P.E.I. program offering free, refurbished computers a 'win-win'

A program on P.E.I. called Computers for Success is giving computers another life by fixing them up and donating them to community groups across the Island. That also keeps them out of the landfill for as long as possible.

Computers for Success formerly fixed computers for schools but has now reinvented itself

John Brennan of Computers for Success shows Doreen Wall one of the laptops that will be delivered soon to a member of the P.E.I. Women's Institute. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

A program on P.E.I. is keeping old computers out of the landfill and into the hands of Islanders who are happy to have them.

Computers for Success fixes up old computers and donates them to community groups across the Island. It started as Computers for Schools, offering refurbished computers into the school system for students. But program co-ordinator John Brennan said they changed their focus when schools started getting newer equipment.

"We're now focused on more charities, not-for-profits, and individuals who need socio-economic access to computer equipment," he said. "We want to get these refurbished computers out into the hands of community groups and Islanders and keep them out of landfills."

The Computers for Success team works on a wide range of computers and laptops. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Most of the computers are donated by the provincial and federal government as well as some individuals, said Brennan, who also serves as the manager of infrastructure operations with P.E.I.'s Department of Finance.

Computers for women's institute

This fiscal year, he said Computers for Success has donated more than 1,200 devices, with most going to community groups such as the Adventure Group and the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada.

The computers are usually about five to six years old when they arrive at the shop to be refurbished with new hard drives and memory, Brennan said.

It was going to give them a connection to the world, to even their province, to even their community, for women who didn't have computers.— Doreen Wall, president of the P.E.I. Women's Institute

"The users really should get three to four years of excellent use out of them."

Most recently, the Women's Institute of P.E.I. offered its members a chance to receive one of the restored computers and the response was overwhelming, said president Doreen Wall.

"I loved it because we have members out there, it was going to give them a connection to the world, to even their province, to even their community, for women who didn't have computers," she said.

"We have over 1,000 members and about 800 have responded."

James Wood says he has gained valuable experience as part of the Technical Work Experience Program. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Some of the women's institute members have already received their computers, with more on the way in the next couple of weeks.

"We've had phone calls, emails of praise, thanking us very much for getting them in the computer age," Wall said.

"Computers that were deemed to go out to the landfill are now going out to people who will be able to use them and that's fantastic."

Hands on experience

There is another bonus to the Computers for Success program. It receives federal funding for a Technical Workplace Education Program, bringing in students and youth who want to go into the field of technology.

"Those participants in the Technical Work Experience Program have gone on, some of them, to find permanent employment with the province," said Troy Glydon, workshop manager for Computers for Success. 

"It's kind of been a win-win because they're here, they're working closely with the supervisors and management."

For security reasons, all the hard drives are wiped from the old computers before they are redistributed. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

James Wood, a graduate from Holland College Computer Networking program, has been leading the project with the women's institute.

"There's been a lot of great feedback, a lot of happy faces," he said.

Meeting target

Computers for Schools still exists in other regions of Canada, which have not yet gone through the same transition as the organization on P.E.I.

"All the other provinces and the federal government are watching us here and they're very pleased," Brennan said.

"We lost 98 per cent of our business and we're still meeting our target of 1,500 computers a year out the doors."