A story about how we pursued the American Dream, and now face losing everything.
The vision was simple: sacrifice everything we had grown up with in Slovakia, for the potential of the freedom and victory our family envisioned in Canada and the United States of America. We left our home, friends, and community who were our family… a community that no matter what we needed, wanted to learn, and desired to achieve always had someone there to empower us forward. To me, we lived life in a state of victory filled with freedoms that would soon be sacrificed for the pursuit of the American Dream.
My little sister was 4 years old and I was 8 when we moved in 1999 to Canada. Thinking back to that time, all I remember was being scared and getting yelled at in my new school because the teacher was annoyed that I didn’t understand her. I still remember sitting there after I got yelled at, filled with anxiety and isolation. For some reason, I decided to pick my nose and the teacher noticed and mocked me, sending the whole class laughing at this new immigrant boy. I remember coming home crying so many times that our parents started looking for a new community we could move to. I missed my friends in Slovakia, and all our family that we left behind. I never experienced limitations there, I remember how free I felt.
Even though our family did everything they could for me and my sister back then, I gained a whole new perspective on what freedom is and what victory meant when it came to my family.
Being at the grocery store, and my little sister and I coming up to our mom with candy in our hands, and our mom breaking down in tears because both of us couldn’t have the candy we wanted as it did not fit into our budget, definitely did not feel like anything I had ever experienced before. I did not want my mom to suffer for the sacrifices they made to give my sister and I a better life. I have never seen her cry before because she was not able to give us what we asked for. A new reality started sinking in.
Our parents then decided to move from Toronto, to Edmonton, Alberta in hopes of finding a community more suitable for raising my little sister, Miriam, and I. I still remember even before we moved, my father talking about how his dream is to live in America, raving about the freedom of choice and opportunity that America stood for. That was his vision of a victory for our family.
Our family was an entrepreneur family. My father is a goldsmith and teacher, and my mom a librarian. After moving my parents started working together selling jewelry to make a living for us. We learned the English language, and as time progressed around 2007, my parents applied for an E2 business/investor visa in the United States and we got APPROVED 🙂
Finally a step forward towards the victory our family envisioned, all the potential we used to talk about now would be within our reach. Along the way to this point, I had developed the realization that my family’s freedom was extremely dependent on all these new technological systems that we encountered after moving to Canada. When we lived in Slovakia, our lives did not depend so much on technology. It became my job as the oldest to “wage war with technology” and learn so I could find ways to harness its potential to serve my family and enable us to continue moving forward. Whether it meant helping find solutions to problems or information my family needed, creating marketing materials for my parents jewelry store, helping manage their inventory through software, along with many other needs they looked to me to learn as much as I could to protect our freedom. I still remember building my own CNC and creating signage for my family’s store to help us save money. My success with technology empowered my family’s choices and connected us with new world of opportunities that were all around us.
This was one of my first signs I made for my parent’s store.
We were a family that simply did everything we needed ourselves, that way we were never held back from pursuing our dreams.
When we moved to the United States our initial intention was to move to Miami, but my father stopped to visit his cousin in Trinity, NC which resulted in our family rooting in Kernersville, NC. I began my school there, at this point we sacrificed our lives a second time, and all our friends and connections just to keep our fight for the American dream moving forward. It was all about the freedom of choice, and the ability to imagine any sort of victory that my little sister and I desired in our future. I understood this drive and passion. I had faith in my parents and trusted that my family could get through anything.
During this time, I still remember how the connections I had with my family and friends in Slovakia were fading as we were no longer around. The friends I had in Canada were now gone too. We were back to just being us, no family or friends other than our cousin, Tibo, in sight. My sister and I continued going to school and helping our parents at their jewelry store every day. We all worked together and continued pushing forward.
My responsibility was the same: protecting my family’s freedom through my daily war with technology. A war that now had grown incredibly, the more opportunities, choices, and potential that existed around us, that much more systems and technological solutions needed to be understood and harnessed to serve us and our future. Things seemed pretty okay but I did not realize that very soon my attention around technology would get extremely rooted for multiple reasons.
One of my very close friends, Will, the first friend I made in the United States, died in a car crash when I was 16. My passion for the relief that my capabilities with technology gave others, as well as my own family quickly became my source of peace and comfort. It gave me the peace of mind that no matter the challenges or suffering that existed in my life, my continued movement forward was necessary so that I could at least lessen the suffering and struggle others had to face. I was able to look at what I was doing and find so much purpose in it, that it was just simply who I am. I am whatever I need to be to keep everyone, including myself, moving forward to victory.
My little sister and I still helped our parents at their stores every day and continued our studies. I started using what I learned and helping other businesses gain traction with their untapped potential by helping them meet their technological needs through the resources they had available. My approach to technology was always the same. I focused on what I could figure out to get us forward without needing too many additional resources. It was the only mentality I could afford to protect my family’s potential.
