Haiti: Orphans, Crisis Mapping, and Tech Volunteers

BlogHer Original Post

Britt Bravo's last two posts on Haiti, have provided a good round up of how to help and the creative fundraising that is taking place. I wanted to share these two stories from Haiti from on the ground and a bird's eye view about nonprofit work there.

Earthquake Aftermath in Jacmel
Photos by Andrew Bigosinski, Director of Ciné Lekol.

The story has shifted from how technology is disrupting giving as evidenced by the amazing success of text giving campaigns to the role social media is playing in the relief efforts.

An Orphanage Destroyed, Children Still Alive

Cine Institute, an organization that provides Haitian youth with film education, is located a block from an orphanage built by Luke Montgomery, co-founder of WeCanBuildanOrphanage.com, an interactive charity building a home, clinic and school for AIDS orphans in Haiti. He's passionate about helping children and obsessed with leveraging the power of "good ideas for good causes."

Luke is a colleague of several social media colleagues, including Justin Perkins from Care.

Justin passed this message along on Thursday:

Still no word from our orphanage. Our town of Jakmel (also spelled Jacmel if you want to Google it) has been largely destroyed and our AIDS orphanage is constructed out of cement... not good. Most of these types of buildings in our town have crumbled. Best case: Our kids are safe but all the care staff will be dealing with their own families, destroyed and dead family members and all water and food will now be even more scarce. Worst case: The orphanage collapsed like all other concrete buildings in town and the locals might hesitate to dig out HIV infected bloody kids. I haven't been able to sleep. Crying.

I'm going back to Haiti in the next few days and need help to give hands-on help to our kids and the townspeople.

You can help. Give money or pass this donation link around: http://tinyurl.com/ykt74rg

love,

Luke

This morning Justin passed along some good news that the staff and kids are all alive at the orphanage in Haiti, but the building was completely destroyed. Justin also passed a long a message from his friend Luke, the founder of the orphanage,

Our children have all survived. Somehow amidst all the death around them, these 13 orphans made it out of the rubble alive. They are now living on the street surrounded by rubble with no food, water, blankets or medicine. Many of them are HIV+. Two are handicapped and can not walk. We are rushing an emergency team to them to care for, feed and protect them. I'm leaving and will be on the ground in Haiti for as long as it takes to rebuild." Please spread this emergency link: EarthquakeOrphans.com

Crisis Mapping

My colleagues at Ushahidi have been working around the clock and around the globe mapping crisis information from Haiti. (I'm on the board). For those you who are not familiar with Ushahidi, they have a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or time line. Their goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response. Here's more about their haiti platform.

I received an update from Ushahidi, co-founder Ory Okolloh:

We have received tremendous support from the crisis mapping community through the Crisis Mapping Network, the developer community, collaborating organizations like UN OCHA Columbia, INSTEDD, Haitianquake, Digital Democracy, FrontlineSMS, Google and others, and dozens of volunteers who’ve helped with everything from data entry, to translations, to data filtering.

Since the site went live, the team has been working round the clock to make improvements to the instance, fix problems (our server has crashed several times already and our alert system went beserk!), coordinate efforts with volunteers, share information with partners, and collaborate with other tech-based efforts e.g. the people finder at Haitianquake (since merged with Google’s). The fact that we have a global team means that we have been able to offer round the clock support, with the Africa-based team taking over when the US-based team goes to sleep and vice versa.

Ory describes their current challenges, including:

Close the feedback loop: that is, ensure that agencies trying to figure out where help is needed are tracking our reports and following up on requests for help that are coming in. We are currently doing this via the Crisis Mappers network, Sahana, and Internews and INSTEDD teams who have just landed in Haiti, but a lot more needs to be done.

She has called on us to help get the word out about Ushahidi, she seeking contacts with local or diaspora Haitian media or NGOs, and connections with larger humanitarian organizations to share information.

Last night Rachel Weidinger started to organize nptech ties to help colleague, Wendy Harman - and now they're also connecting with Ushahidi.

Crisis Camps

Jake Brewer over at Sunlight Foundation let me know about Civic Hackers Haiti going on this weekend in Silicon Valley as well as in other locations.

Beth Kanter, BlogHer CE for Nonprofits, writes Beth's Blog

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