Supporting the Community through Refurbished Computers in Social Integration

20 Apr

During a recent visit to NFSB’s Huntington Adult Education Centre, the RECIT team discovered an amazing initiative led by two teachers, Michael Werenchuk (Social Integration teacher) and Kathleen Hackett (Math/Science teacher) that directly benefits the centre’s SI students and the local community.

A picture of HAECC, NFSB
NFSB, Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre (HAECC)

Over the years, Michael and Kathleen noticed that old computers were being discarded by schools and local businesses either because they were no longer compatible with the latest software updates, or they simply were not working. Instead of throwing them away, the two teachers realized that these computers could still be of use to people in the community who needed them. They put out a call for donations and put systems in place to organize them.

NFSB came forward and has generously donated the majority of the laptops that have been donated to this initiative this school year.  Donated computers range from desktops to laptops with Windows or MacOS. Michael works with his SI students to refurbish the old computers and then works with Kathleen to donate them to those in need. The community benefits from having access to free computers, while the students gain valuable skills and experience in computer repair and refurbishing. 

A picture of the classroom with computers and recycled equipment
Image: A classroom has been dedicated to support the SI computer recycling initiative

Michael’s SI students learn about tools, classifying, and sorting things into the right categories. They are also taught to recognize different types of metals, such as copper and aluminum when taking old computers apart.

A picture of boxes of equipment to be sorted
Image: Different parts are sorted into different baskets to be re-purposed or recycled.

Other SI students learn how to use spreadsheets to keep track of serial numbers and which items were discarded or recycled. Safety protocols are always followed, with students wearing gloves and glasses, and all data is wiped. Hard drives that cannot be reused are physically damaged to prevent data from any potential recovery.

The SI students then test and clean the rebuilt computers and laptops, including the removal of any old stickers or identifying markers. The computers are refurbished with a lightweight operating system (ChromeOS Flex) and given back to the local community for home use only. While not meant for gaming or intensive tasks, a ChromeOS Flex computer can be a lifeline for students or families who have multiple people in the household who need a connected computer.

Kathleen oversees the distribution of the computers, which are given to students at the centre, high school, and elementary schools first, but are available to anyone who can benefit. Over 80 laptops have been donated at the time of writing!

a close up picture of laptops ready to be given back to the community
Image: Refurbished computers ready to go back into the community!

At the end of the school year, the SI students go on a field trip with Michael to an e-waste facility to recycle any remaining precious metals, wires, or non-working parts. The SI students get to see the A-Z result of all their hard work. The small profit made from recycling these parts is then put back into the SI program at HAECC for an end-of-year classroom party.

a collage of 4 images demonstrating the various parts of the broken down pieces to be processed for recycling
Image: Remaining precious metals, wires, or non-working parts to be recycled

Michael explained that this project helps provide his SI students with a sense of purpose while also helping others around them. Furthermore, it helps the SI students develop a range of practical competencies such as teamwork, autonomy, communication and collaboration, which are essential for success in any workplace or social setting. The project also emphasizes the importance of responsible recycling and sustainability, which aligns with the program’s focus on civic responsibility and environmental awareness.

Michael and Kathleen are always on the lookout for donations of old computer technology. If you, your centre, your school, or your business have any technology that you would like to donate, please contact Michael Werenchuk ([email protected]) or Kathleen Hackett ([email protected]) and let them know. 

A huge thanks to Megan Martin, Kelly Ryan, Micheal Werenchuk, Kathleen Hackett and the whole team at Huntington Adult Education Centre for hosting us during our visit!

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