Leith social enterprise helps Syrians to settle with 100 laptops

Mario Di Filippo repairs a laptop for the Syrian refugee programme at Edinburgh Remakery. Picture: Jon Savage
Mario Di Filippo repairs a laptop for the Syrian refugee programme at Edinburgh Remakery. Picture: Jon Savage
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A Leith-based social enterprise is on track to refurbish 100 laptops this year to help Syrian refugees living in Scotland find work and stay in touch with their loved ones.

The team at Edinburgh Remakery has recycled 54 laptops since January after raising half of the £5,000 needed through their Laptops for Refugees campaign.

Events and communications manager Stephanie Bowring, who helped start the campaign, said: “It’s something we are all really passionate about and we have had such an amazing response from the people we help and it makes such a difference to people’s lives.”

She said most of the donations have come from community organisations and members of the public - and one newlywed couple even sent cash their way instead of taking wedding gifts.

Edinburgh Remakery, which employs 10 staff and several volunteers, has a vision for a zero waste society and aims to teach people new skills to repair, re-use and recycle - often helping the most vulnerable people into work.

The idea to recycle laptops for refugees came about last summer after a conversation between managers at the social enterprise and the council’s migration officers, who said the devices would help refugees and asylum seekers with little belongings and language skills to rebuild their lives.

Edinburgh Remakery’s IT manager, Sotiris Katsimpas, took on the task and helped restore nearly 30 devices for the most vulnerable refugees arriving through the council’s resettlement programme.

The campaign was then launched in December and the project has continued to expand.

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Stephanie said the focus is still on Edinburgh but that equipment is now being sent to refugees and their families in other parts of Scotland, with some even going down to England.

She stressed that the laptops enable refugees, many of whom are skilled professionals, to learn about the local culture and language and find jobs, adding: “A lot of people come here on their own and don’t know how to connect with friends and families and it gives them that accessibility to do that. It gives them a link to local communities and local events and allows them to start building a new life.

“We know that a lot of these people are from Syria, but sometimes it is difficult to find out where they have come from.”

Edinburgh Remakery is now working with various organisations to supply laptops, including Welcoming Edinburgh which supports migrants and refugees to build new lives in in the city, and RefuAid, a UK-wide charity which helps support access to language tuition, education, employment and family reunification.

The social enterprise on Leith Walk also provides refurbished laptops to Bikes for Refugees, which repairs and up-cycles donated bikes to refugees and asylum seekers.

Stephanie added: “This year we have increased the amount of laptops to 54 and we hope to hit our target of 100 people by the end of the year. We are hoping we can keep on doing it after this.”

Anyone interested in donating an old laptop or tablet device should visit the Edinburgh Remakery at 127 Leith Walk or call 0131 629 9358, or for more details visit https://www.edinburghremakery.org.uk/laptops-for-refugees/

Edinburgh Remakery also produces certificates to show that laptops are wiped clean of data after being handed in, and the group will still take very old and broken laptops because the parts can be dismantled by the IT team and re-used.