This Is New York: Becky Morrison on Spreading Light

February 15, 2014 Updated: February 16, 2014

NEW YORK—There was a piercing cry. Jubilant singing followed. A throng of Guinean women gushed around Becky Morrison as they cheered from their hearts. One of the villagers had just received a laptop, and there was much good to be done with it. 

Morrison laughed amid the tremors of joy and felt stupefied. It was so easy to create happiness, she thought. Why didn’t people do it more often? 

Morrison is a lively, voluble lady with golden skeins of hair. Her business card is a matchbook with her contact information on the inside. Its back cover reads: “Spread Light.” 

And that is the focus of her life, to spread light. 

Although she is a full-time producer, she doesn’t believe for a second that time can constrain her from running a project that brings laptops to countries such as Guinea, Haiti, India, as well as to people who can’t afford laptops in the United States. 

Morrison, 33, is the founder of Globetops, a nonprofit that serves as a platform for people to give their unwanted laptops to people who need them. 

What she didn’t initially anticipate was that people were going to use these laptops tucked in gilded covers to change the world. 

Mariama Bangoura, is a spirited woman with a vision for the posterity of Guineans. She is both a school principal and a teacher. Because she had to do all the grading manually, it would take her three days to grade one assignment; she also had difficulty keeping track of attendance. Her new laptop from Globetops allowed her to do both more efficiently, so now she can concentrate on advancing educational programs in Guinea. 

“I want to teach students so that Guinea evolves,” she said in an interview with Globetops. 

M’mah Sylla, a petite woman with radiant coffee-colored skin, is a Guinean farmer who works in the field every day. She is also the president of a local agriculture association. She is using her new laptop to reduce the cost of notarizing documents so that farmers can afford to apply for government subsidies. 

The Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit that raids sex trafficking sites in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, also received a laptop this year from Globetops. 

“These are not weak or needy people,” Morrison said. “These are people who are passionate and working to change the world. It’s just that they don’t have access to computers.”

And all that was missing was the infrastructure to connect people with unwanted laptops sitting in places such as Brooklyn, with visionaries on the other side of the world.

The Beginnings of Globetops

Morrison also happens to be a professional West African dancer. She was the only white woman to perform with a West African dance company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last year. 

It’s a hobby she picked up during her senior year at New York University. 

She often tours to Guinea to perform West African dance. During a trip there 10 years ago, she met a man named Sekou Sano.

Sano, a 6-foot-4-ich-tall drummer with an engineering degree, is the director of Guinea’s largest private dance company—Ballet Merveilles de Guinée. They became best friends.

Each year she would bring him gifts from the United States. One year, he asked if she could bring him a laptop instead of T-shirts. 

“Are you crazy, I don’t have the money to buy you a computer,” she said.

But on the eve of her next trip, she thought she might as well make a post on Facebook to see if anyone would be willing to donate a laptop. 

It turned out more than 10 people had old laptops that they wanted to get rid of.

“I realized there’s something here,” she said. “All that needs to happen is to create an infrastructure that can move the unused laptops into the hands of people who need them.”

How It Works

Unlike many charities, Globetops shows donors profiles of people to whom they can potentially give their laptops. Photos are taken to document the recipients and their reactions when they receive the laptops.

About 220 million tons of old computers and other tech hardware are trashed in the United States every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Fifty percent of those computers are still in good working order.

Due to the high level of toxins, U.S. law forbids electronic waste to be disposed domestically, so old computers are generally shipped to places like Africa and India where it is legal to burn them.

“It just makes no sense to me,” Morrison said.

“You have people in Guinea who are extracting the precious metals out of the computers in flaming piles of electronics,” she said. “Why can’t we create an infrastructure to give them these computers before they become unusable?”

Globetops partners with the computer service company, Tekserve, which runs diagnostics and reinstalls the computers’ operating systems. 

Globetops also partners with local computer repair shops that hold free training courses for the recipients. Once the computers become unusable, the repair shops ship them back to the United States to be recycled responsibly. 

The organization is catching on. 

Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola recently donated 12 laptops through Globetops to the Cine Institute in Haiti. Globetops helped donate 50 unused computers last year. 

A Balancing Act

Morrison believes that one doesn’t have to give up one’s career to start a nonprofit. 

She maintains her full time career as a producer, which overall is quite different from Globetops. 

She was the production staff coordinator for the Hollywood film “I am Legend.” She was one of the few to see a post-apocalyptic New York enacted in real life. She recalls standing in the middle of a desolate Fifth Avenue, as Will Smith waited in a corner with a giant gun. 

In the thick of the movie-magic-making business, her job is to order a helicopter one minute, and find a monkey the next. 

Her career is currently focused on producing commercials and promos—such as the “Sunday Night Football” opener with Faith Hill in 2013. 

Although life may be busy, she maintains a conviction that she must do something good for the world. 

Her early memories involved fledgling notions of wanting to help people. As a child she wanted to help treat cancer, to have a career in oncology. 

She ended up studying film at NYU, but it was her will to help that stayed with her.

“Sometimes, the things that are in our way the most are ourselves,” she said. “If we can get ourselves out of the way, what is possible for us is anything.”

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