BY CATHERINE SOPLET
One week after she said, “We need more computers,” Alison Canning’s appeal for used digital devices and e-waste donations came true. Dubbed “TechCollect”, a second event partnered with Brampton Public Library was held at Cyril Clark branch last Saturday.
Alison’s status update? “Our Tech4All student youth team took in over 50 units, more than doubling the Gore Meadows total of 22,” said Alison. “Now we need more storage and training space here in Brampton.” Alison is the founder of Let’s Get Together (LGT), a non-profit on a mission to connect parents, youth and communities with equitable access to computerized devices, the internet and digital fluency.
LGT’s Tech4All Youth student-led initiative harnesses the knowledge and skills of the youth across Canada. With the assistance of mentors, Tech4All students can help those in most need while advancing their own education and learning. The program for the first time is extending the Tech4All cohort with the challenge to peer-mentor the next cohort.
TechCollect’s refurbished items are distributed via an application portal. “We receive applications not just from students (all ages) and their families, but now also from schools, agencies, hospitals,” says Alison. Reusable units less than ten years old are data erased and refurbished for immediate distribution. Legacy e-waste and indoor/outdoor household metal items up to 15 kg were binned for salvage.
Not only are bytes delivered to students and others needing a digital device, but there will also be bites into food. LGT is donating proceeds from the salvage to fund the “Scrap for Food” non-profit, which in turn supports localized food security hubs such as Ste. Louise Outreach and Food Bank Centre of Peel. “The essential need for a device, internet access and digital fluency was laid bare under the pandemic” says Erin Walker, Digital Literacies and Makerspace specialist at Brampton Public Library.
“We librarians are so happy to finally be open and able to connect again with residents of all ages and backgrounds.” Many people in Peel were unequipped to pursue their education or employment opportunities, or access essential community resources without access to a working computer or internet at home. “When COVID- 19 hit, public libraries, coffee shops and other places that offered free computer use or internet access were forced to close,” said Alison.
LGT started its TechCollect program three years ago by supporting 20 families every few months to purchase their own affordable computers. Since then, as supportive organizations and key volunteers joined in, more than 2000 individuals and families across Ontario have been helped. Collaborating partners for Brampton’s CollectTech event also include Taking It Global, one of the world’s leading networks of young people learning about, engaging with, and working towards tackling global challenges in shaping a more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable world. Alison’s ultimate goal is for every individual across Canada to own a computer, have access to internet service and a clear pathway to enhance their digital literacy by 2024.