“During the pandemic, I hadn’t gotten the chance to talk to many new people,” reflects CTN volunteer Jim Hu. “Once I got into volunteering, I became more engaged in talking to people and gained confidence in talking to elders. Now, I’m more active in meeting new people and stepping out of my comfort zone.”
Originally from China, Jim Hu moved to California about 11 years ago. He is currently finishing up his final year at the University of San Francisco, where he studies business management. As a part of his studies, Jim took a course on community service learning that required him to complete a number of volunteer hours. Excited by the opportunity, Jim looked over the list of organizations his professor provided to see what might make the best fit for his interests and skills. He was quickly intrigued by CTN’s digital literacy training for seniors and thought it would suit him well.
“I saw CTN and thought, oh, helping seniors expand their social network and online … I’m really interested in that,” Jim reflects. “It sounded like a great opportunity for me to help other seniors get involved in the community. It also seemed like it would be a really good fit for me because I have experience teaching elders … China is one of the fastest-growing social network countries, so I have helped family members with technology.”
After discussing the opportunity with CTN’s volunteer manager Pat Jew, Jim jumped right in and started his training. Since then, Jim has completed his one-on-one digital coaching lessons with his first Home Connect learner. Together the pair met virtually every week to develop the learner’s tech skills beyond her initial digital literacy training with CTN. Jim assisted his learner in Mandarin and helped her use popular communication tools like Facetime and Wechat to stay in contact with her daughter.
In addition to his virtual volunteering, Jim also helps out in person at the 30th Street Center computer lab. This flexible opportunity allows Jim to fit his volunteer time within a busy school schedule. Beyond answering common tech questions and resolving issues, Jim enjoys helping learners explore interests and hobbies online. One of his learners, for example, is passionate about art yet lacks the resources to purchase expensive paints and supplies. Since Jim is interested in digital art, he decided to introduce the learner to digital drawing and applications: “She was very surprised and said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you could draw on computers!’ Now she’s really enjoying it.”
Like many of CTN’s volunteers, Jim was initially worried that he wouldn’t know how to talk to the older adult learners. Would he have to be overly polite? How would they relate to each other? What if he said the wrong thing? After a few sessions, however, Jim realized that he had much more in common with the older adults than he’d imagined. “I realized they are just like me,” Jim says. “They are all passionate about digital stuff. They are very modernized and aware of recurring news. They ask a lot of questions on entertainment stuff. The gap between us is not as big as I expected.”
After graduating, Jim plans to attend graduate school for entrepreneurship and innovation and eventually return to China to work with his father’s business. He’s also interested in potentially starting his own business — preferably something to do with his passions and interests in digital media technologies like filmmaking and producing. For now, though, Jim is enjoying helping his community and improving his communication skills.
Want to help CTN transform lives through digital literacy while making connections along the way? Consider volunteering with us a couple hours a week!