SCoJeC has just been awarded £10,000 from the Voluntary Action Fund to implement some of the findings of the Being Jewish in Scotland project. We have long been asked to provide support for isolated Jewish individuals around Scotland, and, in our wide-ranging inquiry we found that many older Jewish people around Scotland live far from their children and grandchildren. Our new project therefore aims to enable people to link more easily with their families – and other friends – using communication technology.
Especially in the rural areas away from the settled Jewish communities, the project will provide the opportunity for participants to make links with other Jewish people – the other volunteers and the older people they are working with. Jewish students and other young people who have moved away from home to study will make links within the community across generations and across geography. Thus, the project will build community confidence and cohesion as well as dealing with the growing problem of isolation of older people and the lack of Jewish contact for younger people. We also hope that the project will allow us to build up long-term links with Jewish people who left Scotland for England, the USA, and Israel, through their families here in Scotland.
This project is named Inter-Links both for the international links and the intergenerational links that it is designed to create. SCoJeC aims to link volunteer tutors with older Jewish people either in residential accommodation or in their own homes, to help them to learn to engage with a wide variety of computer technology. At the same time the ‘students’ will be able to talk to the volunteers about the history of Jewish life in the region, life in the past, and different – and similar – ways of seeing the world.
Up till now SCoJeC has not drawn significantly on volunteers other than its council members, partly because of difficulties of distance and dispersal. This is a timely opportunity to expand our work, coordinate some national volunteering activity among Scotland’s Jewish population, and make a difference: improving the lives of the people we hope to reach through the project and their families, and providing fulfilment for the volunteers.
The project will build on the experience of ACE IT (formerly Age Concern Edinburgh Computer Technology), which runs the award-winning Moose in the Hoose project, which takes communication technology into care homes in the wider Scottish community. Our volunteers, who could be Jewish people living around Scotland who want to brush up their own IT skills, or internet-savvy students and young people, will be trained in ways to help reduce the social isolation of Jewish older people through the introduction of computer technologies such as skype, online shopping, and email. Supporting older people on a regular basis to use internet technology to communicate with their children and grandchildren, and their friends around the country, will go a long way to dispel isolation – and of course the regular visits from the volunteers will have their own benefits.
There are always two-way benefits in intergenerational projects. The volunteers will have a chance to get to know more about the lives of older people as well as helping them with computer skills. The Moose in the Hoose project found that “undoubtedly it is also the social side to the sessions that helps to cement relationships over tea and coffee.” As one volunteer said, “The Moose in the Hoose project transforms the lives of older people – inclusion, respect, dignity and having fun are vital ingredients of this work.”