A 71-YEAR-OLD grandmother from Barry who turned from IT novice to computer whizz has picked up a prestigious national award from NIACE Cymru for her commitment to learning new skills.

Internet savvy Marilyn Hellyar, of Barry, won the Senior Learner Award at the Inspire! awards in Llandudno in recognition of her newly acquired IT skills and qualifications and her ongoing commitment to learning.

Marilyn regularly uses Facebook, Skype and email to keep in touch with her family in America and has even shown her son a few computer tips.

She attends courses once a week at Palmerston school and has a whole host of qualifications and certificates to her name.

Marilyn has kept up with learning new skills despite juggling family commitments. She lives with, and cares for, her 74-year-old husband who has been in and out of hospital for a series of major operations.

Marilyn said: “Before I started the course I’d never used a computer before. I was nervous about giving it a go at first. Not only have the courses helped me improve my confidence and build my skills, this has benefitted the entire family. I regularly email friends and family and can keep in touch with them on Facebook and on Skype.

“Skype was great for keeping in touch with my son who was working in India for a long time as it was like having him in the room with us. I’ve also made party invitations, calendars and personalised letterheads and I write poetry which I save on the laptop.

“I’ve made some great friends through the course and we help each other out if we’re stuck. We’re all between the ages of 70 and 90 and have proved you can teach an old dog new tricks.”

Her 101-year-old mother has also benefitted from her daughter’s skills as she can now keep in touch with her family across the other side of the world by showing her pictures on Facebook and video calls via Skype.

Jose Tancock, Marilyn’s tutor said: “Marilyn has a very outgoing bubbly personality and is an excellent role model for others who may have heavy family responsibilities. Her award is well deserved. She has not only enjoyed the learning process but also the camaraderie with her fellow students.”

The Inspire! Adult Learning Awards are hosted by NIACE Cymru each year ahead of Adult Learners Week to celebrate the achievements of a small number of outstanding learners in Wales who have shown exceptional passion, commitment and drive for learning, often in the face of difficult circumstances.

Adult Learners Week – June 14 to 22 - is organised by NIACE Cymru with the support of the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund.