Whether in Hanoi, Hanover, or Hong Kong, the elderly and mentally handicapped do not have the same access to technology that the rest of society does. But in Hong Kong, IBM employee Sinko Choy is working with the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals to help bridge this digital divide – and to give access to the external world to these digitally displaced members of society.
“I see volunteering as a kind of personal development, where you are not only giving, but also receiving from the audience” Sinko says. “I’ve been an active volunteer for some time, but this project, in particular, is fun and fulfilling and I’ve learned a lot about the needs of the elderly and mentally handicapped.”
The Tung Wah Group of Hospitals provides a spectrum of social welfare services, catering to the needs of families, children and youth, the elderly and the disabled as well as Chinese traditional services for the community. The organization has many day care and housing complexes for elderly and disabled citizens, and during IBM’s Celebration of Service Day, Sinko and 130 additional IBM volunteers visited 370 elderly and disabled people at Wong Chuk Hang housing complex.
The group conducted classes to help the residents acquire basic computer skills, learn how to take pictures with cameras for daily communication with their families and friends, and generally have fun through other Internet-based activities.
“The elderly were amazed that technology could help so much in their daily lives,” says Sinko. “They held my hands and thanked me for coming to teach them. I was touched by the smiles on their faces.”
But the day of service was just the beginning of IBM volunteer activities with the complex. Sinko also applied for and won an IBM Catalyst Grant award to establish a computer center with Internet access in the housing complex. The center will further promote computer literacy among the senior citizens and encourage them to reach out to the world online. The computer room will also serve as an IT training room for hundreds of service users.
The new computer center is slated to open in December, 2011. Sinko says, “Once the computer centre is established, IBM volunteers can arrange more classes on IT knowledge for the members who live in the complex. The elderly who attended training during the IBM Celebration of Service day will serve as the teaching assistants, making it easier for other members who live in the complex to connect with each other and gain basic IT knowledge, which helps them to better connect to society. It’s a win-win.”
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.