S2E16. Reprogramming the future
Macedonian programmer Borce Stamenov repairs old computers and donates them to families in need, also for children's distance learning. Waiting for the State to deal with the situation
welcome back to BarBalkans, the newsletter with blurred boundaries.
It can take very little to reprogramme the future of a child, a family and perhaps even a nation.
It can take just an old computer, technical skills and the willingness to help people in need.
This is how computer programmer Borce Stamenov is making a difference from the town of Kavadarci, in the heart of North Macedonia.
Through his initiative Doniraj Kompjuter, ‘Donate a Computer’, he has managed to repair more than a thousand computers destined to the landfill, refurbishing them for people who cannot afford the expense of a new computer.
On the occasion of the European Heritage Days 2021, the EU delegation in North Macedonia awarded him its special solidarity prize.
Doniraj Kompjuter campaign
Borce, when did you come up with the idea of repairing computers for donation?
“Doniraj Kompjuter was born completely by accident, even if I have always wanted to find a way to use my knowledge for the benefit of society.
In the company where I have been employed for 20 years, Bidat Informatika, I used to store obsolete computers for training interns.
In December 2016, at the end of a working day, a woman visited me, asking if we had an old spare computer for her three children.
I fixed one of those machines and I brought it to their home. It is in that sad scene that originates the idea of spreading joy to those who cannot afford a new computer”.
Can you explain the mission of your campaign and how is it put into practice?
“The primary aim of Doniraj Kompjuter campaign is to help people who need IT equipment, but who cannot afford it.
At the beginning I worked alone. Then, two more volunteers joined me: Dejan Milacheski and Zike Kocev, who share the same desire of helping without getting anything in return.
The support usually comes from the private sector. However, I know that there are old computers in almost every public institution that can be repaired and reused, but so far we have been contacted just by one or two administrations.
I’ve been hoping that something will change since the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, visited us and offered his support. In fact, the latest big donation of computers was transported to our offices by his staff”.
Like a TV show
What are the steps undertaken, from the collection of an old computer to the donation?
“The initiative is not so complicated. We’ve decided to divide this campaign into ‘seasons’, like a TV show: every season consists of 100 computers to be repaired and donated.
First of all, on our website you can choose whether to donate or to receive a computer.
If you want to donate, all the information needed are there (address, telephone number, working hours).
If you apply to receive a computer, you’ll receive a message explaining how to receive a donation. For example, the applicant is asked to show an official document, certifying that the family is socially and economically endangered.
The repairing operations varies depending on the condition of the machine. Usually it doesn’t take more than one hour, because we are all well-trained professionals with years of experience.
All the operations take place at the company where I work. But we are planning to move, since we are now an officially registered association.
The new offices have been built with money or material donations”.
What is the cost of all this activity?
“There are no expenses in Doniraj Kompjuter. Everything we do is somehow covered by another donation.
The packing boxes come from the local company Kozuvcanka, the transport of computers is free of charge thanks to Eko Logistic service from Skopje, the marketing (shirts, stickers) is covered by Kontura. While Dejan, Ziko and I work pro bono”.
How many computers have you already repaired and what are your expectations for the near future?
“Out of 1400/1500 old computers that we’ve received, 1200 have been fixed and delivered.
Of course, I’m very happy of succeeding out of nothing, but I hope that in the future there will be no need for us to exist.
Hopefully, the State will be able to deal with this situation and help citizens in need. Until the time comes, we will be here to help people forgotten by the system”.
The impact of COVID-19 pandemic
As a result of COVID-19 pandemic, what was the impact of distant learning on your initiative?
“Well, from 2016 until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out we donated 130 computers. Then the idea ‘exploded’: the pandemic showed us that North Macedonia wasn’t ready for online education.
In less than one year we managed to repair and donate 1070 computers. It means that 1070 families are no longer worried for the education of their children.
And the waiting list just keeps growing!”
How has the Macedonian State managed the situation of distant learning?
“I think that we were all surprised by the pandemic. Developed countries had little or no problem at all in switching education to online platforms.
North Macedonia was not ready, as I said. First of all, we are a poor country, with high corruption rate.
And then we have this strange habit of copying rich countries’ educational systems, even if they are not technically suitable for our system”.
What is the situation today?
“The request for donations is constantly increasing. I see only success for Doniraj Kompjuter: from an initiative asking for help, we became an initiative that is necessary.
People and companies are joining with enthusiasm, because they know they are helping in some way”.
How can people from outside North Macedonia help your initiative?
“So far, we’ve had a few unsuccessful attempts to bring donations of old computers from other countries.
Now we are a registered association and we can try again. But I think it will take a huge effort from both sides, due to legal obstacles.
For the moment, anyone who wants to support us can find here all the details for money donations.
And thank you!”
Pit stop. Sittin’ at the BarBalkans
We have reached the end of this piece of road.
Before we get back on the road, let’s ask our guest for some recommendations at our bar, the BarBalkans.
Borce, what do you recommend us to drink?
“Usually, I’m a beer person. However, recently I got into wine.
I have a friend who works in the biggest winery in Southeast Europe.
The Tikveš region - where I live - has been producing wine for over 2,500 years.
So, you have to join us drinking a glass of red wine… and maybe I could be your guide!”
Let’s continue the BarBalkans journey. We will meet again in a week, for the 17th stop.
A big hug and have a good journey!
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