Why I Volunteer at Computer Aid

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a 20 year-old student who was raised in Kenya. I’ve spent most of my life in a private school in Mombasa, one that is fully furnished with tables, chairs and (most importantly, to me) computers. However, the block next to that school was a public school that was visible to me every second of my primary and secondary education; cracked windows, no desks or chairs, peeling paint and no form of technology at all. Those images still remain burned in my mind, 4 years after leaving Kenya to move to the UK.

Computer Aid really attracted me as a place to spend my summer volunteering, as they are one of the principle providers of IT equipment to schools like the one I remember. They have bestowed over 200,000 PCs to schools and hospitals in third-world countries, and have recently been sending zubaboxes (mobile solar internet containers) to communities in Africa. Their approach of nurturing the recipients’ technological skills is also very commendable, as many charities give the proverbial man lots of fish instead of teaching him how to fish. Computers, unfortunately, do not grow on trees. Computer Aid gets old computers via corporate and individual donations, and a team of volunteers data-wipes them, refurbishes them and prepares them to be sent to the developing world. Every PC is asset-tracked, which means an individual donor who’d wish to know where his old ACER laptop has travelled to, can find out exactly what primary school it currently resides in.

My exciting role as the PC Donations and Logistics Assistant includes processing individual donations for reuse/recycling, sending letters of appreciation to donors, acting as a receptionist in welcoming visitors and answering phone calls, promoting the charity’s online presence through social media, chasing up invoices, … (the list goes on for a while). This is a far cry from previous boring jobs I have had that involve filing paperwork, making tea and coffee, etc. The flexibility of the job is a great part of working as an intern at Computer Aid. I could start the day off working with the PC Donations team, be working on various Finance department duties by lunch time, and finish the day off assisting the Fundraising team on a project. All the while knowing that everything I do is eventually assisting development in other countries.

Working there is definitely made extremely pleasant by the environment created by the cheerful and amazing staff. They went out of their way on my first day at work to make me feel welcome. Along with a tour of the workshop, where over a thousand refurbished PCs await the adventures to come, they each ran me through their roles at the company at my request, aiding my understanding of the processes that occur from the donation of a PC to it being shipped off. Even though I’m an intern, they include me in inter-departmental meetings and various workshops and training exercises, making me feel extremely welcome and comfortable at work.

I must say, working at Computer Aid International has taught me that you can love going to work, something I thought impossible prior to this summer. And with the experiences that I have gained from working at Computer Aid, I believe I have finally found a career path I wish to follow.

First things first though, I will be visiting that public school when I next visit Kenya, and try to connect them to Computer Aid. Potential is a beautiful thing, something that should be nurtured. And I’m glad to be a part of an organization that does exactly so.

Neer Shah.
PC Donations and Logistics Intern.

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