For those of us who live and breathe technology we couldn’t imagine not having access to a computer, so it was a natural that at some point the Year of Code campaign would include a tech drive. Since November we’d been collecting used computers to refurbish and provide to families in Waterloo Region who otherwise couldn’t afford one. A donation from the City of Kitchener of computers from the closing of Everest college was a big boost to reaching our goal.
The wonderful team at the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre let us book their space for a big Refurb-a-thon event the weekend of May 28-29 and we sent a call out for volunteers to help out for as many hours as they could. A dozen generous people gave up part of their weekend to move, clean up, test and sort some dusty towers and laptops.
YoCWR Outreach Director Ben Rittenhouse ran the event. He said the group quickly devised a system for checking each computer, making sure it was wiped inside and out, getting new software installed and sorting the machines with monitors and power cords for each promised charity. “It was beautiful,” Ben enthused, and the team worked fast! Nearly a hundred machines were sorted and readied in less than six hours. The computers got Windows 10 or Ubuntu installed, depending on the license we had available, along with anti-virus, web browsers and media software installed.
Meanwhile, the word had gone out among local Syrian refugees that computers were available and a big line formed at the Small Business Centre of people who knew the advantage of having a computer for their family. There were way more people than computers available, but no one wanted to leave and chance missing out. Thankfully a translator came from Reception House to help explain the process, that there were only a few computers available as some were already promised to local agencies, but that those there first would have their names put on a list after those promised to some local charities to be picked up on the Sunday. Some lucky newcomers to Canada were among those who received the refurbished computers!
In total there were over eighty computers we were able to give to Extend-a-Family, Bridges to Belonging, Schlegel Villages, Syrian refugees, and the Developmental Services Resource Centre. Agencies that picked them up are dispersing them to needy people that they work with. All leftover parts, monitors, keyboards and non-working machines were donated to The Working Centre for their ongoing refurbishing program. If you have computers or time to donate, please check their website for information.
Everyone felt lucky to be able to help others get an advantage so many of us already have — technology for connecting and learning.