Soon, the resources I built allowed me to open my own computer store: A.M.-Tech. I used to find old or broken computers, refurbish them, and give them to people who did not have any technology at a fraction of the price that I was able to get for them in the market. I guess my intentions were just to serve and protect people’s potential, since that was all I knew throughout this journey pursuing the American dream. Thinking back, I laugh because people thought that we had bots posting things on craigslist and online, but it was just my little sister and I spending hours obsessing over getting our computers out to as many people as we could. It gave us a sense of fulfillment that something we were able to repurpose and share with others gave them an opportunity, a form of freedom, to do more. It was the same feeling that drove us forward throughout this entire journey. A feeling that has never left my heart and soul to this day.
Now the recession hit and even more struggles came for my family. Luckily, my computer business started doing better and better. We were able to help 1000’s of people get computers for whom computers were otherwise too expensive and inaccessible.
Fast forward, a customer of mine, Christine, suggested that my for-purpose business model would benefit from more help. That longevity wise, I could not afford to continue providing resources so affordably, that it would ruin my ability to compete and grow. So she suggested I create a non-profit charitable organization, to share my resources with people in need, and find others to help, which resulted in the birth of technologyforthefuture.org, an expansion of my ability to continue protecting those around me. I grew up living in a community where everyone treated me like family, even strangers. I couldn’t ever say no to helping a need that was in front of me. I couldn’t stand the idea of allowing someone else to suffer, if I had the resources to help them.
Our friend, Amy, who we met in Greensboro, NC had moved to Ohio and had students who had no access to technology. We gathered what we could from our resources, and my company provided the school with two computer labs.
The technology gap was real:
As time passed, we realized the utter disparity that lacking access to technology caused within our communities. People who did not have access simply did not have the same opportunity to see and utilize the many resources and tools that existed for them to uplift themselves towards a victory they hoped for inside their hearts. I couldn’t believe that the very same situation that our family went through to pursue the American Dream, was now all around me because of technology. With time, I came to realize that it wasn’t simply about technology, it was the perspective and relationship people who did not grow up with it had. Many simply did not look to technology as a source of freedom and foundation for their desired victory. They did not see as much potential as I did. I really wanted to change that. So my sister and I started the OPEN Doors challenge to inspire children with free laptops, and get them to look to technology as a way to achieve their dreams.
By sharing their dream with us, we would then give them a free laptop. We thought that this would at least set the right tone for children to see technology the same way we did. My company happened to get our first lot of 100 Macbooks, which brought me so much excitement. Not only because they were so hard to get, or that they were expensive, but because I felt how much people regarded and desired these computers. I couldn’t shake the feeling. So my team and I refurbished them, and decided to gift wrap them all and prepare them for donation to children who, based on their teachers, were putting in a lot of effort in school, but did not have the resources to truly harness their potential. My company gave them all to kids through Technology for the Future at no cost. At this time, we still did not know how to raise money or run a non-profit, we simply knew that we wanted to help, and felt responsible for doing what we could with the resources that we had.
Here is a video that we made from that event.
We named it “The World’s Greatest Gift”…
This was just the beginning of our journey:
A computer was the freedom of having choices that were otherwise inaccessible. To me and my family, technology was a key to open doors to opportunities that could bring us closer to our sense of victory.
This effort continued as we made more and more friends in the communities who we could empower the most. We decided to organize an event for the OPEN Doors Challenge by getting students to send us their dreams so we could equip them with laptops to empower them with the freedom to move forward. With friends in the community and a few donors we put on a big event at the Greensboro coliseum. My company got computers together for the event, but, unfortunately, we did not realize that the $50,000 dollars we raised would end up not being enough to ensure all 500 kids could get free laptops. So I gathered more friends and sold a bunch of other devices I had to ensure we could cover the costs of the event. I moved out of my house and into the warehouse so I could dedicate night and day to ensure that we had the devices, as well as enough resources to make it happen. By March 2019, after sleepless nights at the warehouse, my little sister and I, along with our friends and supporters, ensured we delivered… not just 500 laptops, but 650 because my intuition told me that something was going to happen and we would not have enough. We did everything we could to make sure we did not let any children down. And we succeeded! Over 650 students ended up showing up, which made me relieved I trusted my intuition. By the end of the day, almost 700 students received free devices. No matter what, our family always taught us to never give up and have faith that what we need is all around us.
Interview leading up to the event:
And the event was made possible – OPEN Doors Challenge 2019:
It was an amazing event and we were so happy we were able to make it happen for so many students and their families. We had almost 2000 people come. It made it all worth it, even though for the next six months I lived in my warehouse, picking myself up to get back on track. This was my first experience of how much time and energy, through the eyes of family, it takes to uplift our children to their deserved potential. We did what we could with what we had and with a relentless drive to not fail. No matter what, we were used to sacrificing everything to make something happen– it was in our DNA, it’s how we grew up. If something is necessary, it doesn’t matter if you have the money, the support, or the resources. You simply decide, set a timeline, and go make it happen. That is what we did.
All we wanted was to change the world, to be able to live our lives in the vision of victory that our family set for us since our childhood.
Soon after, finally having recovered from our situation, the pandemic hits. And the demand surges while supply drops through the floor. The very reality I spoke of to so many people, that I hoped would be prevented… now came to life. My heart sank, I wish people knew that this was coming. I knew the pandemic was going to wake people up to the realization that those who had access to technology, and prolonged exposure to it, had a very different world of opportunity in their minds than those who did not have technology. Covid now just brought it all to the surface. We are asked to help our county, Guilford County, to get 10,000 computers for their underserved students who would not be able to continue their learning. This request was only one of over 200+ requests we received within less than a month.
