Bringing IT to the centre of Pendeen
Pendeen is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on Cornwall’s Penwith peninsula, seven miles west of Penzance. A remote village famous for the nearby Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen has a strong sense of community with various local groups that have been running for a number of years.
Many of these groups are hosted at the Centre of Pendeen, a volunteer-run community venue situated in the heart of the village. The origins of the Centre date to 1931 when the former, much smaller, Pendeen Parish Men’s Institute occupied the same site. As the Institute became underused and in need of repair in the mid 1990s, plans were drawn up and funding secured from a number of sources to demolish it and build a new centre for all residents of Pendeen to enjoy. The new build incorporated the integration of renewable energy technologies including a Ground Source Heat Pump and Photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate the electricity to drive the pump.
The rebuilt community building now provides a vibrant base for activities such as t’ai chi, pilates, yoga, table tennis, short mat bowls and a patchwork group. A farmer’s market is held there twice a month. In addition, the Centre houses top quality snooker and pool facilities, providing a rare opportunity for enthusiasts to hone their skills in such a rural location.
And recently the Centre has introduced a new opportunity to local residents to use the Centre’s superfast broadband connection to learn basic IT skills. Jay Chapman, project coordinator for the Get IT Together Cornwall project, teamed up with Jane Morgan from Cornwall Rural Community Council (CRCC) to provide the training at the venue, which was attended by over 20 members of the local population over a course of 7 weeks.
Jay says: ‘The Beginners’ IT course is an informal and relaxed introduction to using a computer and safely accessing the Internet. We aim to give people the confidence and skills to be able to independently go online and remain regular Internet users following the training’.
Jane continues: ‘CRCC has been working alongside Jay to deliver the Get F+IT project, through which we aim to show people aged over 55 how they can save money on household energy bills by using online comparison sites. The majority of people that we have worked with have identified that they can make savings by either switching supplier, or by negotiating a better deal on this current contract’.
Some of the sessions were also supported by a member of the Superfast Cornwall Volunteer Network, which meant that learners had additional help available during their training if they needed it.
Sandra Coak, volunteer and member of the centre’s committee, was instrumental in organising the beginner’s IT training with Jay and explains how the centre has benefited from the course. ‘Many residents in the village expressed an interest in gaining basic computer skills, so we were delighted that Jay and Jane have been able to come and provide the training for us. Everyone has really enjoyed the sessions and we already have a waiting list of more people that would like to attend a future course!’
‘It’s been a great opportunity to utilise our superfast connection and promote the use of the hall as a venue for this type of activity. As a result of contacts that we have made through Jay we have been able to secure funding to buy some new laptops to run a Work Club at the centre. In addition Devon & Cornwall Housing have funded the installation of our superfast broadband connection, and our Cornwall Councillor Sue James has also provided Community Chest funding for the project’.
The ongoing support provided by the enthusiastic volunteers at the Centre combined with superfast broadband speeds and new laptops means that the Centre is able to provide all important drop-in facilities for people that still need to learn IT skills, or simply want to be able to practise them. Whilst anyone is able to use the Internet and borrow a computer for £2 an hour, the funding secured from Devon & Cornwall Housing (DCH) enables the centre to provide free access and computer use to anyone that lives in DCH properties in Pendeen. And Councillor James’ funding extends this free access to members of the community that are on low incomes or living in privately rented accommodation.
Jay and Jane summarise their experience of working with the Centre in saying: ‘In providing a hub where people can come to learn basic IT skills and access the Internet, for example to look for work, prepare CVs or register for Government services, the Centre of Pendeen is providing a vital resource to local residents that may otherwise be left excluded from the digital age. The Centre is a shining example of the impact that volunteers can have in their local community, which can inspire other villages and towns across Cornwall.’