Equal Tech for Those in Need

Equal Tech for Those in Need

Equal Tech for Those in Need

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Technology has become important to keep up in many aspects of your day-to-day life. Ian Waldbauer, Senior Technical Analyst, from Richardson’s Management Information Services (MIS) department, wanted to make sure more people had access to technology to help them excel.

“I saw a real need to help people access laptops. At Richardson, we have all this computer equipment we retire. A lot of people could really use it who can’t otherwise afford it,” says Ian. “Technology is key for people to know. If they don’t have it and many others do, they can fall behind.”

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Ian enjoys being able to meet and spend time with the people that benefit from the refurbished laptops.

Two years ago, Ian started the non-profit Equal Tech. Ian takes old corporate laptops and refurbishes them to donate to people in need in Winnipeg. Ian’s wife, Alanna Vogt, helps him work with organizations to find recipients for the laptops.

To date, Ian has donated no less than 230 laptops to high school students, single mothers, immigrants and others through programs like the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), Newcomer Employment Education Development Services (NEEDS), Ka Ni Kanichihk, Community Financial Counseling Services and Turning Leaf.

“I don’t give the laptops to organizations. They are working with me with the understanding that they are going directly to the people. The biggest reason is that I want them to be able to use the laptops at home,” Ian says. “You have homework and assignments for school. You have jobs to look for. I’d also like them to be able to play around with them and really learn the ins and outs. That’s what will end up making a difference for them.”

Ian has a set up at home that allows him to refurbish six laptops at a time. Each laptop takes around 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Ian cleans out the software on the computer and installs his own with each computer coming set up with Windows 10, an Office suite compatible with Microsoft Office and other necessary programs. He also physically cleans the laptops inside and out.

“I make the laptops look and feel like something new. I don’t want people to feel like they’re getting anything used,” Ian says. “One of my favourite questions is, ‘when do we give it back?’ It’s nice to be able to tell them it’s not like that.”

Ian enjoys being able to meet and spend time with the people that benefit from the refurbished laptops. Ian puts a lot of emphasis on helping high school-aged children because he says it’s a critical age to learn how to use this technology to excel after graduation.

“Working with the kids is always fun,” says Ian. “There’s one program at IRCOM where Grade 11 and 12 students got laptops. I spent over an hour with them after, just answering questions. They were very excited to get and use them.”

Ian started out accepting donated laptops from Richardson and originally had a backlog of laptops. Originally, it was difficult for Ian to find organizations to take the laptops.

“There’s disbelief off the start that they’re going to get anything of value. The very first time I work with an organization, usually there’s a lot of poking and prodding,” he says. “As soon as they get their first laptop, the relationships are maintained.”

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