When a family is in trouble you do whatever it takes to dig them out. So we took on the project, as well as several others throughout the country, and started doing what we could to enable schools to take the resources they had available and stretch them to a degree that enabled all their students to have devices. We did not want a single student to be left out, even if that meant that my company had to offset its costs through a challenge grant it provided to more than half of their current market value. So we did, and we continued our fight for our family throughout 2020 and into 2021. Sacrificing everything we had again, because it was simply the way we knew was right. A community’s freedom to us, is only real if everyone has that freedom. So I knew that the victory that my family saw for our lives, and the freedom they envisioned America to possess would not become real until all the people in our community had equal access to that freedom. The time of my war against technology had only begun.
We provided over 10,000 students from underserved communities with devices they would have otherwise not had. As well as thousands more for students in other schools across the country. I pulled all the strings I could through my company and brought together devices from around the world just because they were so scarce, and ensured that 10,000 children had a device to continue their learning. This was all through my charitable organization, no one knew that these devices were only possible to get because of the 17 years I have had in the tech industry and all the friends I made. I sacrificed everything again just to offset the costs of the devices we had to be low enough that we, alongside a group of generous donors, could provide devices to all 10,000 students in Guilford County for just $70 a piece. The entire time all I could think of was the other 200+ schools that requested our help who we could not support due to our inability to fund more devices, and provide them the way we did. But again, we succeeded. We ensured that all students got a device, and supported them throughout the entire process. Even replacing and fixing devices that got broken.
This is our video from our effort:
Still at this time, gathering enough support for our mission and cause, let alone sufficient funding needed to actually meet the demand was incredibly difficult. The money within our communities was already dedicated to so many places, and technology was still not being looked at in the same manner that my own family looked to it. Even though so many people saw it as a way for them to keep moving forward, they still did not encompass their relationship with technology as their gateway to freedom, a source for them to make any dream a reality. This was something that I realized only came through time and exposure to the many resources and opportunities that technology gave us. Most people did not have this relationship with technology, so how could we expect people in the masses to support the vision I saw. We brainstormed ideas and came up with a new effort called Operation Dream Force. It was our intention that no matter what it took, we would ensure that technology would be seen as the gateway to our victory and source of wisdom and information needed to overcome any struggles. It was in this same process, that I realized that even by definition technology is the skills, methods, and processes to achieve a goal or an understanding. This definition gave me the validation that technology is freedom and it holds the key to open doors to victory.
Operation Dream Force was born:
Now, we enter 2021 and the fight continues, with limited resources to scale, we regathered what we have, restructured our supply chains, and pivot to ready ourselves to help as many students across the country as possible. As exams were about to begin, more and more schools requested our help because they still face a crisis of lacking devices to ensure that all their students can connect and continue their learning. Not to mention that statistically 15% of devices are broken or damaged by students every year, a statistic that only came to rise with learning from home. So the problems just got worse and worse. Meanwhile the supply chain to get devices was struggling. Even our own manufacturing plant that I had aligned in hopes of creating our own affordable device had shut down and prices rose 30%. All my hopes of serving more students were delayed in every direction I turned. We continued our fight and did what we could, as always, while focusing on finding ways to scale and grow our impact both as my company, and as my charitable organization who was seeking more partnerships that we needed to fill the gap. The end of June approaches. My sister and I have 200 laptops needed by one school, and another 150 by another before May 10 when their exams start. My sister and I spend night and day along with our employees getting together the devices. Again, we delivered on time and made sure our family was protected.
Now it’s May 14th 2021, we deliver on our promises:
A brand new reality hits us, we forgot that on May 3 we were supposed to renew our i94- a requirement of our E2 business visa which was valid till 2023. We attempted to find two flights but kept getting delayed, so we just decided on May 20 to drive up ourselves. We came to the US border in Buffalo at 3am, only to find that by missing our deadline, the customs and border protection agent had to cancel our Visa which was valid till 2023, and we became subject to trial and deportation. We were advised to sign a voluntary departure, forfeit our trial, to avoid deportation if we could not prove that we had a valid excuse for missing the deadline, which we, legally speaking, did not. We agreed to a voluntary departure within 30 days, and are now faced with having to move back to Canada before June 21st, 2021.
Our entire mission and efforts have been compromised, I have moved out of my house, back into the warehouse. Our only hope, unless we accept going back to Canada and applying for a new visa over 2-3 months, is to earn the support of the american public, to get 300,000+ signatures and hopefully get the US Customs and Border protection to give our Visas back. So we don’t have to leave. So we can continue fighting so that all children in our family here in the United States can have the same opportunities and chances at victory as we have had throughout this journey. To us the american dream is a victory for us all, and the source of a freedom where all families can live a life of purpose.
We are with you, just as we hope that you are with us. Please help us win this battle so we can continue our war with technology fighting for the freedom of all the children in our family throughout the United States and later the world.