Start with the basics

Tyler is one of Sopra Steria UK’s Volunteers of the Year. As Volunteer of the Year 2017, he travelled to India to visit our international award-winning Community programmes run by our India CSR team. Read his previous write up on his volunteer work here

Yesterday took me to the new Government Girls Inter College, Hoshiyarpur in Noida, India. The school opened this academic year and has 1,270 girls on its register, all from underprivileged backgrounds. Next year the school will grow to a size of at least 2,000 and is expected to be a lot higher than this. Yesterday held great significance for the Girls’ School and I had the honour of being able to commemorate this day with them.

For the last eight months, Computer Science has been taught by theory. More than one-thousand girls have been learning IT skills from paper. Paper! Thankfully, yesterday we were able to celebrate the opening of a new computer lab with thirty new computers donated from Sopra Steria. The occasion was expectedly joyous. There were celebrations, speeches and all-too-necessary ribbon cutting ceremony. A fantastic moment that meant something to every member of the school, teacher or student.

As twenty 13-year-old children filed into the room and unwrapped the last remaining plastic from the screens and keyboards of the newly installed computers. The excitement of the girls ready to use these new machines was palpable. Great, right? The next few moments were like a sucker-punch to something I really ought to have expected. It started with a moment’s hesitation from a young girl finding the power button. Then a look of confusion from another trying to left-click a mouse. Perhaps the most basic of tasks for a child that age. The only thing was – this was the first time that any girl in that room had touched a computer, ever. And for some reason, it was as if someone had told me the sky had fallen down. Obvious when you think about it, but near unthinkable for any child in the UK today.

After a quick breath, I went and sat with two girls, Yashika and Pooja. They had opened Microsoft Word and it was great to see their teamwork as they hunted for the letters on the keyboard, as our very own Gayathri Mohan took them through their ABCs. Within a few minutes, Pooja had moved her second hand onto the keyboard as she began to type sentences. Computers are a absolute necessity in the modern working world and in some government schools here the may be only one or two computers for several thousand children. Some do not have computer access of any kind. For such a reasonable investment, the lives of thousands of children, their families and future families can be changed completely.

Many things we take for granted are new to girls like Yashika and Pooja. It’s a familiar feeling to feel passionate about tech and I hope to continue to be able to contribute to bringing these new opportunities to them. This trip has shown me the individual lives being changed from the Sopra Steria India CSR programmes. It’s hard to fathom that yearly 70,000 children are introduced to tech through these schools, provided with free lunches, access to drinking water and toilet facilities, among the many other initiatives. A big thank you to the team for guiding us round and allowing us to share in these moments.

Trip of a lifetime

Tyler is one of Sopra Steria UK’s Volunteers of the Year. As Volunteer of the Year 2017, he will travel to India to visit our international award-winning Community programmes run by our India CSR team. Each year, Sopra Steria India CSR programmes puts around 70,000 children through school, while also providing free lunches, access to drinking water and toilet facilities, and a huge number of other educational and social benefits.

Tyler Quote

It’s been just over two months since I was chosen to be a Volunteer of the Year and despite all the planning, bookings and visa applications, the feeling that I’m leaving in less than a week to a place that is more than five thousand miles away is still yet to sink in.

Last year I gave over 450 hours of my time though two voluntary roles. Most of this time is spent as a Special Constable with Northamptonshire Police. A role of great variety. I often take on the role of a Crime Prevention Officer, working with the victims of fraud, particularly cyber and online scams, helping them to be safe and confident online and on the phone. I also volunteer with the British Red Cross as an Emergency Responder attending to both small and large emergencies. Thankfully large-scale emergencies are rare and most callouts are to domestic floods or fires, where I provide practical and emotional support to who lose their homes and possessions in what can be their greatest hour of need.

I’ve known for a while that Sopra Steria’s Social Responsibility program has been doing great work with young people in India. Community Matters week passes all to quickly in the office and besides a bit of fun, a good conscience and light feeling in my wallet; I wasn’t all too sure of the difference it went on to make. Starting this journey, I did not realise the sheer volume of good we are achieving because of events like these. Each year 70,000 children are sent to school by the program; the brightest of which are sponsored through University. We operate clean water initiatives, run career development centres, offer self-defence courses for young women and a thousand other schemes for good besides.

I’m truly humbled to have been chosen as a Volunteer of the Year and to be able to take this trip of a lifetime. I will see the opening of new schools; dine with University graduates that Sopra Steria has sponsored since their very first day of school. I will meet teachers we have trained in technology and computing to prepare the next generation for work in the modern world and understand how we are challenging social factors to stop these young minds being plucked from school and put to work. In just a few day’s time I will be travelling across India to see the inspiring good work that we, as a company, are doing and the difference it makes to lives of real children elsewhere in the world.