The entrance to PC Wize is easy to miss at first.
It’s tucked away in a narrow alley adjoining the Tyremart on Cambridge Street in the East London CBD and if you weren’t looking for it, you might not even know it’s there.
At the back of the alley are a set of plain metal steps leading to the door. Once you open it, though, it’s almost like stepping inside the TARDIS from the science-fiction series Doctor Who.
The interior is a lot bigger than you might expect looking at the outside, and nearly every inch is stacked with who knows how many donated computers and related parts.
It’s like if Willy Wonka went into IT instead of candy-making.
The organisation is run by 2019 Local Hero John Goodman and its aim is to refurbish old or broken down computers and donate them to impoverished areas.
“I’ve owned this worskshop for about 10 years,” Goodrich said proudly as he showed off the fruits of his labour.
Goodrich, who won the Local Heroes 2019 competition last year, has teamed up with the Daily Dispatch and Johnson & Johnson for special Mandela Day project which will see him assemble computers to donate to Unathi High School to help the matric class complete their year.
This is a cause very close to Goodrich’s heart.
“I love helping children and one way I feel I can help them is to collect computers and refurbish them nd then give them to poor schools, orphanages, that sort of thing,” he said.
“For a child that’s got nothing, even an older machine is worth its weight in gold.
“How must children learn about computers if they haven’t got one to sit in front of? It’s like trying to teach someone to drive without a car.”
Goodrich’s efforts have been well-documented by the GO! & Express over the years.
For example, the GO! Covered his first ever donation all the way back in 2009.
Goodrich had assembled five computers which he then donated to the Open Arms orphange in Komgha.
The handover was attended by a number of children from the orphange as well as their caregivers.
Goodrich has also found novel ways to help others, such as turning older computers into make-shift flowerbeds.
“We were battling to get rid of the casings of the blown monitors and were looking for uses for them, because most of the other parts are taken by the recycling places.
“But no one wanted to take the plastic [monitor casings] off me, so about two months ago I decided to turn them into pots to be used for flowers or even herbs,” he said.
To help in his latest noble endeavor, Goodrich is asking members of the community to donate their old computers for him to make use of.
And for those worried about potential privacy breaches from old hard drives, Goodrich said there was nothing to worry about.”
“All hard drives that are brought in are low-level formatted (LLF). Everything is scrambled on the drive, it returns to the original state when it was manufactured,” he said.
“I’ve got one machine that just does that and I can connect up to five or six drives at a time.”
Goodrich said this was a more secure method than a factory reset.
“If you just go ahead and reset the drive, the info is still there and can be recovered,” he said.
In addition to refurbishing old computers, Goodrich also helps train others so that they can assist their communities.
“If an area is far out in the rural areas and asks for computers, I always tell them they also need to send me one guy to train,” he said.
“Then I train that one person so that they can lecture there and also keep the machines running. If you have a trained person there, they can also train others.
“If a machine then packs up, all the person has to do is send me a note saying ‘I need this power supply, I need this part’, and so on.
“I’ve actually made a little flat in the back of the workshop for if they’re struggling and can’t find a place to stay while they’re training.”
On top of all this, Goodrich said he had plans to take his initiative even further by eventually incorporate recycling e-waste into his list of duties.
“Just from the motherboards that I throw away, I reckon I could recover two to three kilograms of gold a year.
“There’s a lot of gold, silver, copper aluminium, a lot of steel in these machines, so that alone can supply quite a bit of funding,” he said.
At the moment, PC Wiz currently works with Mdantsane-based company Waste-Tech to properly recycle any parts that cannot be used.
“Normally they charge to take away computer scrap but they don’t charge me because of the work I do,” Goodrich said.
One of the challenges Goodrich is currently facing is the lack of a vehicle, which means he cannot deliver or collect computers. Because of this, anyone looking to donate will have to bring in their machines in person.
For more information, visit Goodrich’s Facebook page, call 072-140-1941 or email email@example.com.