Donating your old computer could change a life — and maybe even save one.

That’s the case for one young woman in Ethiopia, who gained access to a computer through Studio Samuel, an organization that aims to empower vulnerable girls with life skills.

“Through our Training for Tomorrow program, a young girl escaping child marriage found her way to our training center and can begin to rebuild her self-esteem and learn a valuable trade through computer programming,” Studio Samuel said. “Through an Internet-based curriculum, this young girl now has the opportunity to become independent while learning a skill that will assist in breaking her poverty cycle.”

Massachusetts-based organization Housing Families received 20 computers in 2015 from InterConnection.

Making the Connection

The computer that’s helping this girl change her destiny was sent to Studio Samuel by Seattle-based InterConnection, a nonprofit established in 1999. The group collects computers from businesses and individuals, then refurbishes them and makes them available to a number of under-served communities around the world. Over the years, InterConnection has provided equipment to more than 35 countries worldwide, including sending laptops to Namibia to be used in HIV education programs and providing computers during times of natural disaster to help workers coordinate humanitarian aid, such as with Pakistan in the wake of 2010’s heavy floods.

The nonprofit helps closer to home, too, supporting U.S. organizations like Creative Coding 4 Kids in Seattle and Bronx Clergy Criminal Justice Roundtable (BCCJR) in New York. In Malden, Massachusetts, Housing Families — whose mission is to end family homelessness by providing safe, temporary shelter and quality affordable housing — received six laptops and 14 desktops last year. Because it’s difficult for many children who don’t have stable housing to regularly access computers, keeping up with homework and advancing their academic skills can be daunting. “As Housing Families is doubling the number of children and families served by the agency, the computers are a crucial need in order to ensure successful program operation,” says Hilary Wolkan, development and communications associate for Housing Families. Several of the computers are now being used in their after-school tutoring program to help kids complete schoolwork and enhance their learning.

The computers donated to Miami-based ATAP Academy have helped students make academic improvements.
The computers donated to Miami-based ATAP Academy have helped students make academic improvements.

At ATAP Academy in Miami, which offers a combination of traditional public school curriculum, individualized learning, and online instruction for those who come from generational poverty and disenfranchised neighborhoods, the 20 desktops and monitors the nonprofit received from InterConnection in 2015 have already made a difference. “Teachers and students interact on an entirely new level,” says Jonathan Drummond, administrator at ATAP Academy. “We have been blessed to service [a new educational program] amongst our most challenging kids and have seen immediate academic improvements in math.”

Get Involved

In addition to donating the computers they receive to worthy groups, InterConnection offers a low-income program for those seeking a way to improve their situation through education and employment opportunities. For less than $100, desktops and laptops complete with Microsoft Office and a 12-month warranty are available.

Want to support the cause? It’s easy — and donating an old computer not only helps countless people who wouldn’t have had access to technology otherwise, it also helps the environment by keeping the materials in use longer. There are three options: find a drop-off location, mail in your laptop or smartphone, or schedule a pick-up. Computers should be less than seven years old and boot up. Smartphones and some other electronics are accepted as well, based on location.

Given that InterConnection is a certified electronics recycler and all data is wiped, you can rest assured your computer is safe in their hands — and will make it into the hands of someone else who really needs it.

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.