By Wendy Betteridge
Six members of the Trust Board of e-Learning Porirua (and two of their long-suffering wives) diverted from their customary Board meetings and graduation ceremonies on Thursday 5 December 2013. Trustees are accustomed to rolling up their sleeves and working together to make a real difference in the lives of families with children at low decile schools by teaching them how to use a computer and give them a computer to use in their homes. But on this occasion, they dressed in all their finery to attend the Westpac Porirua Business Excellence Awards in Porirua City 2013 hosted by the Porirua Chamber of Commerce at Te Rauparaha Arena on 5 December.
The Trust had been selected as a finalist in one of the eleven categories, that of ‘Not for Profit’. And within those eleven categories, thirty-five organisations and individuals waited with bated breath while the winners were read out.
e-Learning Trust was formed thirteen years ago, thanks to the vision of Graham Kelly, former MP for Mana and High Commissioner to Canada. Graham has gathered a team of committed individuals around him, individuals who give selflessly of their time to keep the vision alive and do everything they can to raise the standard of internet capability within the poorest and most deserving part of our City.
When the Trust was formed, statistics revealed that, although computer literacy and ownership of a computer was evident in 80% of the homes in the more affluent part of the city, only 6% of the homes in the poorer parts of the city boasted a computer, or the knowledge of how to use it. The Trust felt that this was nothing short of shameful and set about to bridge the digital divide.
Years were spent fundraising to remain solvent in order to keep the training courses going and purchase the computers to donate to the families but despite experiencing times when they wondered if the money would meet the following month, the Trustees would not relinquish their vision.
Never having done their work for any reward other than to see the faces of the families who completed their training and took away a computer to use in their home and broadband access, the Trustees were continually humbled by the stories written by the graduates, telling of the difference that the Trust had made to their lives.
And the work continues. The statistics from the 2006 Census show that the percentage of digital literacy in homes in the northern suburbs remains largely unchanged. The figures in the less affluent suburbs showed a marked improvement; up to 29% for Waitangirua, 31% for Cannons Creek and 49% for Titahi Bay. The 2013 Census is bound to show an even greater improvement but the Department of Statistics say that the detailed data, suburb by suburb, will not be available until 2015.
After thirteen years of hard work and commitment by the Trust there’s still a long way to go. Because of the continuing influx of refugees and immigrants into Porirua the numbers of families still without training or computers continues to grow. However, following the latest graduation on 11 December 2013, 1,485 families (which amounts to almost 10,000 people when you consider the benefit to all the children in those families) have now passed through the training programmes and received a computer to use in their home. More detailed statistics can be found here in our Annual Report. annual report 2012-13 pdf
The Trustees will continue their work until there is equity within our city, until all our people have the same opportunity to communicate freely and easily across the world, to access information that is so readily available to others, to apply for and obtain employment and to have the opportunity to keep up with what so many others take for granted.
e-Learning didn’t win the ultimate prize, but the work of the Trust makes them a winner in the eyes of hundreds of families in Porirua.