On Friday, the 26th of February, the crew at the Nonprofit Commons invited several speakers to share their perspectives on providing aid in Haiti.
Partners for Others representative RiverSong Garden said that “Partners for Others is committed to addressing the immediate needs of the poor and needy, and providing the tools which will empower them to meet their future needs.” In discussing their part in the relief efforts, she shared information about the logistical difficulties that her organization overcame in getting the much needed supplies to Haiti.
The port was destroyed as a result of the quake, and this made the delivery of supplies nearly impossible. But in the end, they managed to coordinate with their sister organization, Gleaners, and made arrangements to ship “185 Barrels which is 14,800 2.2 lb bags, that will make 2,250,000 cups of soup!!” She closed her talk by stating: “Many times in the media it’s been talked about that “long-term” assistance is needed even once the news stories stop…Partners for Others is committed to being supportive long term.”
The next speaker was Davey Macbain, who is one of the founders of Ushahidi, and Director of Technology Development. Ushahidi was a 2008 Netsquared winner . “Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, is the organization that I co-founded with a number of other Kenyans. It was born out of the turbulence that ripped apart the fabric of society in Kenya in January 2008, in the wake of a botched election. Ushahidi was a way to tell their stories when the media was silent or elsewhere. A means to tell the world what was happening.” He shared his passion for Ushahidi’s existence as an Open Source platform that can be easily utilized by anyone.
When the earthquake hit, Davey went on to say, he received a phone call from Patrick, who is one of Ushahidi’s staff members. They immediately went to work and had the haiti.ushahidi.com website up within half an hour. There have been 2000 reports placed into the system to date. Ushahidi’s network extends worldwide, and includes many developers, including the International Network of Crisis Mappers , which Ushahidi co-founded and launched in October of 2009.
It’s a group of about 200 people who are specialists in technology and humanitarian response. There is also a Crisis Mappers Google Group . On Jan 16th, with the help of dozens of people from multiple organizations, we launched an SMS short code in Haiti (4636). People could report emergency info and location by sending a text message to 4636 in Haiti. There is also an Ushahidi Haiti video
Jistis Southpaw from IJDH was the next speaker to share his organization’s story. “I am a human rights lawyer, based in Oregon, we have an affiliate in Haiti called the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux. We are coordinating a group called the Lawyers Earthquake Response Network, which allows lawyers outside of Haiti to pitch in to defend the legal rights of earthquake victims”
“We have 300 lawyers already, and lots of good projects getting off the ground. We are a small organization- 2 full-time and 2 part-time staff.” He also spoke about how they are seeking technological solutions for coordinating the efforts of all of those involved.
After the speakers were done, the floor was opened for questions:
“So how can we help you do your work better? That’s a question for all of our guest speakers today…”
“I think I would really appreciate knowing of contacts you have in Haiti…people we could assist and network with”
“how do each of you collaborate with groups on the ground when communications systems are jeopardized during crisis?”
“Skype actually worked for us initially, better than phones. It seemed that the internet connections came up quicker than the mobile phones”
“and yes Skype has worked wonders for us too actually during the crisis itself, we spent 18 hour days in Skype working with multiple teams, I should say ‘peak of the crisis’ because the crisis continues”
“As for contacts- I’d be happy to recommend, let me know what type of groups you’d like to get in contact with. Back to communications- texting on mobile networks, and in some cases emailing, also worked faster than voice”
“for each of your organizations, would you say that donations are the most useful form of support from individuals that you can access through virtual means?”
“Yes, donations first. But circulating information and advice can be valuable too.”
“for us it might be a little different – personally as director of tech at Ushahidi, volunteer developers would be a great way to help”
“Perhaps we can tweet out those volunteer requests with you @ushahidi”
“we have a skype chat room too for devs – Ushahidi Skype
“Are there other ways we can help you here today?”
“we use the #dyb for Donate Your Brain on Twitter for tech questions that need techies to help with”
“and that would be perfect for tweeting volunteer requests #dyb”
“I know many of us are thinking ahead to the next crisis….and I’m sure we’ll be able to use tools like Ushahidi in other work in our local communities, as needs arise.”
“for us..donations are wonderful…but know the direct needs on the ground is very valuable :)”
“btw…Virtual Haiti Relief has raised 1,690,468 Lindens so far… so if you are at any of the events over the weekend, and want to donate to this…you can donate at any of the Virtual haiti Relief ribbon donation kiosks. we are pulling the location data from where the kiosks are.. so on the site you can see totals by sims based on where they are”
Information to help everyone connect to these great organizations:
Our Guest Speakers:
Davey Macbain (David Kobia)
Ushahidi Haiti Participatory Map
International Network of Crisis Mappers
Crisis Mappers Google Group
Skype chatroom for Ushahidi developers
As an aside, our very own Penguin Kuhn had this announcement to make:
“In Kenzo, Glitter, Ninlil, and Kali will be handling my duties when I am gone, I will not be answering my emails for the month that I am gone, so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need anything while I am gone and they will help you.
Malin Dahlstrom announced that all tenants are required to take this survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3YTDLHF. And our friends are visitors are invited to take it as well to help us improve.
Stay tuned for next week where we will have representatives from Linden Labs discussing the brand new Second Life viewer!
Written by: Layal