Volunteers’ Week stories: Viv Richards

We can’t say thank you to our volunteers often enough! Thanks to their commitment and enthusiasm, Code Clubs are now reaching more children than ever across the UK, and around the world!

Viv Richards is one of our volunteers who plays an active role in the tech community where he lives in Wales. He shared his experiences of running a Code Club, and the benefits it brings him, his family and local community…

vivian richardsWhat inspired you to volunteer for Code Club?

I have been a software developer for the past 8 years and got into coding when my parents bought our first home computer when I was at comprehensive school (16 years ago). Growing up – unless you went on to college or university – there was never really anything out there that was fun and simple to pick up which could help teach children about coding. I have four children so the idea of being able to help set-up a Code Club at our local school was amazing. It’s great to have free things like Code Club about which I hope my children will eventually benefit from.

Tell us as a bit about your Code Club

Code Club has been running for 15 months at Gorseinon Junior School. We typically have 10-16 children attend and is run by myself and by one of the teachers, Mrs Griffiths. It was surprisingly easy to get members to our club, all the children were excited to take part in the after school club. The children each have a laptop and have completed Scratch term 1, 2 and we’re now on to HTML & CSS. We’ve even had children pair programming, which went down really well. I’m surprised by how easily the children have picked things up and gotten through the projects, it’s great to see that so many of the children are also girls as there seems to be a shortage of lady programmers, and they are all really enjoying it!


What would you say are the benefits of volunteering for Code Club?

The satisfaction you get from seeing a child so pleased that they’ve created a project all by themselves is priceless. All the children really love the club and its projects. It’s great to have the opportunity to be able to help run a Code Club at the school which may also inspire other children to get involved as well as other schools in the community.

Why is Code Club important to you?

Tech is becoming a key industry for South Wales and with coding being a big focus within Swansea and Welsh  education at the moment I’m really keen to help in whichever way I can. It’s great to be able to help set-up a Code Club and give children these fantastic opportunities that I wish I’d had when I was their age.

How does volunteering fit into your schedule?

Truthfully it’s tough to fit in as I have 4 children, my wife works evening shifts, I have a day job as a software developer, run a monthly tech meet-up and also a yearly software developer conference so it can be a bit tricky at times… That being said, it’s such a great thing to have at our school and I find each session so satisfying that I don’t mind, seeing the joy on the children’s faces getting through the projects is worth it and I know they are very grateful to have great opportunities like Code Club as they are forever thanking us.

What has been your best ‘Code Club moment’?

It sometimes appears like the children are just rushing through projects and I was initially worried they may not be actually learning much. This was all proved wrong when a child lost their work from a project and had to redo it all. The following week he came in and had developed a game built on some of the things he’d learned from the project. This was a great moment, especially when he gave a demo to the other children on the carpet and ran a mini code review!

We are always looking for more people to start Code Clubs in their local community, and help inspire the next generation to get excited about digital making. Find out more about getting started here.


Volunteer’s Week stories: RBS Gogarburn Code Club

Gary Clark and Ian Rodwell are two volunteers from the Royal Bank of Scotland who have been running a Code Club in the RBS Gogarburn offices near Edinburgh for the past three months. We spoke to them about their experiences volunteering to help local children learn about coding & digital making.

They were inspired to volunteer with Code Club in order to give back to their local community – with both having existing coding skills that they wanted to share with young people.

Ian first began volunteering with his local primary school’s Young Engineer Club, and he sees Code Club as another way to help children get excited about STEM subjects. Ian told us that “Volunteering helps to promote a feeling of well-being, especially when your activity is appreciated.” Code Club in particular is important to Ian as “the country is short of people with real IT skills and ICT in schools has been seen as mostly learning how to use Word or Excel.  If I can help in a small way in adjusting the imbalance, then it’s definitely worthwhile.”

RBS code club

The Code Club has between 6-10 children regularly attending. Gary said: “We use a mixture of laptops, PCs, Raspberry Pis and Macs, with the kids switching between them, which helps them learn new things. We’ve worked through the first Scratch module and are about halfway through the second, with one of the children working solo through the HTML projects.”

For Gary, “the best thing has been getting to see the kids progressing and coming up with their own ideas, both those with a knack for coding, and those who struggled in the beginning. They’ve been very enthusiastic and are great to be around, and it’s fantastic to see them helping each other out.”

In terms of fitting Code Club into their working schedule, both Gary and Ian have no problems. “I tend to start and finish work early”, Ian told us, “so by working through my lunch hour, I am able to volunteer in my own time.”

So what are some of the best moments at Code Club? For Gary, “the times when one of the children is stuck and another one gives them some help based on their experience, or when they sit working through a difficult problem and come out the other side, are all very rewarding.”

Think that you could help inspire the next generation to get excited about computing and digital making? Find out more about volunteering with Code Club: https://www.codeclub.org.uk/start-a-club/volunteers


Volunteer’s Week stories: Robert Bilsland

Robert Bilsland has been volunteering with Code Club since the very start, and his enthusiasm and passion never fails to amaze us. He told us a bit more about his volunteering experience…

For me being a Code Club volunteer is such a rewarding opportunity. Each week being able to share my enthusiasm for computers and what they can do with the next generation of content creators, coders and users is just fantastic.

The start of each academic year is a wonderful time, meeting a new group of children, almost blank canvases, ready to go on a journey of exploration with Code Club. From the outset I make it clear that we are all there to have fun (including the teachers), to share new discoveries with each other and bring their own creativity to everything they do.

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Robert (centre back) with his Code Club at Malvern Wells Primary

Volunteering is made worthwhile when a child grasps a concept or corrects a bug. When they discover things by themselves or create something new and totally unexpected. It really shows they are learning and not just blindly following instructions on a worksheet.

Being able to give something back and feel like I’m making a difference, however small, is so important to me. Seeing children head off to secondary school with a new understanding of what computers can do for them, and their eyes wide open to a world of possibilities just feels so right. Even if they think that computers aren’t for them, just having a better understanding of how they work, and think, will definitely help them in their future learning and in today’s modern world.

Thanks Robert!

If you’d like to visit Robert’s Star Club at Malvern Wells Primary in Worcester, you can get in touch here.

Remember, you can also apply for your Code Club to become a Star Club for 2016- the deadline for applications is 17th June. Apply now!