Charitable Choices: Mary-Em Waddington of the BC Technology for Learning Society

In a chat with the BC Technology for Learning Society, we talked about their mission to make education and tech accessible for all in British Columbia. Discover their simple yet powerful initiatives that are bringing positive changes to students across the province. We asked a few questions of the Executive Director, Mary-Em Waddington, to learn about how they are making technology more accessible, and in turn, helping the planet.

BC Technology for Learning Society

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

BC Technology for Learning Society collects donations of used computer equipment from businesses and government which are refurbished by youth on work experience or volunteers for distribution back to schools, non-profit organizations or low-income individuals.

What problem does it aim to solve?

We are looking to reduce the digital divide and ensure that everyone has access to the tools needed to use the internet.

When did you start/join it?

I’ve been with BC Tech since 1998

What made you want to get involved?

Honestly, I was just a kid and I needed a job – why I stayed because I love the work we do, helping people and reusing technology. It’s so good for the environment!

What was the situation like when you started?

Remember 386’s? It was the first (and last) computer I refurbished as part of my onboarding. I remember the big switch to Pentium chips and then Y2K happened. That was a disaster! In the 90’s our main role was to deliver the Computers for Schools program in BC. I was the admin assistant and was responsible for supporting donors to get their equipment to us and managing the applications coming in from schools. I got called Santa Claus a lot when I would phone schools and let them know their application had been approved.

How has it changed since?

Technology keeps changing, so we have to keep changing. No one wants desktops anymore because of the space requirements and lack of portability, so the demand for laptops or tablets has increased. Some devices literally don’t have screws on them, or have components super glued in the machine, making it challenging to make repairs due to the design.

From a social perspective, schools have a dedicated IT budget and staff to ensure students have access to tech in the building. The result is we are working more with non-profit organizations, and have expanded our outreach to work with individuals directly via one of three initiatives offered. HOW we do our work has changed a lot, but the WHY remains the same; some people still don’t have access to a computer. Another change is that schools are moving away from a computer lab into a “bring your own device” model which is not an option for many low-income families, especially if there are multiple children in the home.

How can our readers help?

Talk to your IT department at work and ask them what is being done with your old tech – and then send them our way. As a registered charity we offer tax receipts for tech donations, so help people in need, be awesome for the environment, AND get a tax receipt. It’s win-win-win!

Or if you know a non-profit organization that needs tech, either for their own administration, or to support their clients, send them our way!

BC Technology for Learning Society

Do you have any events coming up?

We are working on our annual Donor Recognition Event which will be held in June. This is a great opportunity for us to say thank you to the people who help make our work possible. If there was no tech coming in, we wouldn’t have any to give away.

Where can we follow you?

We’re primarily on LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube these days, where we share impact stories, but we do have Facebook as well.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Neil Squire Society – especially the work being done by Chad Leaman with Makers Making Change.


About Emilea Semancik 143 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: