Meet the former Royal Navy aircraft engineer who has helped school children and people in need in Warwickshire - and is now trying to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan

As well as facing the challenges of moving back to the UK and setting up a new business, Phil was also confronted with the impact of pandemic

Phil MacRae has been helping school children and people in need by collecting and refurbishing old technology and is now looking to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan. Photo supplied

A former military aircraft engineer who has helped school children and people in need in and around Warwickshire is now trying to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan.

Last year Phil MacRae, who is based in Baginton, founded his new business called The Speedy Bear, which specialises in PC, laptop and tablet repairs.

Despite facing challenges of starting a new business and the pandemic, Phil, who is 33, persevered and also took on projects to help give back to the community.

Phil is hoping residents will donate their old technology. Photo supplied

He said: "I have been working and travelling abroad since I left the military in 2012.

"I was an aircraft engineering working for some of the best aerospace manufacturing companies in the world as an engineer and project manager.

"After leaving aerospace in 2018, I spent time in several African countries supporting conservation projects, including the management and training of Anti-Poaching Units.

"Coming back to the UK felt like travelling to a new country, I have no roots or connections in Baginton so I had to build a network up from scratch, compounded with the Covid pandemic, it's been tough to get the business going.

Phil MacRae was in the Royal Navy - the Fleet Air Arm. Photo supplied

"Rather than invest money into advertising and social media, I felt it was more beneficial to direct my energy and funds to social enterprise projects to help others."

Phil then launched a donation scheme, whereby residents could donate their old technology, which he would then covert to make them usable again for school children and people in need.

He worked with many schools, charities and organisations across Coventry and Warwickshire.

He said: "I thrive on being able to be useful, resourceful and giving.

"Having been to some of the most desperate places in the world, I lost the drive to chase material goals and my validation and reward comes from knowing that I can make a difference to someone's life which could have a lifelong positive consequence for them.

"In particular, I have received some wonderful thank you letters and pictures from schools and staff who have supported the campaign and I believe in showing younger generations that in extremely difficult times, we can still find strength to help others and hopefully this message, and the example can inspire them to make positive decisions that will help other people throughout their lives."

Since December 2020, Phil's donation scheme in total has received more than 650 devices.

During Phil's military career he served two tours in Afghanistan during 2009/10 as an aircraft engineer working with a Counter Terrorism and Surveillance Unit and now he is using his donation scheme to help refugees fleeing from Afghanistan.

He said: "The refugees who are fleeing their homeland have known war, terror and fear for almost 20 years.

"They come to us tired, dejected, scared and frightened.

"Many of these individuals supported British and foreign forces during the war and are directly responsible for the apprehension of terrorists and have saved countless British and foreign lives with their support, skills and expertise.

"The individuals and their families and in danger of persecution and their efforts and sacrifices must not be for nothing.

"We owe it to those people, to provide a better life in a country which is proud to celebrate a vibrant and diverse range of cultures and languages.

"Few people, at this time, are actively thinking about donating tech, which is understandable.

"The truth is that, even in the UK there are thousands of people (children, vulnerable adults, elderly) who need access to a digital device because so many companies are moving all of their services and resources online.

"We often talk about digital transformation is a completely positive way, but we rarely discuss the impact on the end user.

"It's important to understand that there are many people in this country who do not have access to a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop and are unable to apply for jobs, access support services or even stay in contact with friends and family.

"The Speedy Bear donation scheme is up and running once again and just like before we need your mobile phones, laptops and tablets to help our friends resettle in Coventry and Warwickshire.

"The world is going digital and so more than ever people need devices to apply for jobs, complete school work, create businesses and access vital social and medical support services.

"Your device will be refurbished and cleaned for free before it is donated to one of our approved charities who are supporting refugees from Afghanistan."

There are device drop off points across Coventry and Warwickshire and if you are unable to take a device to a drop-off point, Phil can offer a free collection service.

For more information about the Speedy Bear and donating device go to: www.thespeedybear.com