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Raven’s Redhill lockdown IT project scoops Mayor award

Volunteers who have provided an IT lifeline for Surrey families struggling during lockdown have won an award for their sterling work.

The Level Up Redhill Reigate Banstead team has scooped a Volunteer Crisis Response Award in the annual Reigate & Banstead Volunteer Awards.

Borough Mayor Councillor Jill Bray presented the awards during a ceremony at the Harlequin Theatre, in Redhill, last night (21 September 2021).

Redhill-based Raven Housing Trust, a social housing provider which manages over 7,000 homes across Surrey and Sussex, launched the local Level Up project to support families unable to afford a computer for their children’s home schooling during the past year’s lockdowns.

The initiative involves collecting donated unwanted laptops, refurbishing them, then gifting them to disadvantaged children and teenagers.

Level Up has handed out 1,100 computers over the last nine months and is due to distribute another 600-plus during the next academic year.

Steve Ward, Digital Inclusion Officer at Raven Housing Trust, set up the project in January 2021 after seeing a shortfall in support provided by government schemes.

He said: “Our volunteers have done fantastic work over the past 18 months, so I am delighted that their hard work and dedication have been recognised with this award, which is very well deserved.

“Many of them volunteered after they themselves were furloughed or had to work from home, which is a tribute to their selfless commitment to making a difference in their communities and helping others through this pandemic.

“As a result of the team’s hard work, students all over the borough have been thrilled with their laptops – which have opened up a range of educational and recreational opportunities for them during extremely challenging times.”

Level Up’s IT volunteers replace old hard drives and install software to give computers a new lease of life, while the project’s volunteer drivers collect old laptops, then deliver the revamped computers to schools and colleges across the borough.

The 11 IT volunteers are Andy and Jo Townsend, Mike Brooker, Lawrence Hassell, Ian Watkinson, Julian Barker, Bill Richards, Chris Grant, Arron Savage, Chavier De Abreu and Martin Saunders.

The six drivers are Neil Hobbs, Garry Brooks, Alistair Watkinson, Dominic Bell, Lisa Levine and Paul Tilley and the four communication volunteers are Barrie Clark, Mike Fox, Karen Munroe and Bob Gunn.

Cllr Jill Bray, Mayor of Reigate & Banstead, said: “It was a pleasure to present the team at Raven Housing Trust with their volunteer award in recognition of the vital work they have been doing to support local families and school children through lockdown.

“Distributing more than 1,000 computers so far to local children is no small achievement and I would like to thank all the team again for their hard work to help the community.”

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