How Do Chromebooks Help Refugees? Google.org Has an Answer to That

Late last year, Google asked its users—which is basically the world population—to open their wallets and support organizations providing desperately needed aid to the world’s refugees. The promise was this: Google would match whatever its online platform raised, dollar for dollar, up to $5.5 million. In just over 48 hours, people all over the world donated that $5.5 million.

Related: Google Foundation: Grants for Global Development

True to its promise, Google matched it and split the total $11 million take between Doctors Without Borders, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, International Rescue Committee, and Save the Children.

Google’s $5.5 million give wasn’t the tech giant’s first foray into helping the 60 million or so refugees around the world. It had previously dipped its toe into the turbulent waters of the global refugee crisis by giving over $1 million to various charities.

Well, score another one for the good guys, because Google.org is at it again. But this time, it’s changing tack a bit in its funding.

The global refugee crisis is incredibly complex. Naturally, emergency needs such as food and shelter receive a lot of consideration from the comparatively few funders that are paying attention. While the tide is still rising here, and those critical, basic needs are woefully underfunded, this crisis has dragged on for years. So the mid- and long-term needs of refugees are now coming into sharper focus. And Google is paying close attention. 

Google.org recently made a $5.3 million grant to launch NetHope’s Project Reconnect. The project's target population is refugees landing in Germany. The goal is restoring a semblance of the lives they once knew before they fled their home countries.

The project is providing 25,000 centrally administered Chromebooks to NGOs supporting refugees in Germany with the hope of helping them rebuild their lives by facilitating access to education and other important information resources—like how to file for asylum and language lessons.

Are Chromebooks going to solve the refugee crisis? Well, no. And while those Chromebooks aren’t providing food, water or shelter, they are meeting another critical need for refugees in Germany—the need for a new normal. This starts with learning to speak a different language, filing for asylum or other official status, and developing the skills necessary to get a job in a new economy.

NGOs working with refugees in Germany can apply for a Project Reconnect grant on NetHope’s website. Interested parties need to hop to it, though: The first application deadline has already passed and the second deadline is March 8, 2016.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that although Google.org is no longer matching donations, its giving platform is still up, allowing donors to give directly to Doctors Without Borders, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, International Rescue Committee, and Save the Children.