Campbell River School District (SD72) administration and staff didn’t like that their old cell phones were just being recycled when they still had some life left in them.
Sure, the phones may not be usable for many of the things they need to accomplish on a day-to-day basis at the school district, but they could still work for someone, right?
So the district is taking an innovative approach to recycling wireless devices and supporting charitable organizations in the community along the way by repurposing and donating those devices to charitable organizations that work with the community’s most vulnerable residents, including AIDS Vancouver Island and Rose Harbour.
The phones come from school principals and district management who need to be in constant communication to oversee and maintain the safety of children and staff on school grounds. Yet while these phones age out of being able to adequately meet the needs of district staff to do their jobs, SD72 Information Technology Manager Geoff Wilson says they can still serve a purpose within the community.
“Instead of sending these old phones to electronic recycling, we thought, ‘who else could possibly benefit from them?’” Wilson says.
Wilson was talking about this with colleague and district teacher Drew Williams, who told Wilson about an initiative he knew about in Prince George where old phones were donated to charities to give away to vulnerable members of society who could really benefit by having one. So together they pitched the idea to Superintendent Tom Longridge and asked if it might be possible here.
“As part of social responsibility lessons and our district focus on strengthening community connections, myself and other teachers have taken Grade 7 and 8 students and leadership classes to tour and learn about organizations that help those in our community living with addiction or homelessness,” Williams says. “I knew, just from witnessing a little bit of their work, that there was a need.”
Leanne Wingert, coordinator for AIDS Vancouver Island, has been on the receiving end of some of those phones, and says they are more than welcome.
“These phones have directly saved lives,” Wingert says. “Recently, one of our clients used the donated phone to call 911 to report a fentanyl overdose in a Campbell River park.”
And that’s only one of a handful of stories Wingert has heard from clients to date. In addition to keeping people connected to emergency services, the phones are also helping people find housing and jobs.
Since the district launched the program, nearly 30 phones have been donated to local charities, including AIDS Vancouver Island and Rose Harbour Transition House.