A visual journey through the impact of the earthquakes that hit Haiti in January 2010 and Japan on March 2011, the joint response and sustainable recovery efforts. (more...)
Bicycle ride from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince, New York and Boston. Bringing together the TEDx communities on these cities and raising awareness on the challenges and opportunities of innovation and collaboration. (more...)
After a month reflection and talking to the different members of Relief 2.0, I've came to have a deeper understanding of Relief 2.0 and the impact.
For me, it has helped in many ways and it was really time well spent. As a test to challenge fear, an important test for an Entrepreneur as fear paralyzes people and prevents you from taking action, even though you think it is right.
After speaking and emailing to the group and people I met during the trip, I had time to consolidate some ideas which we learned during the trip.
On the field, there are always little things to do which may have a bigger impact. some people on the field may not want to help the volunteers dish out food, clean the shelters, or sort clothes, but these trivial things may mean a lot. I mean since you are already there, just be an extra pair of hands and be useful. The Relief 2.0 team that was up did every task thrown at them and enjoyed them! Why not!
Sorting clothes is an important task in any disaster. Clothes come in big boxes, and when there is a large pile of clothes, nobody will sort through it. Just think when you go to a department store and the sale bin with messy sizes... Even when it is cheap, the mess prevents people from sorting through the pile.
A group had an idea of getting the kids in the shelter involved and playing a game. Giving the kids each a pile of clothes, they can help sort according to type, color and size. Eventually, when sorted and folded in a nice and presentable manner, much of the donated clothes are used and taken by the survivors.
Mobile technology and smartphones improved the way we are connected to each other. Why not use it in disaster areas?
With 3G phones and networks getting common, sharing experience has never been easier. In our Japan Relief 2.0 trip, we have a wireless Internet device which allows me to take photos and upload, blog, and share current information on the ground as it is happening. In the past, with traditional relief, the first group of people who is stationed for 2 weeks will return to report the status (which is 2 weeks old) and in the next month, the next team will be armed with the information. With top down bureaucracies, these inefficiencies sometimes cannot react to current needs and faster way of communication and decision making is required. Until then, volunteers are required to fill the gap.
Often volunteers come across new technologies and start to use it a lot faster than large NGOs. We came across this site (http://www.sinsai.info/ushahidi/) and it is a incident report site that share current informaiton from transportation, medical services, support and rescue requests on a google map. This is a group using the service.
We saw a request for rescue 5km from us according to the map, and as we are armed with GPS devices, we decided to act as the local army and rescue services is not there yet. At 8am, we headed towards the survivor, we cleared the first kilometer in under 30 minutes, and reached the horizon of flattened buildings and debris. The climb was not that hard, as the terrain was generally flat, but we had to be careful as the terrain was unstable, and there were nails and other hidden dangers exposed which may harm us. By noon, we checked the map again, and realized that we just made it through about 1km on the debris. At this rate, it will take us about 9 more hours to reach the location, and the hard environment, with the temperatures going below zero degrees at night meant that it was a huge risk to press on. It was very disheartening, but we returned. Going back to city hall, it was tough to know that we were 3km from a person trapped under a building for days, and yet helpless to rescue them. As we approached and shared the information with several people in charge of the army rescue unit, the response was the same. "The government is doing the best they can, and we will reach her in due time." We were frustrated by the situation, but with the efficient and discliplined way the army has acted so far, it was hard to ask more of them.
Many volunteers do their part, but when it comes to engaging the bureaucracy, we realize that, that was why we are there... There are large gaps, and we just have to accept that as long as we think hard and tried or best, that was all we could do.
It is important that you like doing what you do on the field. Our friend Todd Shea brough a guitar and played for the volunteers and survivors. The results was very visible. He attracted large crowds to the area, and it brightened their day! Just a little music, song and dance can make such a big difference in the mood.
Our driving principles are simple, Enable, empower, engage and connect. Help people regain their normal lives and give them their dignity while doing so.
-- Robin Low