A second year Pharmacy student from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is spending his time in-between university studies volunteering with Age UK to help older people become tech-savvy amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Known as a ‘Digital Champion’, Usman Arshad has been volunteering with the charity since the summer, helping older people to learn new skills and communicate with their families digitally.
The aim of the Digital Champion initiative is to support older people in areas of high digital exclusion to get online or develop basic digital skills by linking them up with someone who can teach them these techniques over the phone.
Usman, 20, wants to raise more awareness about the service by letting people know of his experiences, which have including helping an elderly lady book a Covid-19 test online.
Usman said: “This all started in June when I finished university for the summer holidays. I had nothing to do and wanted to do something to help people, so I started looking for charity work in my hometown, Blackburn.
“I thought I could volunteer for the NHS but there wasn’t any work available in my area at the time and all the charity shops were still closed under lockdown.
“I did some searching online and that’s when I came across an option on the Age UK website to become a Digital Champion.”
Usman has volunteered with many charities previously, including working as a cashier at a Cancer Research shop for 11 months, this was a new experience pushing him out of his comfort zone.
He said: “I remember picking up the phone for the first time to make a call, I was nervous, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go, but at the same time I was really excited to be helping people.
“My first few calls were really more about informing people about the service that Age UK could provide and encouraging older people to learn more about technology, so they could communicate with their families digitally.”
He continued: “The more calls I made the more I began to help people. One of the first people I started to help was an elderly lady who wanted to know how to download pictures on her computer.
“I taught her this over the phone, but she had dementia and would easily forget what she had learnt. I then had the idea to start writing written instructions too, which I did and then my manager posted them out to her.
“Another lady stated she hated computers and turned down the service, but a few weeks later and a few phone calls with me she is learning and very keen to learn more.
“I did this every week until the end of September, but now my studies have started again I have had to change this to once a month.”
Usman said he was humbled by all the positive feedback he has received and wants to raise awareness of the service.
He added: “I am so glad I am able to help people in my free time, I want to raise more awareness about this service that Age UK provides. Not enough people know about it. The reason I am saying this is because just a few weeks ago I helped an elderly lady book a Covid test.
“I happened to have some free time, so I called the lady to see if she wanted help with anything. When she answered she was very frustrated because she wanted to book a Covid test online. She didn’t know how, and she lived on her own.
“Luckily, I called when I did, I was able to help her book an appointment just one hour later and she was able to get tested that day.”
He added: “It has really made me think about other people who do not know how to use technology and if they want to get tested, use Track and Trace or even just be able to communicate with their loved ones.
“I believe so many people could benefit from this service. I am incredibly happy I was able to get her the help she needed. Others in her situation need to know there is a service that can help them too.”
John Verity, Digital Inclusion Development Manager at Age UK Blackburn said: “Usman has all the qualities of an excellent Digital Champion. He is patient, understanding and knows how to communicate his digital knowledge to others.
“With the support of Usman and other Digital Champions, Age UK Blackburn with Darwen are able to help older people to access the many benefits of being digitally included.”
To find out more information please visit the Age UK website.
Posted on Friday 27th November 2020