Dozens of Wearside women will be getting the chance to improve both their tech skills and their confidence thanks to a new project set up by a Sunderland charity.

Sunderland Women’s Centre is using a £6,880 grant from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation to launch a series of free ten-week computer skills courses at its Green Terrace offices in the city centre.

The courses will cover the basics of computing, including how to use word processing packages and the internet, while it will also look at practical issues including recognising online scams, using social media and keeping in touch online with family and friends.

Computers are also made available at the Centre to enable students to practice their skills between classes, as well as to ensure they have access to the technologies they need to complete online tasks like job searches and application forms.

Students will also be able to access the Centre’s on-site creche to ensure their children are being looked after while they’re learning.

The funding is being provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

Originally founded in 1984, Sunderland Women’s Centre aims to ensure equality of opportunity by identifying and removing barriers to learning and by supporting women from under-represented or disadvantaged groups.

It offers a number of different courses in association with Sunderland College, including maths, English and ESOL language courses, while it also hosts mother and toddler groups, wellness and meditation sessions, and history, textiles and flower workshops.

Andrea Bulmer, project manager at Sunderland Women’s Centre, says: “Many of us relied on different types of technology to keep in touch with family and friends during the pandemic, but not everyone has had the chance to develop the skills and knowledge they need to use it, or indeed can get access to it at all.

“This course, and the others that we offer, are about much more than just the skills that the women learn.

“They also help to build confidence and self-esteem, to give participants the chance to build new connections with people who share their experience and situations, and to find support with addressing some of the other needs that they might have.

“Developing these sorts of essential skills could be the first step back into education or employment for course participants, and we’re keen to hear from women across the city who’d like to get involved.

“With all the core costs we need to cover, it wouldn’t have been possible for us to put on these courses without Newcastle Building Society’s support, so we’re really grateful for the generous funding they’ve provided.”

Jennie Pitt, head of equality, diversity and inclusion at Newcastle Building Society, who recently visited the Sunderland Women’s Centre, adds: “The services and support that Sunderland Women’s Centre provides makes a huge difference to the lives of women and families across the city in lots of different ways, and we’re very pleased to be able to support this excellent project.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund at the Community Foundation has also contributed over £2.3m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.

The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

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