From an asylum seeker with no internet access to now a volunteer at Learn for Life, Jonathan's life has been transformed with access to free data and a device.
Jonathan is a Spanish speaking asylum seeker who arrived in the UK four years ago. When he first arrived from his home country, he had very limited English, lacked a device and access to the internet. He had no material belongings besides some clothes.
During the process of seeking asylum, he was unable to work, therefore unable to afford a device or even internet. This meant he struggled with filling out online applications and making online payments, like rent. As an asylum seeker, he was given a small allowance, but not enough to afford internet with groceries and other basic necessities. He wanted to be connected with his family and the world, but he also wanted to be able to eat and keep his shelter. As a result, he lacked internet access until he found support at Learn for Life Enterprise in Sheffield.
“I felt isolated. I felt frustrated and sad. I didn’t have any friends or family here.”
Managing essential tasks like booking an appointment with the GP, or shopping, without internet access meant they took more time that Jonathan didn’t have. He had to manage them in-person and rely on other people, but struggled with communicating his needs as a result of knowing little English. It was a struggle to feel independent or fit into society without being connected.
That’s why the digital inclusion support he received from Learn for Life was life changing for Jonathan.
“The support from Learn for Life is a huge blessing – having the internet from the Databank and a laptop from the Device Bank means I can eat and afford my other amenities without worrying about internet costs for the month.”
Using the free data gifted from the National Databank, with the laptop from the National Device Bank, Jonathan is able to build on his education. Sometimes, in-person classes are not enough. But without a device and data, those classes are all he had. Now, with the data, he can access resources outside of these classes and find whatever information he needs, when he needs them. He is able to build on his English language skills in his own time, at his own pace. The world of knowledge is now only a tap away, where before it felt like a world away.
“My life is better now because I can connect with the world and with reality. I can do everything online now.”
When he lacked free internet access, Jonathan had to spend more money, which he didn’t have, to make calls to his family in another country. He wasn’t able to speak to them as often as he wanted because he wasn’t able to afford the connection. Now, with free data, he can stay in touch with his loved ones without any worries.
“Speaking to my loved ones in my own language makes me feel more at ease – it’s the language I know completely, and whenever I have a problem, I can feel better knowing I can speak to my family about it without worrying about distance and costs.”
Not only has Jonathan’s own life improved significantly, but so has the lives of those around him. As well as helping himself, Jonathan has been able to utilise his developed skills to help his friends apply for jobs online, fill out forms, contact the GP, fill in taxes, and more. He is eager to help others with his knowledge, which is why he is now a volunteer at Learn for Life.
Thanks to the support he received from Learn for Life, Jonathan has developed his proficiency in English, honed his digital skills, and is eager to help those who are in the position he was in four years ago. By volunteering at Learn for Life, Jonathan has helped many people in need to navigate the internet, communicate their needs with Spanish translations, fill in forms, and look for solutions to their problems.
“When you’re not connected with technology, you feel really bad and down. When you don’t have data, it’s frustrating because you want to talk to your family but you can’t. There’s not enough money to be able to. It’s very sad and disheartening.”
Knowing his own experiences from being digitally excluded, Jonathan is keen to not let others feel the way he felt when he first came to the UK: frustrated, exhausted, sad, isolated. He continues the cycles of support, from the support he received, to giving to those who need it, who in turn can help others when they advance to Jonathan’s position.
“To be connected is really important. Being connected means you can do anything from anywhere.”
As the National Databank and National Device Bank expand, the incredible social impact is clear to see. Stories from the National Digital Inclusion Network and organisations like 4Mnet...