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Closing the Digital Divide with our Employability Programme

The digital divide is more than a lack of access to modern technology – it’s a missing link in communication, employability, and freedom. Victims and survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking are more likely to be affected by the digital divide for a range of reasons. Traffickers often restrict or deny means of communication to victims in order to maintain control of their lives. Survivors may struggle with a lack of income, housing, and internet access, all greatly contributing to their place in the digital divide. Many survivors haven’t been able to stay up to date with today’s contemporary methods of digital work and communication, and catching up on technological developments can be extremely daunting. Particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, where everything shifted into online spaces- excluding those who may not have access to the internet. That’s why at the Sophie Hayes Foundation we not only recognise the impact of the digital divide but actively do all we can to bridge that gap and prepare survivors for freedom in a world of modern technology. Let’s dive into how.

Tablets and Data Top-Ups

When a survivor is referred to us, we schedule an initial telephone call with them to determine whether our Programme would be a good fit for them and to ascertain the extent to which they are affected by the digital divide. We ask whether they have access to the internet and whether they have a large screen, such as a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet which can be used for programme sessions. If they don’t have access to one or both things, we offer the programme participant a tablet as well as monthly data top-ups to best facilitate the delivery of online programme sessions.

Help Getting Started

Having the technology you need is one thing – understanding how to use it is an entirely separate challenge. On the first session of our Programme, participants meet up in person with our staff to help set up and test the tablets provided or their personal devices. Our team supports participants in installing Microsoft Teams (where the online sessions are delivered) and takes the group through the functions of a Teams call, step-by-step. The group will do a practice Teams call with guidance on how to mute and unmute, turn the camera off and on, use the chat function, and more. Those receiving data top-ups will be taught how to hotspot via their phone for an internet connection. By the end of this first session, participants are confident using their devices and ready to jump into the online sessions of our programme from home. In one participant’s words,

“It's been my first time on Microsoft Teams. You get to know everyone. I've become so strong. I've gained confidence when speaking to new people.”

Cybersecurity Training

Our efforts to close the digital divide certainly don’t end with our first programme session. In Module 1, participants receive continued technology resources and training, including cybersecurity training in week 3. These lessons are invaluable, as one participant notes:

“A friend of mine was scammed recently by clicking on a link in an email. This is such valuable information to have to prevent yourself from being scammed in this way.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise have generously provided our programme with a cybersecurity glossary, a series of video classes, and resources which are emailed to the programme participants to refer to whenever they need them.

IT Skills

In Module 3, we continue our technological literacy training with IT skills sessions complete with guest speakers. From Amhurst Law Firm our participants receive training in basic ICT skills, including email literacy. Aleksandra House from Leeds City College offers the group an educational session around how to harness AI as a tool for employability, such as using AI as a starting point for letter writing or interview preparation. These sessions prepare our participants to engage in the modern world of work, volunteering, education, and day-to-day life, without fear and armed with increased knowledge. One participant who went on to gain a certificate in Hair and Beauty told us,

“I am so thankful for your IT lessons because otherwise, I could not finish my online assignments”.

You can help us close the Digital Divide

We work towards equipping survivors with the skills and tools they need to thrive in the modern world, and we couldn’t do it without you. In the words of a survivor, “Since being with you I now know how to look for jobs so I'm searching all the time on different websites.” These courses help build confidence in a survivor’s present and pave the way for their futures with employability and technological literacy. Your donations enable us to offer not just the experience of learning in a safe and positive space, but crucially, the materials necessary for our participants to succeed in a world on the web. Your donation can offer:

£10 = 1 month of Wi-Fi

£60 = 6 months of Wi-Fi

£120 = 1 year of Wi-Fi

Internet access is something many of us take for granted, but for many of our participants, who are survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking, it enables life-changing opportunities. You can give the gift of communication, education, and freedom for as little as £10.


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