February 16, 2010

Helping Haitians via mobile, crowdsourcing & social media

New platform revolutionizes the way emergency response takes place

Guest post by Katrina Heppler

Bravo to the thousands of volunteers worldwide who are assisting with translating Creole mobile text messages to help people in Haiti following the devastating 7.0M earthquake that struck the nation Jan. 12.

You may not have heard of Mission 4636, but this is where a lot of the most remarkable relief work is taking place. Mission 4636 is a short code emergency response communication system that enables earthquake victims in Haiti to get life-saving aid by sending a free mobile text message. It’s a joint-project of Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, CrowdFlower and Samasource.

Mission 4636 — named for one of the SMS short codes for Haiti relief efforts — is an outstanding example of global collaboration and the power of human ingenuity to help people and save lives through technology. A huge “hats off” to them as well as to the many organizations that have also come together to make Mission 4636 successful: inSTEDD, DigiCel, local radio networks, local NGOs and the many emergency responders.

In the video interview above, Brian Herbert of Ushahidi, Robert Munro of FrontlineSMS, Lukas Biewald of CrowdFlower and Leila Janah of Samasource share background on how they came together with the support of other organizations on the ground in Haiti to deploy a critical emergency communications system to help save lives and provide emergency resources to people following the earthquake. This is a massive effort across multiple non-profit and for-profit companies and individual volunteers from around the country and globe (more than 14 countries have been involved in translation).


In the weeks after the tragedy, text messages to the dedicated Haiti emergency short code 4636 increased about 10 percent each day – with about one text a second coming through. Technology and people power are playing a critical role in getting information to military and aid workers on the ground. Beyond the immediate help for people in need in Haiti, the program will build computer centers so Haitian refugees can do valuable digital work, get paid, and bolster the economy around them. Continue reading

January 19, 2010

Text a few dollars to support Haiti

Use the power of the social Web to make an impact

Sloane BerrentThe earthquake that shook Haiti last week demolished and devastated the entire nation. Looking at pictures online, reading testimonials of survivors and following the developments in the rescue and emergency response teams, I felt, like many of you, overwhelming sadness. Mere weeks after completing my Kiva Fellowship last summer, the Philippines were hit with Typhoon Ondoy, another natural disaster resulting in true devastation.

I was looking back on pictures from the Philippines and wanted to share the slideshow above from when I went to visit Bernardita Dayo, a Kiva borrower that I had actually funded before I became a Fellow. Looking at those pictures, their homes located so close to the water, I’m reminded that for every picture we see of Haiti NOW, just last week there were other pictures showing THEN.

The pictures above, that village, doesn’t exist in the same way after the Typhoon, now it is just a memory as the Filipino people work to rebuild their villages and homes so too now does Haiti have a long and turbulent road ahead of them. The “then” in their pictures were vibrant lives and villages with personality, history and culture whose path has now forever been changed.

When you give to help Haiti, and you should, $5-$10 is little to most of us but means the world to them, I’d like to ask you to remember that you’re giving not just to help the Haitian people out of their dire current situation, but investing in their future and the rebuilding of the parts of their society and community that helped define them.

Here are a few quick and easy ways from WhatGives!:

• Text HAITI to 90999. $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given to the American Red Cross.

• Text YELE to 501501. $5 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given to Yele Haiti. (see note at end of post about Yele Haiti)

• Text CERF to 90999. $5 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.

• Text HAITI to 45678. $5 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given to The Salvation Army.

• Text QUAKE to 20222. $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

• Text SAVE to 20222 (US Only). $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given to Save the Children. Continue reading

August 24, 2009

Mokugift: Plant a tree for $1 to fight global warming

By Katrina Heppler, envisionGOOD.tv
and JD Lasica, Socialbrite

Last week, guests at the Digital Summer event in San Francisco “planted” 940 trees in Honduras with the help of partner Mokugift. Co-founder Hans Chung (whom we met at two previous awareness2action events) was in attendance, showing off on his laptop the site’s global reach: You can plant trees in Central America, Africa, Asia — countries such as Belize, Haiti, Nicaragua, India, Cameroon, Ethiopia — for a donation of just $1 per tree. Since the site’s launch, more than 75,000 trees have been planted.

treestandWe have a long way to go: Through its Billion Tree Campaign, the United Nations Environment Programme is calling on citizens globally to plant 7 billion trees. That’s one tree per person. As the site says, “Ordinary people can fight global warming.”

UNEP has partnered with Mokugift to make it easy for everyone to plant a tree. You can help spread the word through social media, including embeddable widgets like the one below. Mokugift tracks how your inspiration spreads from one friend to another friend, and to subsequent friends (3 degrees). You can see the total number of people you inspired and the total number of trees planted by them. For every 10 trees planted by people inspired by you (all 3 degrees), you will get a free tree.

As the site points out, “Sharing the inspiration with your friends is as important as planting a tree yourself.”

Katrina recently caught up with Hans at a cafe in San Francisco’s Union Square. In the video above, hear what Hans has to say about Mokugift and the UN program.

Remember, it costs only $1!

Plant a Tree

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