Hafsha Shaikh, Founder of Smartlyte, blogs about the huge responsibility that comes with distributing devices from the Devices Dot Now scheme to people within her community.
Receiving an email to say we were granted ten tablets to give to those we wanted to – following a brief criterion - led us to such a quandary. On paper this was a joy, ten tablets to give away. Our hearts wrestled with our consciences and heated debates with our partners and colleagues ensued; all the more difficult as they played out over the breakfast and dinner table in our new virtual world.
The debates then became discussions, as our children too became involved. Their ‘voices of reason’ helped, as we explained why it needed to be Annette and not Jaswinder. What was the particular need that set Annette above Jaswinder? We felt paralysed with inaction, too scared to make the choice. When you are giving to the ‘neediest of the needy’, such discussions play hard. Soon the discussions abated as our ten were selected. And yet, the discussion in my head did not stop. How could I make a decision on the potential of a tablet to change an individual’s life? A ‘need’ not a ‘want’, that would affect a family and their children’s life chances.
My ethos is about raising aspirations, not just for individuals, but for families. The tablet held not just the gateway to knowledge, but provided the many opportunities for parents and children to dream about and aspire to. To be the engineers, the scientists and the thinkers, who would change their worlds. It would allow Bakria and Dhelal a chance to speak with and virtually hug their parents - families that they last saw 15 years ago, before they set out on their voyage to the UK.
This tablet would not be a ‘childminder’, loaded with the many games that keep young minds occupied as mum rushes through her endless household chores. It would be too precious for it to be that. It would be polished and kept safely in the box that it was given. Tucked away on a high shelf. This tablet would enable parents and children to learn together, from the alphabet, to finding out the tallest mountains together.
I felt like King Solomon making my choices. Surely now it would be easier and I would sleep. But no. My phone calls to the selected ten came next. Each and everyone’s reaction the same. Excitement, questioning, grateful disbelief and then the doubts, “What if it gets broken?” “Why me?”
We are about inclusion; we do everything to include everyone. Yet, here was something that demanded that we were selective. And selective in the crudest way. To choose ten from the most neediest of the needy. Our gift became almost sinister as I then dropped into my conversations “Can you please keep it quiet…I only have a few…I don’t want to upset anyone”.
I was now asking them to keep secrets from each other. From the friends who shared their classrooms, worries and joys. I was now asking them to lose sleep. In my need to lessen their isolation, I was isolating them further by asking them to keep secrets from their friends! Surely this was not part of the plan. Communities are tight and even more closely knit when poverty and disadvantage is the common factor. Again, I lost sleep.
Only hours and days later, I knew the right choices had been made as all ten tablets settled into their new homes. Each loved, cherished and meeting all its potential as parents and children tried out Apps, Zoom, WhatsApp, searched, made calls, shopped, banked, watched TV, and read books, together.
I rest in an uneasy sleep, as I wonder when I will next receive another supply to donate and
how and if it will be easier, but whilst I know poverty makes choice difficult, a tablet and internet can help to provide the route maps out of poverty. So, sleepless nights or not we all have a duty to be the enabler.
Find out how you can contribute to DevicesDotNow and help protect and empower some of the most vulnerable households in the UK - www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-the-vulnerable-stay-connected