Community building Member Stories

Neighbour fixes laptops for free to help local community

Written by Roisin O'Neill

Howard Bretman, an 80-year-old retired teacher from Horley, has helped over 100 people from his local community with tech issues on their computers, using Nextdoor.

From laptops to desktop computers, Howard Bretman noticed that a number of his neighbours were turning to Nextdoor to ask for help with technical issues. Having worked as an electrician and having taught electrical technology, Howard knew he had the skills to help them out – all for a bit of cheesecake.

Howard is almost completely self-taught, having first had an interest in electrics aged twelve when he began wiring sockets in the family home. His father bought him a copy of a DIY magazine and his career began. “No one was surprised when I became an electrician!” Howard said of his early hobby.

Since owning his first computer in 1975, Howard has developed a wealth of invaluable computer skills he is able to pass on to others. He said: “I can build a desktop if I’ve got all the parts and can take laptops apart and put them together again. A lot of people simply have slow computers which I can fix.”

Inspired by the story so far? Why not connect with your neighbours to either lend a hand or find help.

After a decade as an electrician, Howard moved into education, teaching electrical technology for 25 years. In his early career, the college where he taught had a total of twenty Commander computers; one summer break the head asked if the teachers could take them home for safekeeping – by the end of the summer, the school had twenty computer experts. Howard’s next step was to start helping others fix their tech problems.

Howard has offered his help to his local community via Nextdoor, all for free.

“One young lady had her own cleaning business, and all her details were on this broken laptop,” Howard recalls. “Companies were quoting her £100, I helped her for free – that was a lot of money she couldn’t risk”.

Refugees Welcome Crawley has also benefited from his kindness. He has supported their great work by fixing laptops for the charity, allowing them to continue to offer an invaluable service.

If Howard’s neighbours need his help, they only need to ask or watch out for his regular updates:

“I will post messages to Nextdoor with IT support, upcoming updates and things, which is the main way people find me. I also respond to people’s callout messages. Nextdoor is great as people can ask others for help”.

At a time when neighbours are facing rising cost of living, neighbours like Howard can make all the difference. If we all come together to help one another, the savings can have a bigger impact. Read more about our latest research with Finance Expert, Jasmine Birtles, to see how you could save up to £200* through the kindness in your community here.

This poll was conducted by Censuswide for Nextdoor on 3rd March 2023, with 2,000 participants across the UK aged 16 – 55+.

Nextdoor is completely free to download. To sign up to Nextdoor or to find out more, visit

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