Real lives: Jonny nets global award for skills-sharing project

Jonny Russell with his daughters Sarah and Abigail.
Jonny Russell with his daughters Sarah and Abigail.
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A community stalwart has been presented with an international award for his work encouraging elderly people to surf the web.

Jonny Russell, who runs the BT Internet Rangers programme in Tranent, teaches children how to pass on their online expertise to older generations less familiar with computer technology.

The 39-year-old was named New Volunteer of the Year at the BT Chairman’s Awards in London earlier this month. He now plans to invest the £500 prize money in a commercial coffee maker for the community centre he helps run, which should help raise more funds.

In 1996, Mr Russell’s church group bought a former cinema in Tranent and transformed it into a community hub called the Fraser Centre.

A ceiling leak at the centre spurred the IT expert into fundraising having received a £500 grant from his employers BT.

Since then he has helped scores of “silver surfers” get online and last year began instructing children on how to encourage their grandparents to develop valuable computer skills.

His hard work has now been recognised by his employers, who honoured him with the New Volunteer award.

Mr Russell said: “I didn’t really take it in but I know it was a worldwide award. It was quite a surprise to me. To receive an award for little old me from Tranent was an honour.”

Educated at Tranent Primary and Ross High schools, he left after fourth year to undertake a National Certificate in accountancy at Jewel and Esk College.

Three month in, he left to take up a job in the Social Security department at Phoenix House in Portobello before accepting a post as an admin assistant with the Registers of Scotland, a role he held for several years before branching into finance and then IT.

He continued working as a systems administrator after the department was taken over by BT – a post he has held for eight years.

Mr Russell is married to Gillian and they have three children – Christopher, 13, Sarah, 12 and nine-year-old Abigail.