Rachel Littleford

Internet health skills net single mum a Get Online Week modelling job

A young mum from Doncaster is looking after her health online – and inspiring others to do the same – as one of the faces of this year’s national Get Online Week.

Rachel Littleford, 30, from Edlington near Doncaster, will be appearing on posters up and down the UK encouraging people to see how using technology could help them make life easier, cheaper, and yes – healthier.

Rachel didn’t use computers much at school, and although she could use Facebook on her phone, she knew she needed to get some more IT skills under her belt.

“You need computers for everything, nowadays,” says Rachel, a single mum to 10-year-old Lily. “I knew how to use the internet from my smartphone, but I haven’t had a computer at home since I was a kid. I certainly couldn’t have done any kind of job that needed you to use a computer, and these days, that’s pretty much every job isn’t it?”

It was actually the Jobcentre that referred Rachel on to the Edlington Hilltop Centre, a UK online centre in Edlington. They helped Rachel brush up on her digital skills.

Rachel continues: “I really enjoyed learning about computers, and the courses on the Learn My Way website were really easy to follow. Now I can do so much more – from searching to emailing, online shopping and banking, and even word processing and writing up my CV.”

Rachel’s become such a convert to technology she’s now a volunteer at the Edlington Hilltop Centre, helping others get to grips with the internet too, and hopes the experience will help her as a step into work in the future. She’s even invested in a tablet computer, which she and Lily use together.

“Lily is ten now,” says Rachel, “and that means she comes home from school with quite a bit of homework, most of which I haven’t got a clue about! Now we can sit down and Google the the answers together. It’s a real bonding experience, and we also play games and watch 1videos together.”

For Rachel, one of the main benefits of her new digital skills has been digital health – finding information and using online health services. She was born with Fibrous Dysplasia, a disease that causes growths or lesions in her bones – particularly her hip. The condition only became apparent in her late 20s, and she’s struggled to understand the diagnosis and manage her symptoms.

“Being told you’ve got something big and scary with a big, scary name, is something of a shock,” explains Rachel. “While it was nice to know there was a reason I’d been experiencing pain and limited movement, it was terrifying to be told I had something potentially so serious and so permanent. I worried about what would happen if I needed surgery, who would look after Lily, and how I’d cope living with the pain day-to-day. All of that stuff.

“After I got the diagnosis I wasn’t really in the right place to ask the right questions. But I could go away and look things up online. I found out lots more information, and lots of stories from people living with the same condition. That really helped me.

“I had no idea there was so much information out there, and now I feel more informed, more in control and less frightened. I’ve found out about tactics I can use if I’m having a really bad day, drug options to manage the pain, and exercises which can help too.

“Now when I go back to the hospital I can prepare all the questions and ask, ‘What about this?’ ‘What about that?’ ‘Can we try the other?’ I’m a lot more involved. I’m still at the GP every few weeks trying to get my medication right, but now I can book appointments online it’s a lot easier to fit things in around my volunteering and around Lily’s school hours. I can order my repeat prescriptions online, too.

“It’s more important than ever for me to look after myself and keep myself as fit and mobile as possible. Lily and me like to look up healthy recipes. She used to be terrible at eating her vegetables but she’s much better now she can pick the meals and help to cook them, and arrange them in funny faces on the plates!

“Getting online really is helping us stay healthy, and helping us in so many other ways too. I’m really excited to be a Get Online Week model because I think it’s so important for people to be able to take advantage of all the benefits being online can bring. And Get Online Week is a great excuse to give it a go! I’d say to anybody to get along to a UK online centre like Edlington Hilltop and get a helping hand to get online.”

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