Beyond adversity – starting again, keeping safe

In the interval between hearing the great news that Coalition Agreement will restore Computers in Homes funding and actually being able to restart  the programme, we are sharing some stories from recent reports.

Tania van der Vegte, then the Whanganui Region Co-ordinator tells the story.

One of the difficult and rewarding parts of being a Computers in Homes Coordinator are the families’ stories of their lives. I have had the privilege of hearing several of our Computers in Homes families sharing with me their stories including those involving domestic violence.

Some mums arrive at class very unconfident, shy and nervous, with very little confidence in themselves or anyone around them. Many of them think they are “dumb” because that is what they heard from school. So actually coming to a school to do a computer class is an incredible achievement to begin with.

Many people don’t think about keeping themselves safe when using technology. For people experiencing domestic violence, keeping oneself safe on the internet and when using technology has a whole different level of importance. Many phones and applications on the phones use GPS. If they have Facebook with the GPS turned on it can give away their location, therefore making it extremely unsafe for them. People often get their Facebook and email hacked by ex-partners so it becomes really important to know how to change passwords and log yourself out of all other devices.

I want to share the story of K. I can’t disclose her name for obvious reasons but she is happy that I share her story. Before she came to class she really lacked confidence. She hated school and it taught her that she was dumb. She was moved to Whanganui by Women’s Refuge and knew no one. She came to class because she thought it might help her boy. He had experienced significant trauma in his life and now had behavioural and mental health issues that meant he doesn’t play well with other children and is very isolated. She used a bit of Facebook and occasionally used Google but that was it.

She had no clue as to how to keep herself safe online. Since doing the course she is now the “Google Queen”. She now uses the computer every day. She has fallen in love with words and every day she finds a new word to learn. She would one day like to write. In her words “my self-knowledge is a lot better. I teach myself things online. I use the internet for practical things like fixing my freezer, managing my power bills and paying the bills. I feel much more confident in myself and once the court stuff is finished I want to keep on learning”. Her ex hacked her Facebook page and she knew what to do and how to log herself out. Facebook is critical for her to keep in touch with family and friends who have no credit on their phone. She loves using the Google Drive and Google helps with everything from health to finding a bargain.

For her son the computer has been a godsend. He teaches himself things on YouTube and he just loves the computer. It makes him feel less isolated. It is his safe space. She has set up her home so she can keep an eye on what he is doing online and encourage him to do research and learn.

K’s story is the story of many women in Aotearoa. It is a success story because it is the story of how small things like doing a Computers in Homes course can be the start of a long journey to a new life.