Tony was referred to The Hope Foundation by Step Forward Tees Valley to work towards Functional Skills Maths Level 2.

He says, “I wanted to improve my skills and confidence to get back to working life! I had a full career and had worked all of my life – personal circumstances changed and I found life spiralling out of my control. Times were hard and often I had thought ‘what’s the point and felt worthless. I started learning whilst still experiencing personal difficulties. Then came COVID which really scuppered my plans.”

On the first day “I was really nervous and anxious – I spoke to Kim (careers adviser), before coming to the Hope Foundation, over the phone. Kim explained what to expect and what would happen at induction. All of the staff made me feel welcome – I have found the staff both kind and respectful and ready to listen and offer support. The Hope Foundation asked what help and support I needed and we agreed discussion with my tutor and to have breaks when I felt overwhelmed.

I only had a mobile phone so couldn’t access remote learning during the covid lockdowns. The Digital Library supported with a device and technical support; something that I could not afford and gave me a lifeline to learn and access services online. This was a great help as I could still access learning and other support services.
I had been told from my navigator that they The Hope Foundation had small classes and remote learning options but there is so much more to the place!

I am a different person to the man that stepped through the door on my first day! I looked forward to my classes and attending. Attending and learning at Hope gave me confidence to move forward.

I have achieved confidence and skills to move forward and now volunteer in a reception and caretaker role in a community venue.”

Barbara and Jeanette

At the beginning of the first lockdown, ABM asked for volunteers to help provide technical support over the phone for older people in the area.

Fast forward and they now have 14 volunteers. One of the first to respond was Jeanette Power Jepson who had previously attended Tea and Tech at the Hope Foundation.
“Given that Ageing Better Middlesbrough has helped me achieve certain goals, I felt like I wanted to help others who were in my position.

David initially taught me how to shop online, use WhatsApp, surf the web, and generally become more up to speed with my device, so I really felt like I could help those who needed it.
The framework they provided was great too. It was very well structured, and I knew I was in a good position to pick up the phone and begin talking.”

For many ABM members, becoming part of the digital world is daunting and providing digital support during the Covid pandemic has been even more challenging for the team, but also really important:
“Giving information and digital support for people who had to stay home was vital. Many of them are worried, which only heightens their fear of having to use technology. It’s a domino effect…

I’ve helped people with doctor’s appointments, downloading games, WhatsApp, sending photos and emails, video calling and lots more. Once these steps are complete, you feel a huge sense of pride. Their reaction over the phone (when they complete various tasks), is fantastic.”

Barbara Gibbon’s story

73-year-old Barbara Gibbon is just one of the people who has benefitted from Ageing Better Middlesbrough’s digital volunteer initiative. She has received help from Jeanette (above) over the last few months and believes she has come on leaps and bounds.

“Initially I got a call from Ageing Better Middlesbrough’s Befriending Service to see how I was. I happened to mention that I struggled with technology during the call.

Their Digital Inclusion Officer, David, gave me help with online shopping, and after that, Jeanette has helped me with lots of other things.

To my amazement, I was able to send photos to my granddaughter who lives in Manchester… I even video called her! I think she was just as surprised as me when she saw the phone ringing.

I’m hoping to learn a lot more from Jeanette in the future, she’s been a saviour for me over the last couple of months. I’m also going to meet the team in person to thank them, and hopefully attend ‘Tea and Technology’ sessions.

The fact that Ageing Better Middlesbrough are providing an outlet like this is brilliant. I really appreciate their efforts. It’s given me a new lease of life and I’d be completely stuck without them. My daughter is less worried knowing I can video call her now too.”


Neil* (not his real name)

Neil heard about the Hope Foundation from Saint John of God. He had to move to Middlesbrough during the covid pandemic and found himself isolated in a new place.

He came to The Hope Foundation wanting to gain qualifications, find our about volunteering opportunities and get connected. He says, “The conversation with Kim was so much more. We talked about my long term and future goals in football coaching and Kim gave advice and guidance on the different sectors that this opens for me such as supporting others in difficult situations using sport. We started with Kim completing a CV to apply for voluntary positions and introducing me to MFC Foundation a support organisation for people like myself to make new contacts through sport. We also talked about entry requirements that employers would be looking for as well as experience and I now know the steps and links to be made to achieve this.

Kim referred me to the Hope Digital Library as I had expressed motivation and interest to learn but I only have a mobile phone device. David dropped off a laptop.

The Hope Foundation has made a big difference to my mental health; connecting me to my goals by informing me of the opportunities available in the Middlesbrough area. I moved to the area around September last year and because of lockdown felt excluded being in a new town and not knowing the services available. The Hope Foundation has help me to understand the steps I need to take to get there and feel more positive about my future and how I can progress.”

Neil went on to study for qualifications with Hope and now volunteers in a community football session and is working towards an FA Playmaker Award with MFC Foundation.


Nilam was referred to The Hope Foundation in March 2021 by Step Forward Tees Valley. She volunteers for Mind and says, “I needed a device to fill out my call logs and email them to Mind. I also wanted to learn how to access government services, like applying for a passport and railcard.

Getting support from Ageing Better at The Hope Foundation has given me the skills to use a computer to complete forms on Google Docs, attach them and send via email for my volunteering with Mind’s telephone befriending service. It has also given me confidence and courage to do things on my own rather than relying on my children to do it for me.

I learned how to use Google Docs and email as well as how to apply for a passport and railcard. I use it to search the internet to find websites and information, shopping. David has supported me to do this through regular 121s. He has been very patient with me, breaking everything down and writing step-by-step guides I can take home to practice with. This type of service in the community is invaluable and a great asset for people that struggle with IT to have. I would recommend the Hope Foundation to anyone who is struggling and needs that extra support. I’m looking forward to continuing my learning with the courses at the Hope Foundation. My aim is to pass my level one ECDL to give me the qualification and skills to help me on my journey to going to University to study psychology.”