Linda Smith says the gift of connectivity from the Laptops for All campaign will “help her feel alive again” after years of isolation.
The 77-year-old from the S5 postcode is one of many older people in Sheffield who feel cut off from the world.
Linda – not her real name – suffers from bipolar disorder. By her own admission, she hasn’t left her bungalow in two years and has no friends or family to support her. She lives in poverty and is unable to afford many of the basic items that many people take for granted.
Now, Laptops for All has donated a laptop, dongle and data supply to help Linda access the internet for daily shopping essentials and watch long-forgotten films of her favourite musicians to remind her of a happy childhood before tragedy struck.
Linda said: “My Dad died when I was 11. When he died, it seemed like everything else died with him.
"Before he passed away, we could afford piano lessons and I loved listening to Winifred Atwell, the jazz pianist, because her sound was so different.
“I have had a difficult life with not much joy but having a laptop is something I have wanted for a long time. I have been listening to Winifred again after all these years and it makes me feel weepy, bringing back childhood memories.
“Having a laptop makes me feel alive again and I’m going to use it to get in touch with long-lost relatives. I’m hoping 2022 is going to be a better year.”
Led by technology entrepreneur David Richards, Laptops for All aims to supply free or low-cost devices and data to people who are missing out on life opportunities because they lack the equipment to go online.
The campaign is working with local charities including Age UK, The Food Works, Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC) and the local NHS to distribute devices and data according to need.
Rehneesa Inez, community engagement officer at SCCCC said: “Lots of people out there don’t have laptops or smartphones or WiFi at home. Having a device can help people like Linda to feel connected and do their shopping and banking online, especially during the pandemic. Connectivity gives people a broader range of options and helps them reach more support services for themselves.”
It is estimated that six per cent of UK households remain offline, making it difficult to take part in activities including education, employment and healthcare or even stay in touch with friends and family. The nonprofit campaign is calling on employers and individuals to donate laptops, tablets or cash to help close the digital divide in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. Devices are securely erased and refurbished before distribution.
David Richards MBE, co-founder of Laptops for All, said: “We are delighted to help Linda get online and hope this simple act of giving can help her to feel more connected to the world around her. We urge employers and individuals to support our campaign and help improve the quality of life of vulnerable and disadvantaged people living in our community for everyone’s benefit.”