There aren’t too many Year 12 students who immediately start their own NDIS-focused business, then decide to start a program to help their entire community.
Then again, Gosnells’ Sam Thomas isn’t like most year 12 students – in more ways than one.
The autistic 18-year-old runs Sam’s Spares, a Facebook-based program he came up with during the first wave of COVID lockdowns.
“When all the schools went online, I personally noticed that a lot of people were struggling with it,” he said.
“At the time I took a break from work and decided to focus on computers, I put up a couple of posts asking for old e-waste systems that people no longer wanted, and then I fixed up a few and gave them out.
“Over a few months it’s evolved into not just aiming to give them to people in need, but to anyone, if you want to start a small business, or for education or anything.”
The Southern River graduate started his own business straight after graduating, working as a support worker under NDIS before taking a step back to focus on the local community.
Anyone can donate e-waste to Sam’s Spares, but he doesn’t do repair jobs, and he will not sell the tech – it goes directly to those who apply and have a genuine need.
It’s something that Sam prides himself on.
“I think you see a lot more happy faces when you’re giving stuff to people, so I find this more rewarding.
I loved working with my clients but I’m not a people person, I’d rather be in my workshop.
“People misinterpret what I do, for every three or four messages asking to donate things, I get a lot more messages of people asking me to do repairs, freely or paid, but I don’t offer that service.
“I’ll accept disregarded tech, but I don’t do repairs and I don’t sell any of it.”
As Sam’s Spares continue to grow, Sam has plans for the future of what began as a passion project, with his storage space at Jacaranda House rapidly running out.
“I want to give people the option of coming in and learning,” he said.
“One of the reasons I want a bigger space is to become registered with the NDIS and do a similar thing to what I was doing with my clients, other autistic people, teaching them computer skills but on a much larger scale, also expanding it to neurodiverse people.”
Sam has never considered being autistic as a hinderance, and he says the perception that surrounds the condition can be frustrating.
“Some people have a very negative view of it, negative or limiting tends to be the assumption.
“People say how can you be autistic, you can do this and this and this, listing things that every human can do., but I might just have a limited capacity.
“I can talk to people but then when I get home I’ll lock myself in my room for a couple of hours to not talk to anyone. “
Sam is also looking for support from local businesses to help fund Sam’s Spares,
“For every laptop I get, most of them have the hard-drive removed, so if I could get funding it would be an easy fix to buy hard-drives to replace those.
“At the moment I’ve got quite a bit of tech I can’t do anything with, so if I could get funding it would make things a lot easier.”
If you can help, you can contact Sam through the Sam’s Spares Facebook page.