Tees Business-backed digital poverty appeal tops £100,000

A digital poverty appeal backed by Tees Business to provide laptops and internet connectivity to disadvantaged Teesside pupils has topped £100,000, thanks to generous support from local businesses and philanthropists.

Co-ordinated by Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation and supported by the charity’s founder, Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston, the appeal kicked off with an initial £5,000 donation from Teesport owner PD Ports, the statutory harbour authority for the River Tees.

Nearly £81,000 of the sum raised was donated directly to the Philanthropic Foundation via donations from patrons and supporters, while £20,000 was presented by Thirteen Housing to Middlesbrough Council.

Reaching this magical figure means that the appeal has been able to help schools in Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar & Cleveland to buy vital laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, tablets and internet connectivity to support pupils with home learning during lockdown and beyond.

The charity said an “extra special mention” went to tech entrepreneur Dean Benson of Visualsoft, who made an “incredible” £20,000 personal donation, and tech firm Causeway who swelled the campaign coffers by a further £25,000.

The 33 donations came from individuals and companies large and small across the Tees region including the Foundation’s patrons Frances Connelly, Racz Group, PD Ports, AV Dawson, Devereux Transport & Distribution, the Smith family and The Build Directory plus the charity’s Infant Hercules Charity Club members ITS, IMH and Jeremy O’Connor.

Donations also came in from UKSE, Wilton Centre, Navigator Terminals, Countryside Properties, Meldrum Construction, Careys Personal Credit, Tees Mutual, Seal Pump Engineering, JJS Training, Epivalance and The Methodist Church Middlesbrough.

Donations of tech came in from Unity, Comply IT and Baltic Apprenticeships, while Cornerstone Business Solutions refurbished donated tech, while our friends at Tees Business promoted the scheme widely across the local business community.

Lee Bramley, the Philanthropic Foundation’s chair of trustees, said: “Our charity exists as a force for good on Teesside, so we’ve been proud to act as a conduit between generous donors and the thankful schools who’ve ensured the tech has been made available to students who needed it during the lockdown.

“While schools have now fully reopened, the devices will continue to be made available by the schools to disadvantaged pupils to ensure no young Teessiders fall behind in their school work simply because they don’t have access to the required tech.

“We didn’t imagine the appeal would prove so successful but thank all those who so supported the scheme for their generosity and compassion.”

Tees Business executive editor Dave Allan said: “Hitting the £100,000 mark represents a remarkable show of generosity from our region’s businesses.

“We feel Tees Business has a responsibility to act as a driving force for businesses at times like these, bringing them together to join forces for social good. We were delighted to support our friends at the Philanthropic Foundation with this appeal and it was heart-warming to see so many of our contacts respond to our request to help out.”

A total of 31 primary and secondary schools have now gratefully received devices. They are: Unity City Academy, Tees Valley Education, River Tees Multi Academy Trust, Kings Academy, Outwood Academy Ormesby, Trinity Catholic College, Acklam Grange School, Ingleby Manor, Our Lady & St Bede School, Ryehills in Redcar, St Michael’s Billingham, Nunthorpe Academy and Sacred Heart Catholic Secondary in Redcar.

Primary school and academies to receive donations were Ayresome, Newport, St Thomas More, Hemlington Hall, St Joseph’s, High Clarence, Mill Lane, Pentland, St Bede’s, Durham Lane, St Patrick’s, Ormesby, Skelton, Green Gates Crooksbarn, Brougham, West Park and Handale.

Skelton Primary School head Sarah Walker, whose school received a delivery of refurbished laptops to distribute to her pupils, plus a donation of £577 to allow the school to buy two iPads, said: “These are unprecedented times and we couldn’t have imagined being faced with this scenario 12 months ago, but your very swift and generous contribution has truly made a difference to not just the academic but also to the mental health and confidence of our children and families.

“Moving forward, the devices will continue to be used to support the learning and independence of our children.”