At the start of this semester, Ahmad Mousa and Calvin Diep took on a side project. Less than four months later, it’s taken off, helping members of the London and Western communities connect to the world around them.
Mousa and Diep, in their second year of a Biological and Medical Sciences degree, founded ClickToConnect this summer, after Mousa returned from a co-op opportunity at Just Energy, a North American natural gas and electricity retailer.
“I was disconcerted with the amount of computers being thrown out. They were good computers, but computers that weren’t company grade. So I asked my manager if I could take them. It started with the website – clicktoconnect.ca – and we opened up an application form. Ever since then, we’ve gotten an outpouring of support,” Mousa explained.
ClickToConnect is a charitable initiative currently based in London, which refurbishes donated computers to children in need within the local community. The computers are collected, restored and delivered, free of charge, by Mousa and Diep.
The project’s goal is to provide computers to children and families who may not have the means to afford a computer, giving them opportunities to further their education as well as connect, research and develop essential computer skills.
“Initially, it was hard to get the attention of the public,” Diep said, noting he and Mousa tried to reach out to large companies and corporations for donations.
“Of course, they don’t trust us yet; they want to see that we’ve done something before they give us more. But that’s the problem; we’re stuck in that cycle, so at the beginning, it was really slow. But then, thanks to a tweet two weeks ago, we’ve had a lot more support, more applications, more donation offers.”
Following an article in The London Free Press, and an interview on CBC’s Ontario Morning, requests for computers, alongside many donations, have been pouring in.
They established connections with social workers in London through community resource centres, posted flyers and reached out by way of social media. Now, more applications are coming in. Families in need of a computer can fill out an application; they don’t have to provide proof of income, just an explanation of their request.
“If people are going to reach out to get a computer, most likely they need it,” Mousa said.
Their computers are not state-of-the-art, so it’s unlikely someone would take advantage of the program.
The two provide non-disclosure guarantees to donors, assuring them personal information on the computers will be erased, and to families who receive them, in order to assure them their identity and personal information is safe.
“Today, we delivered six computers and the majority of them have been new families to Canada who came here; they have no job, or the parents are in school, and they can’t afford a computer, or they have children in elementary school. We set up a computer, and they were so happy to see it,” Diep said.
Mousa added people generally underestimate what access to a computer can accomplish – saving families money by freeing them of cable bills, connecting them to jobs and an education, among other great benefits.
“I’ve been amazed with the range of people we’ve helped out,” Mousa noted.
“Our demographic is children ages 4-18, but we’ve helped out and brought a computer to a PhD student here at Western. She had a computer, but it wasn’t a great computer. And then we brought one to a family of refugees from Syria. It’s been a wide range, not just one specific group in need.”
Going forward, Mousa and Diep want to see ClickToConnect expand. With a couple of volunteers right now, the two see potential to grow the organization and serve more communities, with hopes of either registering as a charity, or joining forces with an established organization to maximize their potential.