Computer repair group for teens gets NIS 1.4m. grant
LAST UPDATED: 06/12/2011 02:49
Eco Tech adds social value by providing PCs to families in need, reducing toxic waste.
Didi Silberman Photo: Courtesy
For Didi Silberman, rescuing three-and four-year-old computers from meeting
their deaths in landfills not only benefits the environment, but also provides
work for at-risk teens and functional machines for needy
Silberman heads Eco Tech, a branch of the NGO Machshava Tova,
which on Thursday received a NIS 1.4 million grant from Bezeq and the National
Insurance Institute’s Children and Teenagers At-Risk Fund.
Eco Tech was
founded two years go, to “narrow societal gaps in Israel through
Eco Tech currently runs one workshop in northern Jerusalem’s
Ramot neighborhood for 30 teenagers who upgrade 100 computers each year, but
with the additional funds, the organization will be able to now train 120
teenagers to upgrade a total of 1,000 computers at eight workshops around the
country – ultimately helping around 5,000 people, Silberman said. The classes
will probably expand to locations in west Jerusalem, east Jerusalem and the
center of the country, according to Silberman.
“Now with the help of the
huge, amazing grant we’re hoping to have the program run for two years – during
the second year they’ll [the participants] open a computer lab as a small
business,” she told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night.
this little lab in their neighborhoods and run the lab charging lower rates to
A 31-year-old innovator, Silberman is joining
other entrepreneurial and socially influential peers this week at the annual
Jerusalem ROI conference, first organized in 2006 by the Charles and Lynn
Schusterman Family Foundation to bring together young innovators to mingle and
Silberman was previously a 2010 PresenTense Jerusalem Fellow where she worked out the business model for Eco-Tech and from there went into more community programs.
“I have dreamed of opening up Eco Tech workshops around the
country,” Silberman said in a statement. “Thanks to this generous grant from
Bezeq and Bituach Leumi [the National Insurance Institute], Eco Tech can realize
this dream. At the ROI Summit, I will be able to compare notes and share best
practices with Jewish social entrepreneurs involved in similar projects around
ROI Community Executive Director Justin Korda said in the
same statement: “Didi Silberman joined Machshava Tova and made Eco Tech a
reality. She exemplifies what ROI Community is about: nurturing individuals who
are change agents in their own communities, with initiatives that reverberate
far beyond. We salute Didi, Eco Tech, Bezeq and Bituach Leumi for impacting on
so many positive levels.”
Silberman told the Post she is excited “to meet
fascinating young entrepreneurs that will maybe be able to take this project and
make it global and interesting.”
Formerly involved in environmental
organization Green Course, Silberman said the idea of reducing electronic waste
was very interesting to her and she was simply looking for the right group in
which to get this initiative started two years ago.
“The core idea
existed in Machshava Tova and I took it to the next step,” she said.
Tech runs a six-month course created by Machshava Tova, where professional
instructors train high school students, mostly between the ages of 14 and 17, to
repair discarded computers and then deliver them to families in need, according
to Silberman. The majority of the students are currently recruited through the
Jerusalem Municipality’s Division for the Promotion of Youth, while the repairs
are certified by Microsoft’s official Refurbisher Programs, she
“They actually teach the kids everything they need to know about
being technicians, and then they have three months of the actual stage
[apprenticeship] where they experience what they learn,” Silberman told the
Post. “They’re actually able to fix computers.”
Although the program has
had only one female student so far, Silberman said that she is “hoping to have
more girls in the years to come.”
Big companies, hi-tech firms and
factories that Eco Tech approaches regularly typically donate the computers.
Some machines – both desktops and laptops – arrive at Eco Tech directly, while
others come through nonprofit organizations that function as conduits for
“Usually these places tend to change their computers quite
frequently,” Silberman said. “A computer could be four years old and they’re
already changing it.”
The computers rarely come from private individuals,
though Eco Tech welcomes such contributions.
“Gathering computers from
private people is so expensive logistic-wise that we haven’t figured out how to
do it,” she explained. “We’d be happy to create a partnership with maybe a
delivery or moving company, but for now we can only offer the people to come
give them to us.” If you are interested in donating, contact Silberman at
While it benefits families that would otherwise not
have computers, the project also prevents damage to the
“They have all kinds of really hazardous materials in them –
the metals and the delicate components,” Silberman explained. “I know the
hi-tech companies are usually careful about throwing them out into proper
places, but this way we’re also gaining social value.”
repaired, the computers are available to “pretty much everyone” who could
benefit, Silberman said. Quite often, they go to Ethiopian-immigrant, haredi or
Arab families, depending on whom the individual student chooses.
computer gives the teenagers a skill that will benefit them the rest of their
lives and help a family,” Silberman said.
“Sometimes they go to homes
that are even poorer than their own,” she continued.
“It gives them a
good perspective about who they are. Once they’ve gone out and given one
computer, they become really enthusiastic and committed to the program.”