A Ray of SunshineFebruary 6th, 2010 by Ville Miettinen
Sometimes the world seems like a terrible place. Grabbing our attention from newspaper billboards are stories of natural disasters and terrible violence. But amid the bleak news coverage of human suffering, there’s often a silver lining which demonstrates the brighter side of life and the human spirit. These are the uplifting stories of victims surviving in rubble for two weeks, and the relief efforts which find them.
Although far from the horror and heroics of those actually in Haiti, one such story that brightened my mood showed how people far away from ground zero are able to make a direct contribution to relief.
The website Haiti.com is enabling offsite volunteers to sift through masses of real-time information mentioning Haiti (from texts, twitter, bloggers, news etc) to find actionable information about problems on the ground in Haiti. The volunteers can translate information, verify data and map new items in an information system (Ushahidi) which ultimately gets to the major NGOs and aid workers in a position to help directly. NGOs like Oxfam, the Clinton Foundation, Plan International, and American Red Cross are this minute benefiting from Ushahidi data in the field in Haiti.
At a relative’s work last week, they organized a bake sale – which is a somewhat more traditional way to help those in need in Haiti (and from which I again benefit indirectly). This is all well and good and hopefully when the money in the cookie jar eventually finds its way to the right pockets it will make a difference. But I have a feeling that the chance to take part in efforts that directly help people on the ground would, for some of us, taste just as sweet.