In November of 2011, Russ Cormier, CEO of Nutmeg Consulting, had a chance encounter when he met Chris George at a mission fair at Westminster Presbyterian Church. George had come to give a presentation about his organization, Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), which is a refugee resettlement agency that welcomes refugees from all over the world who have been selected by the US government to start new lives in the US.
“Many of [the refugees] have suffered persecution and have been forced to leave their home countries. They come here with very little; some escape with only the clothes on their backs. We welcome them in Connecticut and help them get off to a good start,” explained George, Executive Director of IRIS. One thing they are always in need of to give to refugees is computers. George explained that computers are “essential tools for communicating with friends and family back home.” They’re also great tools to help the refugees find jobs and learn or improve their English.
Upon hearing this, Cormier offered to provide computers refurbished by Nutmeg Consulting. It was “music to my ears,” said George.
By January 2012, Nutmeg had donated eight laptops and delivered three desktop computers that were distributed to single men, single females with children, and both big and small families.
Nutmeg acquires used and/or slightly outdated computer systems from customers, wipes the hard drives and installs the free, open source operating system Ubuntu (a version of Linux). They then install user friendly software including Libre Office (an open source version of Microsoft Office), Firefox (for web browsing) and Skype (for video and phone calling to family abroad).
For the initial batch of donated computers, staff from Nutmeg traveled to IRIS’ New Haven office and offered 2 trainings for the actual recipients. Each training lasted roughly an hour and a half and walked the clients through how to operate the computers and the installed software.
Al Grimm, Sr. Technical Analyst at Nutmeg, who led the trainings, stated that “many of the adults were thrilled when learning about Skype and that they could stay in touch with family members, while the kids were all really excited about using Firefox to search the internet.”
IRIS, which has a main office on Nicoll Street in New Haven, welcomes roughly 200 refugees every year and works to place them primarily around the New Haven area. The staff at IRIS also assist in filling out immigration forms and other government paperwork, connect refugees to health care, help with job searches, help them learn English and register the children in school.
IRIS is always looking for more computers to be donated. “I would love to give computers to every refugee that arrives,” stated George. In addition to ones that can be dispersed to their clients, they’re also in need of computers to place in their public space for clients to use when visiting the office.
Nutmeg staff now act as a brokers and when they go on-site to assist customers and find old machines sitting around or learn their customers are in the process of replacing the current machines, they offer to help the business donate the old ones to IRIS.
“Anytime I see computers in the corner, I say ‘Hey, what are you going to do with that?’” says Grimm.
For more information on IRIS, visit their website at http://www.irisct.org/.