Photo: Gustavo Huerta, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
Jinesh Jain, a junior at The Woodlands High School, has been a tech wizard since he was young, helping his teachers and fellow students manage computer problems for years. Now, he has teamed up with a local literacy organization to put those skills to use for the larger community.
A few weeks ago, Jain took stock of the technology that he had and the skills he had taught himself and decided to find a way to give back. After asking around his community he was introduced to Children’s Books on Wheels, a local nonprofit organization that helps connect kids to books and after-school programs.
Rita Wiltz, executive director of the organization, met with Jain’s father, Jayesh, to make sure it was a good fit. “It was a good niche for us because we want to help children,” Wiltz said.
After some back and forth on names, and how the program would be run, Kidstech Helpful Hardware was ready to launch. The program will take donated technology that Jain will restore and Children’s Books on Wheels will help distribute to a child in the area who needs it. Jain saw this need at his school.
“I saw many students who struggled to either access a computer at home or would have to stay after school and stay in the library and complete their school assignments because they didn’t have the internet or they didn’t have time to do it at home,” he said. “This would just make it difficult for them, generally, to participate in school because many things were online back then and now, especially with the pandemic, literally everything is online.”
Technology as necessity
As the school year begins, schools across Montgomery County are starting online. Technology isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity now.
“There’s a lot of concern about schools being online, being at home, having the resources, having the bandwidth, having the technology,” said Children’s Books on Wheels board member Heather Nehila. “There’s a limited amount that the schools are providing to families, but this has a way of creating technology for them so they can use it, so they can familiarize themselves with it, so they can be comfortable with it.”
Jain has been teaching himself how to fix technology for years. To some students at his school, he’s known as the “tech kid.”
“Technology in general, I just looked at it and I loved it, as a kid,” Jain said. “I learned most of what I know from the internet and from there it’s been a growing interest because it’s a never-ending stream of information. You always learn something new.”
Kidstech officially launched Aug. 7 and will be taking donations on an ongoing basis on Fridays. If necessary, more days will be added. Donors can call Children’s Books on Wheels at 281-844-7596 to set up a time to donate, and masks must be worn when dropping donations off.
To help keep the program manageable, and make sure it’s giving kids the best product it can, he put limits on what kind of technology can be donated. Computers and laptops from 2015 or newer, computer parts — such as hard drives, RAM, screens, monitors, networking hardware — and peripherals like keyboards and mice. The older the computer, the less amount of time it will be useful to the child it is donated to.
Donors are strongly encouraged to donate their computers with the charger because it will make them easier to give away and saves the organization money. Technology with cracked screens are more expensive to fix and are less likely to be accepted.
Children’s Books on Wheels, which operates out of the Sleepy Hollow Multipurpose Building in Tamina, is an after-school site and a host for the local YMCA after-school programs. But anyone is allowed to come and use the WiFi, especially students. With the addition of the new program, children will be able to get the technology they need and be able to connect to the internet in the same place.
Refurbishing technology this way helps connect those who may not have had the means to access necessary technology also comes with the bonus of being environmentally friendly. Instead of throwing your old tech in the trash, with a little help from Jain, it can continue to live on for a few more years, sometimes as parts in other computers or as a refurbished whole.
Wiltz said they are actively seeking donations from local businesses and corporations, through donations of technology or funding. Jain wipes clean every donated computer that he works on so that there is no chance of personal data being accessed by a new owner or user.