Retired teacher fixes up old computers for needy kids

August 26, 2011 (CHICAGO)

"We clean them. We refurbish them. We install software," Jack O'Donnell, coordinator, World Computer Exchange, said.

O'Donnell is the Chicago Chapter coordinator of World Computer Exchange . The organization collects discarded computers -- mostly from corporations -- and fixes them up to be sent to developing countries.

"Just so the technology can bring up the internet, can have an operating system that the locals can use and so the kids can always be in touch with what's going on in the world," said Sam Powers, volunteer.

Each computer is tested and repaired. Those that cannot be refurbished are stripped for parts. Each machine poses its own challenges, but the volunteers say they feel good knowing they are helping people and the planet.

"They're a really good organization for what they do as far as keeping the computers out of landfills and repairing them, sending them to people who really need them," Greg Neumarke, volunteer, said.

In the past three years, the group has shipped nearly 1,000 computers overseas. About two-thirds of them were donated by Walgreens.

"We have outdated equipment that's coming out all the time and this is a great way for me to give back or Walgreens to give back," Millie Liggins, Walgreens, said.

Many of the like new computers have been sent to countries in Africa -- including Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

"There is, in the whole chain of recycling, a greater value to reuse than in recycling. You are preventing new machines from being manufactured in addition to the obvious benefit of very often these computers are the first computers that kids see in their lives and it's game-changing for their education," O'Donnell said.

World Computer Exchange Chicago, , is hosting an open house on Saturday, September 10th. They'll be collecting old computer equipment and recycling it for a $10 fee. Find out more at

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