How to re-purpose your old computer to new use in Jamaica.

In two weeks, we will be shipping out computers to Jamaica.

When I say computers, I mean computer workstations. And when I say Jamaica, I mean Brampton Primary School in Trelawny, Jamaica.

And when I say we I mean all of us who have contributed a computer or a piece of a computer to this project.

In the past two years, we have shipped sixty workstations. With this shipment I hope to bring another twenty. This will help us achieve our goal.

Our goal is to have twenty workstations at the school—in the computer room that the community built to securely house and protect the machines—and one workstation at every student household in Trelawny. That’s sixty workstations.

The reason is this. Jamaica is a financially poor country but as a people Jamaicans are relatively happy and extraordinarily “can-do”. By providing these material goods through the school without strings or conditions other than a promise on the part of the student to maintain certain grade-point averages and community involvement, we are giving hard-working kids and families a hand-up. (This is considerably different in impact from a hand-out.)

As it is the results we are seeing are remarkable.

How remarkable? Three years ago, Brampton Primary was scheduled to close for “lack of interest”. Our program under the tutelage of principal Mrs Camiel West and her staff was implemented two years ago. This year the schools 4th grader tested higher on standardized testing than every other school in Trelawny Parish, the fifth-largest parish in Jamaica. The school itself came in highest in scoring in the district. It is like a renaissance.

Worth noting, electricity runs about 80% of the time in Trelawny. Water about 50%. There are many places with packed dirt floors. The school had no watertight rooms before the building of the computer room.

Also worth noting, before we began importing computers to Brampton there was one computer in the township: It did not work.

That part has changed now. Here’s where we stand. Of the over one hundred workstations we shipped, about half arrived in working order. As these are all generally older machines, shipping across a sea in the cargo hold of cargo ships only sets so well with them. Just as bad is that when they arrive—as most are over five years old (some over ten)—some just give up the ghost soon after arrival. The good news is that there are lots of spare parts!

At this point the school has twenty workstations, the five teachers of the ninety students have workstations, and some thirty students have workstations. And Mrs West has an internet connection, the only one in the area other than cell phones.

When I go back this December for two weeks, my time will be spent doing non-stop repairs and installations.

(Of the thirty days I spent in Trelawny last year, I took one day to see Jamaica and that is because my hosts Lincoln Thompson and his wife school principal Mrs Camiel West-Thomson shut me out of the computer room and packed up a trip early in the morning giving me no choice in the matter. Agreeably, it was a lovely day.)

But every minute counts when I am there. For the most part, I use my own resources to transport, repair, ship and work on the computers. Then in Jamaica, there is other man, Clinton Hedman, who has worked on the computers with me but otherwise it is kids who I teach how to do what I do.

In truth, with by our Key West contributions of computers and mine of time (as well as my many friends who paid for shipping the monitors last time by each one sponsoring one at $25 a piece (the big monitors)) we are buying these children a future. And they in exchange are working to have one.

The students of Brampton Primary are not “given” computers; they are awarded them. In a ceremony for the entire township with dignitaries and school officials. Everyone is dressed as if for a wedding or for church. It is an accomplishment to be awarded a computer. It comes with a handshake and a certificate. Receiving of a computer workstation means much is expected of you as a community member and as a student. In a word, it is an honor.

Likewise, it is a tremendous honor to be facilitating this transaction.

In two weeks, I am sending another load of computer workstations to Trelawny, Jamaica. Two weeks later, I will follow them. And I will stay for two weeks to work so that these students have an opportunity and a place here in the future.

We need some things. And there are other things we do not need.

First, what we need. We DO need:

  • Desktop computers, both Windows (must be able to run XP , Vista or 7) and Macintosh;
  • Laptops less than 5 years old, working or otherwise
  • Flatscreen monitors—flatscreen because the big cathode monitors cost us near $50 a piece to ship;
  • hard drives, because most the computers we get have bad hard drives;
  • RAM. This is computer memory. It is like a chip or wafer that makes computers run faster.
  • Mice, keyboards, cords, routers.

And that’s what we need.

Now for what we do NOT need or CANNOT use. Here that list:

  • NO printers. No ink or money to buy ink in Jamaica, either.
  • NO “big” (cathode) monitors. No also. Too expensive to ship.
  • NO really old computers. Not if they cannot run XP or  OS X 4 or higher.

This year, Fausto’s has given at least eight retired computers which we have upgraded and brought up to date. And First State Bank has donated almost 20 retired flat screen monitors along with a number of computers without RAM or hard drives.

So this is where we stand. Since it’s Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa holiday season, now is the time many people get new computers. If you or your business has computers you are getting rid of, I know of a worthy cause towards which they can be put to good use. If you are cleaning out you closet and want to do some conscientious recycling, we are here. If you just have an extra computer that could be put to good use, we can do that for you.

Three months ago, the West-Thompson family came to stay at my home for a month with their 14-year old Shamar, 5-year old Camielia, and 3-year old Kyrell. The reason they came to Key West was to see the place where the computers came from. (Mr. Lincoln Thompson is a part-time Key West resident.) It was a blessing. We got to put a name and a face with our program to many of the contributors and many of the contributors got to see for themselves to whom the computers were being delivered. What a treasure!

Now we are getting set to make the leap again. If you can help, reach out. My number is 305-304-1555 and my email is

In a place that just two years ago had no computers, Key West is making an amazing difference. Keep up the good work. And thank you.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Michael Shields
    Nov 22, 2010 @ 19:53:15

    My highest praise and appreciation for what you are doing. You said it best when you stated, what you are doing is giving these children, their communities a FUTURE! Haiti needs – the people need, hope and while we 1st world nations bemoan the dehumanizing effects of technology, for Haiti it is a leg up to be part of the global community, and to foster education where it really helps make a difference. Thanks, Mike, and to the good folks of Key West who realize how simple acts such as this can, and does, change the world. And so we hope…and give a hand.


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