An appeal to fight digital poverty has seen big-hearted Teesside firms and business leaders join forces to raise £53,000 to help disadvantaged pupils during school closures – but more funds are urgently needed as every penny has already been allocated.
The fund to purchase tech such as laptops, iPads, Chromebooks and internet connectivity for children struggling to keep up-to-date with their studies during the school closures is being coordinated by charity Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.
It won the support of Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston, the founder of the Philanthropic Foundation, following an initial £5,000 donation from PD Ports.
The initial donation was shared between Middlesbrough’s Unity City Academy and Tees Valley Education Trust to share among pupils most in need of tech support.
Calls from PD Ports, Mayor Preston, the Philanthropic Foundation and Tees Business magazine for businesses to join forces to support the campaign then resulted in a series of generous donations, led by a £20,000 personal donation from Middlesbrough-born tech entrepreneur Dean Benson of Visualsoft.
Philanthropic patrons AV Dawson (£2,500), Frances Connolly (£5,000), Mike Racz (£1,000) and Devereux Transport and Distribution (£2,500) all made donations, as did Unity Tech Group (value £4,000), Industrial Marine Hydraulics (£1,000), Wilton Centre (£500) and ITS (£500).
Further donations came from Meldrum Construction (£2,500), Navigator Terminals (£1,500), Countryside Properties (£5,000), Carey’s Personal Credit (£250) Tees Mutual (£250), OCALS (£500), Sealpump Engineering (£750) and North Star Housing (£2,000).
Comply IT donated refurbished laptops and PCs, while laptops or iPads of up to five years old can be dropped off at the Stockton premises of Cornerstone Business Solutions, who will wipe them and reconfigure them for use.
All donations to date have been snapped up, with the Philanthropic giving grants to dozens of local schools, academy trusts and colleges to enable them to provide much-needed tech to their most disadvantaged pupils.
But the message is clear that much more is needed with the charity continue to receive requests for help.
Typically, it is estimated that a £250 donation will purchase a refurbished Chromebook or iPad that schools will provide to pupils to help them join in with virtual lessons from their homes during lockdown.
Mayor Andy Preston said: “It’s completely unacceptable that our most disadvantaged kids are falling behind in the school work because of the pandemic. Basically, they are being more disadvantaged because they are disadvantaged.
“We can’t allow that to happen and I applaud the many local businesses and individuals for their generosity in supporting this important appeal.
“But all of the donations have now been allocated so I’d call on more local businesses and individuals to dig deep if they can because they have the power to change the lives of young Teessiders.”
Ken Devereux, of Philanthropic Foundation patrons Devereux Transport and Distribution, said: “It’s a tragedy that there are Teesside kids whose families don’t have the equipment they need to do their schoolwork during lockdown.
“The Philanthropic Foundation is always there at the front of the line when things need doing for Teesside and we’re proud to do our bit alongside them once again.
“My message to other companies would be to please help out if you can because more funds are clearly needed.”
The appeal has been backed by Tees Business, members of the Philanthropic Foundation’s Infant Hercules Charity Club.
Tees Business executive editor Dave Allan said: “Along with being the voice of busines in the Tees region, Tees Business prides itself in being a force for good so we’re delighted we’ve been able to help the Philanthropic Foundation reach out to more businesses with this crucial appeal.
“To have already raised more than £50,000 is fantastic and is typical of the incredible spirit of Teesside but all of that has now been snapped up so it’s critical more local businesses come forward with offers of help.”
Those wishing to make a donation can do so via the ‘Donate’ button on Teesside Philanthropic Foundation’s website www.teessidecharity.org.uk and email firstname.lastname@example.org
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