Donate a laptop, make a difference: SFU partners with local communities to help youth in need

September 03, 2020

By Natalie Lim

For children and youth across the province, life has changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from school to social connections to access to resources has now moved online, and with this shift, access to technology has become more important than ever. Youth who don’t have a laptop at home—or who share one laptop with several family members—are finding it especially difficult to keep connected.

This is why the SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre (SFU Surrey CEC) has partnered with organizations in the community to hold a technology drive that will provide laptops and tablets to youth in need.

During a normal year, the SFU Surrey CEC runs 15 to 20 concurrent programs that empower hundreds of SFU student volunteers to make a difference in their communities by mentoring youth, leading after-school programs, and more. While most of these programs were paused due to the pandemic, the SFU Surrey CEC has been uncovering new ways to work with community-based partners and support local children, families and students during this stressful time.

“We reached out to our community partners here in Surrey and asked about the urgent needs of people in the community, and one of the issues they identified was a need for access to technology,” says Gretchen Ferguson, associate director of partnerships and programs at SFU’s Office of Community Engagement, the home of the SFU Surrey CEC.

“We’re so pleased to work with the Surrey community in the face of COVID-19, and to play a role in ensuring that children and youth can keep learning and stay connected during this time.”

Working together, the SFU Surrey CEC, Surrey District 36 Welcome Centre, Surrey District 36 Community Schools Partnership program and DIVERSEcity have identified youth and children from low-income or refugee families who would benefit from a laptop in their home. Ferguson has also been spreading word about the drive through her networks, and particularly through the SFU-Community COVID-19 Response and Recovery Network (SFUCOVNET).

Through the SFUCOVNET, Ferguson connected with Stacey Cerniuk, president and CEO of Annex Consulting Group, an IT and management consulting firm. During the pandemic, Annex Consulting has recruited a network of 2,000 volunteers in the Greater Vancouver area who are addressing the effects of COVID-19 by taking on everything from fundraising and food packing to mask sewing and administration.

“When Gretchen explained she was leading a program to collect donated laptops, as an SFU alumnus, I was eager to pitch in,” says Cerniuk.

“Our volunteers are helping to raise awareness about the tech drive, soliciting donations, and cleaning data from the donated computers. It’s so rewarding to see our work have a positive impact on the community.”

The technology drive has been running for several weeks, during which the SFU Surrey CEC has already collected more than 30 laptops.

Says Ferguson, “We’re grateful for the generosity of community members and SFU faculty, students and alumni, and especially grateful for Annex Consulting and our community partners who make all of this possible.”

Do you have a lightly used laptop that a local family could use to get connected during this pandemic? Please consider donating it—the SFU Surrey CEC technology drive will remain open until it reaches its goal of collecting and distributing 85 laptops to low-income or refugee families.