Back in November, a group of Lower Sixth Form boys set up the Bedford School Device Bank as part of the school’s Community Partnership Programme. Using their IT skills, the boys reconditioned old phones and laptops donated by staff and parents, so that they were fit to donate to people who would not normally have access to them. With the onset of the pandemic, laptop demand rose to its highest to enable people to learn and work remotely.
Beneficiaries of the Bedford School Device Bank included refugees at Yarl’s Wood through the charity Yarl’s Wood Befrienders, who offer befriending and essential services like phone credit, clothing and supermarket vouchers to asylum seekers and irregular migrants held in immigration detention. The charity also helps the refugees, often fleeing from war, persecution and trauma, to rebuild their confidence, skills and sense of well-being, and started classes on Zoom in fitness, art, English and creative writing.
A spokesperson for Yarl’s Wood Befrienders said, “We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Bedford School involved in the project to collect unwanted laptops and phones. You have done an amazing job! The people who do these courses do not have laptops, very often only a very old phone, and this is where your amazing work comes in.”
An example of how one of the devices is being used:
The spokesperson from the charity also told us a truly heart-warming story about one of the beneficiaries, who received the laptop in the photo. It was about a refugee who wants to be a writer:
When he was in his home country, he wrote all the time. He was fascinated in the history of West African tribes and studied them in-depth, before writing a fictionalized version, based on an island, bringing all history together into one narrative. He would tell that story in parts to a young cousin, who would beg him for the next instalment! However, following violence and trauma, that eventually forced him to flee his country, he lost the handwritten manuscript. Since then, he has struggled to put pen to paper due to a fear of losing it again. The donated laptop will, hopefully, open the door to writing for him again, and give him the confidence to put his thoughts down, and who knows what incredible stories he may write.
With the laptop donated from the Bedford School Device Bank, he was able to join a creative writing group at Yarl’s Wood, and in his own words spoke of what that meant to him:
“This is a real game changer for me, I’m really, really grateful, to get on the internet, to read my emails, do my writing. To me to be able to communicate and write is more important than food. You people are really making a difference, when you’re in this system, when you’ve been in detention, you get a very bad mind towards the government and you feel like the whole country is against you. It’s the support of people like you that shifts that, and you know there are good people out there. Thank you.”