Words by Smiley Team
Do you have an old laptop or computer lying around? Well now there's an organisation that can take it off your hands and use it for good.
The Mandulo Foundation aims to empower disenfranchised communities, with its Tech Drive being the latest in a series of initiatives supporting young people in South Africa.
The aim of the Tech Drive is to support unemployed South African youth in learning digital skills, and the Foundation is calling for individuals and organisations to donate unused devices, such as desktop computers, laptops and other IT equipment, which will be distributed in orphanages.
Zwelakhe Gila is the co-founder and executive director of the foundation. “We’ve expanded the scope of what the Tech Drive is, and tried to get that word out there, just to see how many people are willing to sponsor a kid with a laptop,” he says. Zwelakhe also wants to forge connections between donors and the children they sponsor. He says he is committed to communication and sending updates on how the children are progressing with their tech skills.
Zwelakhe says that if he could have helped just one child, it would have been a resounding success, but through the Mandulo Foundation, he has helped millions.
“During Covid, a lot of orphanages had no access to food whatsoever and so we decided to connect and start a Food Pantry initiative,” he explains. “We were able to feed over three million mouths last year. This year, we’re hoping to hit ten million.”
The work started at a settlement on a mountain occupied by a community of women and children who had been victims of abuse, he explains. “What they had on their backs was all they owned. We started speaking with some of the kids there, and we were just so moved. We ended up building a relationship; we saw that these kids needed food.”
From there, the foundation created a “feeding programme,” delivering 200kg of food per week to communities in need.
Most young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa continue to be denied access to information and communications technology because of poor infrastructure and the digital divide. This situation is compounded by the lack of uneven technology infrastructure and skills.
The Foundation has also campaigned for solar-powered schools. Zwelakhe said that the foundation’s partners at the Department of Education in South Africa invited him to visit a school in South Johannesburg that did not have internet access.
When he arrived, he realised that it needed more support than he anticipated, and he worked with the school to design a solar powered computer lab, a process which aims to be completed by the end of this year.
The Mandulo Foundation’s work has expanded to Chicago, where they support communities in partnership with the Chicago Food Pantry. Next, Zwelankhe wants to start helping low-income households in the UK, and has his sights set on a library in Exeter which supports young children.
DONATE: Contact the Mandulo Foundation to arrange a laptop donation by emailing [email protected]. You can mail in your laptop to Zwelakhe in the UK, or to volunteers in South Africa or Chicago. The reuse of computers is the best form of recycling - another organisation that accepts donated computers is IT Schools Africa (ITSA).
RECYCLE: If you have an old computer that is damaged and cannot be donated, ensure that you recycle it properly at a household waste recycling centre, or through a reputable tech recycling service like the Apple Recycling Programme, which will take older pieces of equipment off your hands. This reduces landfill and promotes environmental health.