Soldier Sets Up Free Computer Refurbishment Project

The idea came amid concerns COVID-19 has created a 'digital desert' for people who have no access to online technology.

A British Army soldier is refurbishing computers and giving them to people who might need them for free.

Staff Sergeant Paddy Rennick, from Tidworth, Wiltshire, came up with the project amid concerns some people do not have access to the machines that are needed during the coronavirus pandemic and the new working from home lifestyle.

SSgt Rennick, from 228 Armoured Signals Squadron, told Forces News: "In my spare time I like mucking around with PC tech and one of the fallouts of that sometimes is I have a load of spare parts left over.

"About six months ago I decided, 'well, I’ll just put together a PC and I’ll give it away for free – someone would want something', and I was inundated with responses from people saying 'I need this to work from home', 'I need this to help my child do their school work'."

After realising how many people do not have access to digital technology, he decided to turn his idea into an ongoing project, with other soldiers also helping out.

He said: "I got a team of eight together and we started Project Mercury to ask for donations – whether they were working or not; they could be a PC tower, could be a laptop monitor, peripherals, keyboards, mice and stuff like that.

"We would take them, we will upcycle them, fix them."

Sergeant Barry Anderson, also from 228 Armoured Signals Squadron, is helping SSgt Rennick with the project.

Staff Sergeant Barry Anderson helping with Project Mercury computer refurbishment programme 081020 CREDIT BFBS
Other soldiers are also helping out with the project.

He told Forces News: "Some of this equipment may be old or people think it’s out of its useful date, but however with a little bit of a tinkering from ourselves, and maybe the addition of a newer, slightly more powerful processor or some RAM or something, you can repurpose these and have them as an effective word processing unit, internet explorer unit.

"So they have still got plenty of life left in them."

Once the computers are ready, Wessex Community Action then liaises with local charities and organisations to decide where they will go.

Amber Skyring, the organisation's Chief Executive, said: "About 25% [of people] are still digitally excluded and in a time like this, it is really necessary because it’s the mechanism by which we have all been sharing messages about staying safe, staying well."

Those wishing to donate items to the project, are asked to email: [email protected].