After the 2016 presidential election, Janelle Duda-Banwar was inspired to get out and do something. An online search for local volunteer opportunities led her to Literacy Rochester. She decided to attend a Volunteer Informational Session where she was introduced to the agency’s instructional services and Digital Literacy program.
She discovered that the Digital Literacy program aims to narrow the digital divide by providing individuals with access to free computer help. She learned that Digital Literacy volunteers work on their own at community sites for the duration of their shift, assisting any adult who needs help (shifts are determined based on site need and the volunteer’s availability).
With a busy calendar and a desire to have some weekend time for herself, the flexible schedule appealed to her. “I love the independence of it and setting my own schedule,” she says today.
Moreover, the program’s mission clicked with Janelle. She defines digital literacy as “having the ability, skills, and knowledge to use a computer, set up email, and navigate the web” and emphasizes that being able to perform these tasks is important because they “connect people to jobs, family, society, and opportunities. You can be left behind if you don’t have those skills.”
She decided to become a computer help volunteer.
Having volunteered for three years now, she is still “excited to talk to and interact with people. And everyone is so appreciative.”
Janelle smiles as she recalls a time when a middle-aged woman came in to get help writing a letter to her landlord. “She was eager to learn and wanted to do the work,” Janelle recalls. She showed the woman how to find and navigate a word processor on a library desktop computer. After the letter was written, Janelle and the woman discussed revisions and made a few adjustments. The woman was grateful to be able to print and mail the letter that same day.
“Having patience” is a personality trait that has helped Janelle help others succeed. When asked, “What are you most inspired by?” Janelle replies, “The people I work with. For example, oftentimes I help older individuals. Those individuals’ basic [computer] knowledge is low and they’re so excited for one-to-one attention. While working with them I can see their growth during the session.”
During one of her shifts, Janelle took a call from a repeat customer who wanted to know when Janelle was next scheduled to be at the library because the individual wanted Janelle’s help on a specific task.
“I love being a Digital Literacy volunteer because it connects me to the community,” Janelle says. “I’m from Rochester. I love Rochester. I always want to give back to Rochester. This program is important because knowledge is power; that may sound cliché, but it is my truth. People need digital literacy skills and there are a lot of people who don’t have access. I don’t know of any other service that’s out there that’s doing this.”
Volunteers like Janelle allow the Digital Literacy program to help hundreds of individuals in Monroe County and make a lasting impact on their lives. Thank you, Janelle.
"I’m from Rochester. I love Rochester. I always want to give back to Rochester."
Digital Literacy, a program of Literacy Rochester, helps adults become fully engaged in their community as citizens, parents, consumers, and workers. The Digital Literacy program is provided free of charge on a one-to-one, drop-in basis in partnership with OACES.