Video: U.S. Volunteer, 84, Rebuilds, Sends Linux Laptops To Africa

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Written by Dana Sanchez

In 2006, retired pastor James Anderson, 84, and his wife, spent 13 weeks in Zimbabwe teaching math at a rural boarding school near the Mozambique border.

When they returned, Anderson began looking for a way to continue to help the kids he’d met there, Libby Clarkreports in an article in Linux.com.

For the past nine years, Anderson has volunteered at FreeGeek, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit in the U.S. that recycles and rehabilitates old computers for donation.

He spends four hours every Friday testing and rebuilding ThinkPads, which he then loads with Linux Mint 17 and sends one or two at a time to Africa via personal couriers, according to Clark.

Anderson said he has always been a tinkerer and loved computers.
FreeGeek he saw the chance to help through technology.

“I realized the opportunity these students had to use computers even in the most simple way (was) almost nil,” he said. But, “I didn’t know what a memory stick was from a video card.”

He learned how to rebuild old personal computers at FreeGeek, which also offers classes and training, and has since worked more than 1,500 volunteer hours there.

The ThinkPads were state-of-the-art 10 years ago but are outdated by today’s standards. They run on Intel Pentium M single core, 32-bit processors and hold less than 2 gigabytes of RAM.

They are donated to FreeGeek and need a great deal of work, he said. Anderson figures out what’s wrong and fixes it, reformatting, swapping out replacement parts, and doing whatever is needed to make them fully functional again.

“They’re not the fastest computers available now but they still have good use for teaching children who are learning how to type and manipulate a computer,” Anderson told Linux.

You can see some of the beneficiaries of his computers on this Linux Foundation video.