have to be afraid of computers. Baskoro learned to use a computer to make his work, in accounting, easier. He has enjoyed being involved in the program because, “Community is important … this community is a group of people where we turn … if we need information [or] help.”
For Ron Sander, being part of the program was about sharing his knowledge with others. “… Over the years [I’ve] developed an extensive knowledge base in a number of subjects. Unfortunately this knowledge, for the most part, is locked in my head ….” Adds Sander, “Volunteering with this program has given me an avenue that allows me to exercise my gifts and knowledge ….”
Sander says helping others learn — through Contributing Through Computers — also helped him learn more about himself. “… My friendly nature allows people to feel at ease during lessons. This is important, as most adults who are unfamiliar with computers are less than at ease when they sit down in front of one.” Through his experience, Sander also learned more about his community. “What I did not know about the community is that there is a warmth found here that speaks of acceptance, inclusion and unity … There are incredible opportunities in the Downtown Eastside … for maintaining and sustaining a community where life is worth living.”
The Learning Exchange is pleased to partner with the Vancouver Foundation and the Carraresi Foundation on Contributing Through Computers, an initiative that’s being expanded to involve other community organizations and community members — like Baskoro and Sander.