Helmsdale Community Connections Awards

Published: Jul 4th, 2013 | Author: Laura Simpson

A few months ago, Get IT Together supported local development officer, Paul Harrington, in applying for a Community Connections award for the development group, located in Helmsdale Community Centre.  Paul was delighted when this application was successful, and the new connection has made a substantial difference to the way in which he is able to work with and train the wide variety of community groups he works with. Since connection, the development group has used their connection to work with the following groups: Engaging With Activity (Dementia Friendly Communities), the Community Association, the Community Minibus Association, the Minibus Steering Group, the Flower Show Society, the Lunch Club(Drop In Centre), the Community Council, the Gardening Club, the Angling Club, the Helmsdale Environmental Improvements Steering Group, the Petrol Station Steering Group and the Medical Equipment Fun.

With an aging population, digital inclusion is a challenge in this remote community as many of those most involved in village life and in many of the groups outlined above are unaware of the ways in which the internet can not only support but enhance the work they do. For this reason, Paul’s connection- and the way he is using it- offers a starting place for a community group’s digital journey.

In a wee email to our project, Paul gave some fantastic examples of embedding digital activity in community work, such as hosting a ‘petrol station’ seminar in March, using a skype connection as part of the presentations and purchasing wi-fi boosters to ensure greater connectivity through the hall. Outside agencies have also increased their use of the community space, with organisations such as  Balnacoil Wind Farm needing internet access to present to the community. This increases the hall’s funds allowing increased sustainability.

When asked about the number of individuals the connection has supported, Paul said this: ‘Individuals? There are too many to mention! When the Library is closed, people still need to access the web, so we allow them to use this connection on wi-fi in the next room, either on their own laptop or we give them access to one of ours. We also have lots of tourists, who pop into the Centre looking for a web connection, and again we let them use the wi-fi.

I must say that the free broadband has been invaluable, allowing us to offer this on a wider scale, to many, many groups/individuals etc.’


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