Tech World Responds To The Refugees Crisis
People around the world have been touched by the plight of millions of refugees fleeing the atrocities of war. Many have asked what they could do to help, and the tech world is no exception. Individuals and groups such as Techfugees have started to gather coders interested in doing good, and a number of "hackathons" have been set up. Here are a few examples of how people have used their programming skills to contribute to the great need of our time.RefAidThe RefAid app describes itself as "a single point for refugees to find information and for NGOs to provide it." Refugees download the app onto their phones* and are able to access legal information, places to find food, shelter, and medical help, as well as special information for parents and unaccompanied children. Although the app is still in its infancy stage, and only available in some European countries right now, it shows promise.NatakallamNatakallam means We Speak in Arabic, and the website serves as a way to connect refugees living in Lebanon with people around the world wanting to learn Arabic. As their website declares: "through this online platform, students have the option of practicing their speaking skills, with full flexibility concerning the timing, length, and format of the sessions. They also engage in a unique cultural experience while providing Syrians with an enriching part-time work opportunity in a country where finding a worthwhile job is difficult." Lessons are around $15 an hour, although there is some flexibility.Refugees WelcomeWe've talked about the "AirBnB for Refugees" once before, but it definitely fits into this category. The German based group was overwhelmed by people pledging to give lodging to refugees when they started last year, and they've since expanded to other countries in Europe and Canada. So far they've been able to match hundreds of refugee families with locals offering housing.Share the MealIt costs 50 cents US to feed one child for a day through the UN World Food Program. The idea behind this app is that whenever users eat, they can "share the meal" with a child by donating 50 cents. If you don't want to click the app every time you eat, you can pay in advance up to one year ($182.50) of meals. The app helps children in Syria and refugees from Syria living in other countries, as well as children in other areas of the world who are in need. At the time of writing, 5,033,330 meals have been shared.TarjimlyWhen helping refugees, the language barrier can be a huge issue, and simply using Google Translate doesn't always lead to smooth interactions. That's what Tarjimly tries to solve. They provide free real-time translators for refugees and aid workers using Facebook Messenger. Bilingual volunteers translate between refugees and aid workers in real time using chat, phone or video calling.DuolingoPopular language learning site Duolingo, which offers high quality, free language courses in a variety of languages, has recently added 4 courses for Arabic speakers learning English, French, Swedish, and German in response to the crisis. The goal is to help refugees integrate into their new countries and find jobs. They've also teamed up with UNHCR to work with the multi-lingual Duolingo community to help integrate refugees using their translation skills. It's a great example of people using existing platforms to meet the needs of humanity.KickstarterAnother example of established sites using their platforms for good happened a few months ago when Kickstarter partnered with UNHCR to raise a little over $1,777,000 dollars for Syrian refugees in a few days. They were able to provide "immediate necessities and a place to sleep for over 7,000 people in need" during the winter months. Although the winter is now over, more refugees keep coming, and you can still give here. *Some people are surprised that refugees have cell phones. They shouldn't be. Syrians were well off before the war, almost all of them had cell phones, then when the war forced them to flee, like any good cell phone user they brought their phones with them. Wouldn't you?