When rural businesses unite

12 Mar 2018


When a local Online Centre was approached to deliver digital skills outreach sessions for older people, a friendly partnership with a local business provided a quick solution to their rural WiFi problem.

Tennants Auctioneers

Kirkwood Hall is a supported housing scheme in Leyburn, North Yorkshire for people aged 55+. They have lots of facilities for residents including a hobby room, a secure garden with a greenhouse and a hen house with five chickens.

The British Red Cross was running a scheme at Kirkwood Hall to help combat rural isolation and they approached Online Centre A1 Community Works to deliver digital skills sessions as part of that.

CEO Tanya Cook says: “We were really happy to be asked and because we were already receiving funding from Good Things Foundation through their rural project with the Prince’s Countryside Fund to teach digital skills to rural businesses, we were well-equipped with the resources we’d need to deliver these sessions away from our actual centre.”

However, it wasn’t all straightforward. Kirkwood Hall is a relatively new building which, unfortunately, has issues with their installed WiFi.

Tanya says: “Our portable WiFi devices didn’t work in the building and we couldn’t get a signal on any mobile phone to use as a portable WiFi hotspot. I knew from past experience that connectivity was a problem in Leyburn, however, one place we found that had excellent broadband was Tennants, the nearby local auction house.”

Tanya developed a simple plan to combat the WiFi issues. She says: “We moved the fortnightly session to the cafe at the auction house. Residents were taken by car and some wheelchair-bound residents were pushed by volunteers.

Some of the class members

“The first session was a huge success, so we asked Tennants if we could meet in their cafe on a regular basis. Not only did they say yes without any hesitation, they said they’d be happy to help with anything we needed.”

Meanwhile, Michelle Mottershead, the Manager at Kirkwood Hall, and Broadacres’ ICT team (the housing association that provides the housing and support at Kirkwood Hall) worked hard to resolve the issues with the WiFi. Thanks to their efforts, the broadband in Kirkwood Hall is now working well.

Now the sessions continue and the team know that they can always rely on other businesses in the community to help if there are any problems in the future.

Tanya says: “The efforts of three different organisations working together enabled us to create this outreach session and make a difference both to individuals’ digital skills and to their social lives.

“It’s even benefitting the chickens - we were also asked to help to buy an iPad for residents so they could use FaceTime to share the chicken’s daily lives with others!”