MILLBURN, N.J. — A junior at Millburn High School is using his skills with computers to help young women half a world away have a chance at higher education. Alexander McBride, the founder of Laptops4Africa.org, has already sent 21 laptops to deserving female students by teaming with a family friend who hand delivers donations to a girls leadership training school in Tanzania.
TAPinto Millburn spoke with McBride to learn more about this project and highlight the work of this Millburn teen.
When did you refurbish your first laptop to be donated?
In 2015, I was visiting a friend of the family, Craig Leisher, head social scientist of the Africa division with The Nature Conservancy. He asked me whether I could fix an old IBM laptop because he was traveling to Africa and thought he might be able to give it to a deserving high school student. I agreed and fixed the software, removing the clutter. That first laptop I refurbished was delivered on September 22, 2015 to a student named Uwezo Masudi in a Katonga fishing village in Tanzania. That started it all.
We decided to focus on female high school students in Tanzania, particularly at the Kisa Project in Arusha, who are required to have laptops in order to advance to university. Although old laptops are often discarded here in the United States, their availability in East Africa changes lives and gives these young women the opportunity to become professionals and bring development and change to their country.
What was the motivation/start point for this project?
I like tinkering with computers, but I also could not get around the fact about how wasteful we, as Americans, are with laptops. Prior to 2015, I learned by refurbishing a laptop for myself that old computers still have plenty of potential.
How many laptops have you refurbished for donation so far?
I have assessed, reviewed or refurbished the hardware and software of some 21 laptops so far.
Where do you get the laptops to refurbish and donate?
We have received used laptops from neighbors in the Millburn-Maplewood area, faculty members at local universities, law firms and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations).
Do you have a set goal in mind or is the project more open-ended?
My primary goal is to start sending laptops faster than receiving donations. Our present method of delivering these laptops to East Africa is by hand delivery with Mr. Leisher carrying them into the country. Currently, Tanzania has no import duties on used laptops and that’s ideal. Other countries charge a highly unreasonable tariff.
How did Laptops4Africa.org come about?
In speaking with other adults about my project, I concluded that I should create a nonprofit organization myself. With my dad and two fathers in the neighborhood, we established Laptops4Africa as a nonprofit organization in the state of New Jersey and are in the process of applying for 501(c) (3) status with the Internal Revenue Service so that we can receive tax-deductible donations.
We have set up a website to tell the stories of these young African women and our project to help them. Please see our website at http://www.laptops4africa.org/.
When did your interest in computers start?
I have been interested in computers since I was 5 years old when I got my first PC, a Gateway machine. I became familiar with Windows XP as a child and I learned to solve problems by myself through research and trial and error.
At 13, I became dissatisfied with my PC because of limited performance and decided to build my own computer, increasing RAM and CPU power, including processing and speed.
How can the local community help?
In addition to donating laptops, the community can help by donating funds to refurbish the laptops in cases where they need hardware or updated software as well as to cover the cost of taking extra bags of laptops on flights to Africa.