Getting online at the Windsor Women’s Centre

Getting online at the Windsor Women’s Centre

Patrick Thompson

In the last few months, Bytes has undertaken a number of small-scale intervention projects with partners across Northern Ireland. Many of these have been in response to issues put in the spotlight by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including our recent work with the Windsor Women’s Centre in South Belfast, made possible by funding from the Good Things Foundation’s ‘Everyone Connected’ programme.

Bytes Project staff delivering training on Learn My Way during a socially distanced session at the Windsor Women’s Centre

The Windsor Women’s Centre has been working in the community since 1990. It aims to – through a community developmental approach – provide resources and services which will improve women’s lives, increase community capacity and contribute to women’s involvement as equal stakeholders in wider society. Many families living in the area that the Centre serves suffer from intergenerational traumas and this has been linked to educational underachievement, little or no employment prospects, violence and conflict. When combined, these issues create a myriad of barriers not only to engaging with local services, but also to a decent quality of life. The Centre’s response to address the needs of women and families in the community is to provide a holistic range of outcome focused services, working with approximately 400 women and children on a weekly basis.

‘We are delighted that the devices provided by Bytes will bridge the gap for this group of women, enabling the group to stay connected and adapt to our changed circumstances. The group will be now be supported by the Centre though a blended programme of activities, some activities will be on site, such as the new course Steps to Excellence, while other group activities and learning will be online’

Martina, Programme Manager, Windsor Women’s Centre.

In this particular project, Bytes worked with members of the Centre’s Mummy’s Together group, a support group for mothers that has been running for around three years. During ongoing restrictions on Centre activities, group members have mentioned feeling isolated and missing the social support that the group’s programme of activities provided. Centre staff became aware of a digital divide for some service users, with some unable to access online support, citing a range of reasons from a lack of technical knowledge to prohibitive cost.

One of the tablet and 4G connector packages provided to participants

The individuals who took part in work with Bytes either had no, or limited, access to the internet at home. We were able to hand over tablets and 4G connectors to the participants – at no cost to themselves – immediately bridging this digital divide in terms of hardware and connectivity. To address issues around knowledge and skills, Bytes staff worked with participants to introduce them to the Learn My Way online learning platform, managed by the Good Things Foundation. This will allow participants to access a vast range of online courses to upskill themselves in both digital and non-digital areas. They will be able to do this as individuals, but also as part of the wider Mummy’s Together group with support from the Centre’s staff.

Feedback from those who took part was overwhelmingly positive and Bytes plans to follow up with both individual participants and the Centre in the near future. We are always looking to build local partnerships with like-minded organisations, and we are excited about the potential for more work with the Windsor Women’s Centre in the future. 

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