169. Gareth Coleman
A 42 year old computer whizz from Sheffield has used his skills to help over 5,000 local people stay online by fixing their IT problems.
Gareth Coleman founded BitFixIT, a computer café that provides a free computer repair service in 2003 and has volunteered thousands of hours every weekend fixing laptops and providing refurbished equipment and practical IT advice to people in Burngreave. Through BitFixIT he has given out over 500 free refurbished computers to families in need.
Gareth wanted to make the most of his IT skills working as a freelance hardware and software engineer and also to give something back to his local community. After noticing the huge amount of IT equipment that is thrown away, Gareth decided to use his knowledge to help fix broken laptops and also refurbish IT equipment to donate to people who cannot afford to buy a new computer. He set up BitFixIT in 2003 with fellow IT enthusiast Dennis Macdonald in an advice centre, before moving into their premises in Burngreave which for the past 7 years has been generously supported by Sheffield City Council.
BixFitUK clients say having access to a computer has improved their access to services, helped them apply for jobs and keep in touch with family and friends. Frequently refurbished computers are used by a whole family, helping children complete their homework and adults to update CVs for job interviews.
Gareth spends every Saturday afternoon from 12-3pm at BitFixIT, working on computers, removing malware, replacing hardware and refurbishing computers from donated kit. He leads a core team of four volunteers but over 50 volunteers have turned up over the years to help make teas and coffees or help in other ways including with minor IT problems.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Gareth is using his IT skills to keep 1000s of his neighbours online. With the BitFixIT café he has dedicated countless weekends to repairing computers and laptops and giving free technical advice. I’m pleased to name Gareth a Point of Light.”
“I am delighted to accept this Point of Light award on behalf of all the volunteers at BitFixIT. We believe in a world where people help each other out and fix things cooperatively, and I’m glad that the work we do is being recognised by the Prime Minister.”
David Blunkett, Gareth’s local MP said:
“I’m strongly in favour of mutual help and community initiatives which offer to those with little income what others would easily buy in for themselves. “The giving of time is the greatest gift any individual can offer to their community and has to be highly commended.”
Local councillor Jackie Drayton said:
“It’s great news that Gareth and fellow volunteers at BitFixIT have been chosen for a ‘Point of Light Award’. Their hard work and commitment to helping the people of Burngreave by re-using and fixing IT equipment to enable those who cannot afford brand new equipment to be part of this new digital age is truly impressive. Their dedication to community service, for the past seven years, is inspirational and, I know, is really appreciated by all the people of the Burngreave Community.”