50 PCs and one Suitcase

July 29, 2011 :: 10.55am
Jimmy, Paul and Don with one of the donated computers

Jimmy Connelly, founder of Suitcase Media, explains how a donation will help many homeless people get connected.

What’s the connection between a suitcase, 50 PCs and a room in Southwark?

Well, Suitcase Media is a community interest company, based in St Mungo’s Business Incubator in Southwark. In return for the space, I run an IT skills and web design course for St Mungo’s clients.

Suitcase Media originally came together as a group of volunteers to build an IT and web design course for people who have experienced homelessness. Building on our success, we are now offering a crash course in web design and WordPress open to the general public. In addition to the course, we also offer members of the public one to one sessions where we help them improve their websites adding any functionality they would like, helping them to improve their websites and add functionality.

How do St Mungo’s clients use their new IT skills if they haven’t got easy access to PCs?

That’s where Paul Wrighton comes in. He works for Comm-Tech, a not for profit organisation working in South London for over ten years.

Comm-Tech’s main goal is to “empower people through technology in order to alleviate inequality”. Their belief is that people should have technological choice, be able to gain IT skills no matter what their income or background and that progress must be balanced by actively minimising environmental damage.

We’re all in favour of that.

So when Paul offered to donate 50 working computers so that we can pass them on to our homeless clients, we didn’t hesitate.

Paul said Comm-Tech often find they have a surplus of  equipment that, whilst usable, has very limited marketability for resale, so it was a happy coincidence when we made contact with him just as a batch were due to be recycled. Paul (pictured above, centre) generously gave us an afternoon with his team for the logistics, and with some help from Streetvan and Don MacDonald (pictured above, right), St Mungo’s Training and Enterprise Development Manager, we took the delivery.

This partnership has also inspired an idea. Commtech have a new intitiative which they are  calling ‘DIY refurb Barebones’.

The computers are going to be used by Suitcase Media in the classroom.St Mungo’s clients will also take them away after attending the basic IT and web design course so they can practise what they have learnt. Clients use their new skills in many ways – updating CVs, looking for jobs, reconnecting with families, creative writing, feeling more involved with the world – but long term the aim is to train St Mungo’s clients to help Suitcase Media’s private customers with their websites.  A couple of them are already doing this.

The donated computers mean a great deal and will really help Suitcase Media develop, and in turn help us offer more to St Mungo’s clients and other people who’ve experienced homelessness.

So finally, what do you get when you combine one of London’s leading homelessness charities with a massive pile of recycled computers, a web server, open source software, IT engineers, web developers, an IT training course, artists, cameras, sound recording equipment and countless cups of tea?  Click here for the answer.

Posted in Guest blogs, Hostels, shelters & projects, Support

One Comment

  1. annie says:

    what a brilliant idea nd what a happy coming together of comm-tech , st mungos and others. as a blind computer user i know the importance of making technology accessible to everyone in society and how important it can be to help enable and empower people. good for comm-tech and st mungos. heart warming.

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