Cell phones can be a tool to quickly access lines of support during crucial times of need. It was this very reason Tracy Rocca, community domestic violence response lead with Lethbridge Family Services, came up with the Cell Phones for Safety campaign. 

“The idea was to collect cell phones that aren’t being used, that potentially could still provide some independence, security, provide opportunity, or be part of a safety plan for people who are fleeing domestic violence, who are maybe stuck in with family violence,” said Rocca.

The Cell Phones for Safety campaign started on Nov. 29, 2022, as a part of Family Violence Awareness month. Rocca shared where her inspiration for the campaign originated from.

“Originally, I had a request – where can agencies get cell phones to help out with people who don’t have the means to purchase them themselves? So I just created a program that provided us cell phones for those that were in need, thinking that there’s probably lots of people that recycle phones.”

The donated cell phones are distributed to varying organizations such as Lethbridge Police Service, Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization, and YWCA of Lethbridge and District.

These organizations then provide the donated cell phones to individuals at risk. Rocca described the type of at-risk individual who benefits from the donated phones.

“We’ve had some seniors in the community that are faced with elder abuse, that have gotten the phones. We have some women who are fleeing domestic violence. We’re hoping to get some of these new phones into the home at-risk youth.”

Currently 106 mobile phones have been donated from one donor in the ongoing campaign; prior to that 150 phones were donated. Rocca noted what happens to the donated phones which are not functional.

“Some of the phones that have been donated, we weren’t able to get into or we couldn’t purchase a SIM card for anything that isn’t usable. We then recycle.”

Rocca reminds donors to wipe the phones clear of personal information before donating. She expressed the lifeline these donated phones can be to the victim. 

“It absolutely could be a real lifeline. And cell phones that don’t have a SIM card can still access 911, or they can do web calls if they’re in a place with internet. Some of these phones are being given to people so that the abuser doesn’t know that they have them or they can’t be monitored or tracked.”

All donated cell phones can be dropped off at Lethbridge Police Service, Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization, and YWCA of Lethbridge and District. “How excited we are to have this technology to put it in people’s hands and hopefully provide them with some safety and security and opportunity,” Rocca said.

By Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 02, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta

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