What started as an interest for a young computer whiz has burgeoned into a Middle School service project that is helping people across Greater Victoria.

Grade 8 student Liam M. says he first started tinkering with computers at the start of this school year.

"I'm a tech geek and I like to build computers. I got several old laptops from Mr. Przybylski [Head of Computer Services at SMUS] – some of the school laptops that students had dropped – and I built several laptops out of salvaged parts from those," Liam says. "That was really fun; it's like adult LEGO with seven sets of instructions that contradict each other. From there I just started to get more and more interested."

In January, when Liam went back to the Computer Services department in search of a few more computer parts, he saw 60 desktop computers that were slated to be recycled. When he found out they were destined for disposal, Liam had an idea.

"My family sponsored a refugee family recently and there are a lot of people coming to Victoria right now and oftentimes they don't have computers with them. So I thought it might be helpful to give these computers to them," he says.

Shannon Williams, teacher sponsor of the Middle School Service Council, says she was impressed by Liam's creativity in organizing a service initiative that blends his computer skills with his desire to help others.

"We all use technology every day. Perhaps we don't even think about the ease of life with our computers. However, imagine trying to live in a new culture, learn a new language, create a resumé for employment or connect with family without one, especially during a pandemic. The idea that Liam could help ease some of these hurdles for people and make a real difference in our community makes this project extremely worthwhile," she says.

The Service Council hosted a coin drive in February to support the purchase of USB WiFi adapters. Liam says he was prepared to buy and physically install wireless cards in all of the computers, but the USB adapters are easier to install and don't require taking anything apart.

"Because remote learning is a big thing right now, we wanted [the computers] to be able to access WiFi," Liam says.

Through recesses, lunches and after school during the last few months, Liam and a team of classmates upgraded the computers and donated them to the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria.

"I know there's a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, and our refugee family came to Victoria with nothing. I just wanted to help some other families, too," Liam says. 

"From the very beginning, Liam has been amazing," adds Shannon. "From scheduling and organizing all the different groups that received the computers, to creating a tech team to help him, Liam has driven every aspect of this project. It was great to see students working together to get the different tasks done.

"In our Service Council, we learn about how to give our time to others, and that we have a responsibility to serve in our community. Liam was able to find a way to help using his skills and his time. I'm really proud of Liam for the outstanding job he has done. His efforts have helped many in our community, and his citizenship is an example for us all."