Volunteer Stories

Volunteer Stories: Keith

Volunteer Stories: Keith

ACE IT Scotland would be nothing without its volunteers, who we rely on to provide our much-needed digital skills services. We want to highlight the stories and experiences of our wonderful volunteers, who are the backbone of ACE IT and to encourage others to volunteer.

Keith Downie was an ACE IT one-to-one volunteer from early 2020 until November 2022. He quickly had to switch to remote coaching at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was challenging for a number of reasons.

“I think the people I was trying to help were finding it very difficult, and I used to find that a bit frustrating that I couldn’t just show them,” he said. “You can share screens with the best will in the world, but I just don’t think that people were comfortable with that aspect of it. Trying to get across technical things was challenging.”

What is better about face-to-face coaching? “It’s just the human interaction element, you can get more from body language, how they’re feeling, and also just being able to point to things,” Keith added.

Despite the difficulties with remote coaching, one of Keith’s favourite experiences while volunteering took place early on in lockdown.

“She hadn’t been out the house at all. It was a good thing for her, I could talk to her about online grocery shopping, and we could get that sorted out. She’d done one before and then friends were getting stuff for her, but she felt quite a bit bound – she was quite an independent lady by the sounds of it, and wanted to do things herself. So we got her Tesco’s sorted out, and she was quite happy then to do that herself and she did feel that that was something she’d achieved herself. She was obviously a proud older lady and wanted to get things done herself. And that was a good thing, I felt good about that.”

Picture of a man with glasses smiling into the camera
Keith Downie

Prior to volunteering with ACE IT, Keith had experience in installing new technology systems at work, so this gave him good experience in training people as new technological developments came about. He said, “I’ve come up through development of various bits of technology so that’s helped, because I do understand where people are coming from if they haven’t used much in the way of IT. It’s about getting them comfortable, because it is a barrier.”

Keith added: “Nowadays you have to have a certain volume of your life online. You cannot just rely on going to the council offices or the post office – it’s about trying to get across the benefits. You get horror stories, and it’s true there’s nothing you can do about hackers but to just make people aware, OK that does happen, but that happens in life generally. You have to be careful in life, and this is just an extension of that.”

We want volunteering at ACE IT to be rewarding to our volunteers, as well as providing a helpful service to our learners. So what did Keith find the most rewarding?

“Whatever the issue was, seeing it resolved. I find it quite satisfying as well being able to direct people to things like YouTube. A lot of the learners were really quite dubious. I suppose they’ve read the stories about all these horrible videos and stuff like that, but I did quite like when people had seen what it could do. There’s such a big library of resources that they can go to. I think a lot of the people did find it was another outlet. If you’re on your own, it is like another person in the room, it’s a bit of a noise or a bit of distraction. Particularly for people during the time of Covid when we were all locked down. It was almost a social interaction of its own.”

If Keith’s story has inspired you to volunteer, visit our Volunteer page here.