Acer Chromebook.

Google Donates 25.000 Chromebooks to Help Refugees in Germany

San Francisco, California - Google.org, the charitable arm of the Google company, has announced that it will spend up to $5.3 million to help refugees in Germany. The organization will support a project which will equip nonprofits with up to 25.000 Chromebooks.

On Google’s official blog, Google.org director Jaqquelline Fuller explains: “We […] wanted to do something to help with refugees’ long-term challenges, such as the need for access to information and education. So today, we’re making a $5.3 million Google.org grant to support the launch of Project Reconnect, a program by NetHope to equip nonprofits working with refugees in Germany with Chromebooks, in order to facilitate easier access to education for refugees.”

Jacquelline Fuller during an event on technology's role in aiding anti-trafficking efforts at Google's Washington, DC headquarters.

The news comes three months after Google has announced a new open-source project called Crisis Info Hub. The project will help fugitives on the journey to a safer place with access lodging, transportation or other necessary key information.

Perjin Alan, a 23-year-old refugee from Kurdistan, says: “I think the Chromebooks will help me to learn the German language, at least, I hope so. I don’t want to receive social care for the rest of my life. I want to work and be successful on my own. I want to be part of this society by understanding and helping it.”

However, some believe that Google just uses the refugee’s sorrow and misfortune to advertise for its own product, since the Chromebook has not gained any considerable market share so far. Alfred Hansen, a 56-year-old volunteer from northern Germany, says: “That’s just a trick by Google. The computers need a permanent internet connection and they can’t work without it. You are also just able to use Google’s own programs, I don’t know if that helps.”

Trying out new Chromebooks during a launch event in San Francisco.

Nonetheless, there are many volunteers who rejoice at the donation. 36-year-old Anna Arens, a volunteer who helps new arrivals in learning German, says: “I think Google’s laptops are very suitable for our purpose. We don’t need any high-end computers. We just need some basic programs to work, so we can do our work.”

Google’s Fuller explains further: “As [the refugees] make it through a dangerous journey, the first thing [they] need is to find shelter, food and access to care. But soon enough, they have to learn the local language, acquire skills to work in a new country, and figure out a way to continue their studies — all in an effort to reclaim and reconnect with the lives they had before.”

Since the Arab Spring in 2011 and the following civil wars between local political groups, and especially since the beginning of the war against the so-called Islamic State in 2014, millions have been fleeing their home countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Countries and regions like Germany and Sweden or Kurdistan have been the most welcoming amongst those who take in refugees and IDPs. Around 1.2 million have arrived in Germany so far, the Kurdistan Region hosts approximately two million IDPs and refugees.

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