Issue date: 21 August 2013
A shipment of refurbished computers and office furniture has just arrived in the West African country of Togo after an eight week journey by sea. The recycled equipment was refurbished by student volunteers from UWE Bristol.
They are currently being unpacked and installed to equip two internet cafes in the capital Lome. The cafe project is an initiative of Bristol-based microfinance charity Deki.
Jo Earl, from UWE Volunteering, co-ordinated students from UWE's Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies to make the computers ready for use.
"Four volunteers worked as a team to assess the donated equipment, install operating systems and additional software. In total 84 PCs were shipped and the students worked really hard on a complex and time-consuming task,” said Jo. “A big thank you is due to UWE students who volunteered their time to install software onto each device.
“After refurbishing the computers, our next big task was shipping the PCs from Frenchay campus," continued Jo, who worked with facilities manager Richard Bird on the mammoth task of packing and loading the computers, printers, desks and chairs into the shipping container.
The shipment has now arrived and is being unpacked and installed by Deki's local partner in Lome, CODA. Both internet cafes will be open to the public but blocks of time will be set aside each week for special user groups, such as orphanage children who will receive computer training, and microfinance clients. The cafes aim to be sustainable in a year's time, earning income from internet, printing and copying services. The cafes will provide a learning and employment opportunity for local people.
CODA's mission is to help small businesses and communities find solutions to their own economic, social and cultural development in a sustainable way. The management team also works on vital local services including an orphanage, a school and a hospital.
Deki is a microfinance charity started by UWE alumna Vashti Seth, who won an award from UWE for best social enterprise in 2009. Vashti said, “At Deki we believe that people should help themselves out of poverty. We help people in the developing world do this by providing microloans and business training.
“It is vital for disadvantaged youth to learn computer skills, so they can improve their futures. We are delighted to have partnered with UWE on this project. People wanting to get involved can support a small business in Togo by lending £10 or more on our website www.deki.org.uk.”