'I'm free': Family of asylum seekers in Southampton learn English thanks to donated laptop

  • Penny Silvester has been speaking to Mohammed Saleem Nezami about how the laptop has transformed his life.

An asylum seeker who arrived in the UK nine months ago, with no possessions, says the gift of a computer has transformed his and his family's lives.

Mohammad Saleem Nezami was an IT expert in Afghanistan before the Taliban seized back power three years ago and the family fled to the UK.

The laptop was given to him by the charity SOFEA, based in Didcot, South-Oxfordshire, which repairs and recycles unwanted laptops and phones.

He says the donated laptop has been critical in him learning to speak English and register his children with the local school and GP surgery.

  • Mohammed Saleem Nezami says the laptop has helped him become "free".

Mohammad Saleem Nezami said: "The computer is the only thing that made me able to connect with other worlds, people and knowledge.

"I study four and five hours a day on the computer researching, making all the choices in my life.

"I should register my children with the GP, the school and other organisations, also I received an email from Home Office, but I didn't have a computer to say what is in the email.

"When I was given the computer, I told them, 'I am free'."

The SOFEA project tackles electronic waste and helps get people online. It has already supported more than 3,000 individuals and families. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The SOFEA project was set up during lockdown and is now being expanded thanks to a £100,000 funding grant from tech giant Virgin Media and the Environmental charity HubBub.

Get Oxfordshire Online, Project Manager Ben Tuppen said: "We work with charities and community groups supporting people who can't get online and finding out what their needs are.

"It could be as simple as providing an old-style nokia phone with a sim card so you have a number you can put on a CV when looking for a job.

"A lot of people maybe have a phone but if they have a laptop they can access education schemes, take part in zoom interviews, they can take their time to work through more complex things online."

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