PCs for Refugees is a Phoenix-based nonprofit which refurbishes computers and donates them to the local refugee communities. Since the organization started in 2016, they’ve grown from a home garage operation to a certified nonprofit with an office space and a growing inventory.
I stopped by the office to meet with Riad Sbai, president and founder of PCs for Refugees, who was kind enough to show me around and talk about the great work that they do in the community. To date, they’ve been able to donate devices to over 160 refugee families in the community. While the organization was first formed to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in Phoenix–which represent only a small portion of the estimated 5 million refugees outside of Syria who have been displaced by the war–the group has begun to provide devices to relocated refugees from the Congo, Afghanistan, and Iraq as well.
Early on, Sbai managed both incoming donations and requests for devices from their Facebook page. As the organization has grown, they’ve now been able to set up device donation centers at various organizations and partner with a larger computer recycling and refurbishing center in the area to grow their inventory. While they do customize some of the software based on the specific needs and skillset of the families, in general each computer is loaded with LibreOffice, Rosetta Stone English (1 month trial), WhatsApp, Skype, and some English language learning and digital literacy resources. A wide variety of educational programs are also loaded on the computers. Sbai recognizes that computer and Internet access are critical for families in transition, and is dedicated to making English language material available so students can succeed in school and parents can communicate with various entities as they rebuild their lives.
At this point, each family can receive one computer. Families where one or more members complete the entire Rosetta Stone trial are eligible to receive a tablet as well. On delivery days, Sbai and his team spend a couple hours providing hands on instruction to the family to make sure they are comfortable using the device and accessing the resources.
At PCs for Refugees, refurbishing is a responsive process which meets informational needs on a family-by-family basis, but that’s not where the relationship ends. Sbai tells me with pride that a couple of the Syrian children have started coming into the office to learn how to rebuilt computers themselves.
******* CALL FOR RESOURCES ********
PCs for Refugees is actively seeking digital/web literacy and English language learning material designed for native Arabic speakers of all ages. If you know of any resources, please email Riad Sbai at riad.sbai [at] pcsforrefugees.com