Have you ever used your phone in the rain?

It’s scary – you obviously need it for something urgently, but there’s danger – if your phone breaks, you’re in deep trouble.

Imagine this times a thousand.

Digital exclusion is completely debilitating. It holds you back.

It is particularly bad for people who have made the UK their home after fleeing persecution and war in other countries. Why?

Refugees face high rates of social isolation. Digital exclusion makes it worse in scale and impact.

Refugees often struggle in education and when searching for employment. Digital exclusion makes those tasks even harder.

Refugees who are waiting for their legal status to be confirmed urgently need to be digitally included. And the asylum application process needs to operate smoothly. Digital exclusion slows the whole thing down.

While refugees wait for the chronically slow asylum system to approve their claim, they are banned from working. So it’s almost impossible to buy enough data to stay connected, let alone a reliable device.

Refugees are likely to need to access health care. Try booking a GP appointment and understanding test results in a third language. Then try doing it without a phone or laptop.

Take Sule. When Sule escaped political persecution in her country at the age of just 25, she thought the challenges would end and the UK would welcome her with open arms.

“When I arrived, I was all by myself and I was having a really bad time. I found myself in a hotel where I endured harassment. Terrified and helpless, I had nowhere to turn.”

Sule’s health, both physical and mental, was in poor condition—she was struggling significantly.

“It was during this dark time that I first heard from Screen Share. I was in the hospital with very bad asthma. I received a laptop and it became my lifeline, propelling me from rock bottom to where I am today. I knew immediately when I arrived in this country that a laptop is what I needed above anything else. I am living proof of how a single device can transform a life.”

The impact of digital support on Sule is clear. Since 2021, we have met almost a thousand people in the same or similar situations. Some have used their new devices to learn English, submit university assignments, apply for meaningful employment, and share important documents with lawyers. Others have taken on remote volunteer roles while they wait for months in the asylum system. Some have built refugee support organisations with their new devices, others have used them to watch Johnny English.

The equation for refugees in the UK is clear: in order to progress and get your life back on track, you need a reliable, connected device and the skills to get the most out of it.

It’s a pleasure to be a part of people’s journeys as they use the devices and skills in a way that works for them. Our simple model—collecting devices from individuals and businesses, refurbishing them through the power of volunteering, and distributing them across the country to people in need—is working well. The devices we are converting into life-changing tools would have otherwise gone to landfill.

We were honoured to receive the Digital Leaders Impact Award in the Digital Poverty category, judged by the Digital Poverty Alliance. This recognition is helping us achieve our mission.

And yet demand for our services is outstripping supply. We receive hundreds of referrals a month for laptops, phones, tablets, data, digital skills, and tech repair. At the moment, we can only support 24% of the people who approach us.

In order to grow, we need new friends on board. This month we’re encouraging people who support digital inclusion for refugees to join as monthly donors. For as little as the price of a coffee once a month, you join our effort to create a sustainable, go-to tech organisation for refugees. I invite you warmly to join us on our mission, with hope and without delay.

“Refugees have so much potential. Many of us are highly educated in our home countries and have done amazing things—I was speaking to a female pilot from Afghanistan just the other day. There are so many great people out there. We must remember that it wasn’t our choice to come here as a refugee. I wish I could have come here as a tourist and visited and then gone home, but that’s not how things have gone. I am a refugee. But I am not just a refugee. I want people to know me and my work and who I am. I am not just a label.”

– Sule