When Tech Challenges Lead to Meeting Refugee Needs, fast!

Natasha Freidus
Published in
2 min readJun 28, 2017


Someone once told me that structure is freedom. It’s something I’ve lived by for a few decades (especially since becoming a mom;) Well this week I learned that minimalism is also freedom. Here’s what happened.

Last week we were frantically working with our developer to get our beta of NeedsList up and ready for Tuesday. It was World Refugee Day, a logical time to go live and we were ready…..well… almost. We had been onboarding groups serving refugees for the past month and had 100’s of needs posted in their lists, but Murphy came for a visit, his law that is, and it was looking like there were enough bugs that it was going to make sense to hold off a few days.

And then I thought….

“What if we just launched with the three featured needs on the home page?

That way we can test everything with just three needs….and in fact, we can focus donors on meeting these urgent needs instead of overwhelming them with hundreds.”

We’re so thrilled that we did! Because we were able to focus our users on urgent needs, particularly on the island of Chios where deplorable conditions are leading to violence and unrest, donors have purchased the following in just one week:

  • 126 pairs of shoes for A Drop in the Ocean. These were ordered in bulk from TerraMare in Athens and arrived 48 hours later in Chios.
  • 145 reusable sanitary napkins for The Unmentionables. These come from LunaPads.com and will be distributed in the next few weeks.
  • 150 packs of diapers for Do Your Part warehouse. These were ordered from ToyWorld, a Greek baby-goods company, and already arrived at the Oinofyta camp, where they are completely out of larger size diapers.
150 packs of diapers arrived at the Oinofyta camp this morning

Because we met these needs so quickly, we were also able to post Refugee Support Europe’s need for T-shirts and have already had 85 purchased. We will order from our Greek supplier when we hit 100 and they will also arrive within 48 hours.

Intellectually, we know enough about lean development to know starting small is the obvious approach. In reality, going live with some of the cool bells and whistles we have been busting our butts on was very tempting.

In this case, starting small on our end means hundreds of needs met for refugees in Greece, all within ten days.

In this case, less really is more.

Lesson learned.

Check out our beta of NeedsList and let us know what you think!



Natasha Freidus

Reflections on innovating crisis relief, standing with refugees, tech for good, and mission-based entrepreneurship.