During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on movement and closure of schools had a severe impact on children’s education and daily routines, as they had to attend classes from home. This situation also highlighted once more the gap between the children and families who have access to computers and the internet and those who don’t. Borche Stamenov from the town of Kavadarci in North Macedonia is one of the heroes who has contributed to reducing this gap for 1,200 families across the country who could not afford to buy a computer. His story started almost by accident.
Borche works at Bidat Informatika, a company from Kavadarci that provides software and hardware repair services. He explains that for years clients had been leaving their old computers at their store, so they could use them to train interns to fix them. In 2016, a woman came to Bidat Informatika and said she needed a computer but didn’t have the means to buy one. Borche had the idea of using spare parts to put together a computer for her. He and his colleague then delivered it to the woman’s home.
A small donation that turned into a movement
When visiting this home, Borche and his colleague met the woman’s three children who were overjoyed by Borche’s gift. “Witnessing the joy of the children, and the light in their eyes, I decided to continue this computer donation work and bring happiness to as many children as possible,” says Borche.
Following this, Borche launched a “Donate Computer” social media page so he could reach more people who were willing to donate second-hand computers and more families who couldn’t afford a computer. As he had predicted, the families in need were numerous but, to his surprise, the number of interested donors was also high. First, 20 computers came from a local company, who were replacing their old computers. “We published this donation on our social media pages, and more donations kept on coming,” says Borche.
The pace of his humanitarian mission picked up in the pandemic when the Ministry of Education of North Macedonia decided to move teaching online. As a result, hundreds of children and young adults from poor families and remote regions faced a daunting challenge.
The numbers of donated computers accelerated during this year when from around 100 annually, Borche and his colleagues increased the amount of computers delivered to approximately 500. They had to launch a web page to better organise the flow of delivery from donors to people in need. He was helped by individuals who relayed messages to him from those in need, and by delivery companies such as Eko Logistic Servis which delivered the computers for free.
Borche was contacted by the EU Delegation in Skopje, who were renewing their computers and other IT equipment, and had heard about his initiative. “The EU was willing to provide us with around 140 computers and other pieces of IT equipment. This was marvellous and the biggest donation that we have received so far,” says Borche.
Contact with the EU Delegation in Skopje continued even after their donation. This year Borche received their European of the Year Special Award for Solidarity. His contribution was recognised in improving the lives of families in need of digital connectivity, which has been particularly acute during the heightened isolation and online learning of COVID times.
Borche’s computers have reached virtually every region in Macedonia. He has received thankyou notes in various forms – from letters to videos. And he plans to continue. “I hope that in the near future there will be no more need for my contribution as the government or other institutions will enable every family in North Macedonia to own a new computer. But until then, I will keep on working on this,” he says.
About the initiative
Doniraj Kompjuter (Donate Computer) is an initiative launched by Borche Stamenov from Kavadarci in North Macedonia. So far, the initiative has been able to deliver 1,200 computers to families in need all over North Macedonia. The hardware has been donated by private individuals, companies and institutions, including the EU delegation in Skopje who provided over 140 pieces of IT equipment from laptops and desktop computers to printers.
Photo credits:Borche Stamenov
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