Community Involvement of Disaster and Relief Management

During recent times natural disasters have occurred more regularly in Sri Lanka. With each incident, locals helping each other as best as they could have helped them rise up faster and speedier. Reaching beyond social and economical boundaries, from primary grade level student to the elderly, businessmen, religious leaders, and even the prisoners extended support for relief activities in all possibles ways.

Drawing by Anuga Vihas Wijerathne, Grade 1-D, Dharmasoka Primary School, Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

Their support went beyond the limits of man power, goods, knowledge, time, love, kindness. Some even lost their lives during relief efforts. There were quite amazing community driven projects and products to be seen during these incidents. One such example is the “Daya diya” water project; which produced over Rs. 4.3 million worth of UV filtered water bottles and distributed free of charge across the country to support flood victims.

Sri Lanka has been listed as 5th best generous country in the world as per CAF World Giving Index with score of 57. You can imagine how strong volunteer community in this small but amazing Island in the Indian ocean.

No Common Platform..

There was no common platform between those who requested support and for those who were willing to offer support. Social Media is able to fill this gap to some extent.

Time is the most critical aspect during a disaster, saving lives as well as getting food and water to those in need is essential. During recent years technology was highly used in Disaster and Relief Management activities. Most of our communities were highly dependent on Social Media created by dozens of relief supporting groups and they were doing amazing work.

However, there were issues with time wasted on sharing information without a timely acknowledgement mechanism. This was unfortunate because each side was eager to connect with the other. They kept sharing or re-tweeting posts with relief requests and offers. There was no proper mechanism to keep track of information, such as donations collected or distributed at a specific site. Each time volunteers had to start from scratch. There was no clear identification of a particular supply or a service (i.e: water, food, cleaning service, restoration of schools, etc) offered as well as accepted at a specific site.

Apart from the rescue and disaster relief hero’s from Sri Lanka Army, Navy and Air Force, civil volunteers are the biggest strength in the country. None should be engaged in duplicating valuable services when time is of the essence.

This is where we need a common platform!

We decided to build a common platform which connect both ends. Relief Supports Web Platform is this link. We make sure your previous contacts remain while we let you to add your new request or new offer to our platform. We spread the news around the world via Social Media as you would do. You don’t need to copy and paste content. All you need is to hit either Twitter or Facebook icons against each record.

Is it just sharing content?

We make your life easier on finding matching requests or offers by searching against given key words.

Search for keywords

Apart from developing this platform we managed to run a pilot project on community call back service for selected requests and offers. Subash Shaminda, Charted Architect and Sanjaya Disanayaka, Sri Lanka Army Officer volunteered their valuable time to the critical call back requests we received.

This platform was able to help few people who were expecting rescue boats and to supply food and medicine to a group of people that included a pregnant mother. Our two volunteers managed to find offers on rescue boats as well as other supplies and to contact both parties. This is what we suppose to implement though it was a pilot project without proper call center facilities.

Within the first week there were over 100 requests and over 50 offers reached this platform.

Powered by Open Source!

As we highly believe in Open Source, we made our reliefsupports.org code publicly available under MIT license. Visit our github repo to find our source and also you can talk to our developers. Currently we have several Sri Lankan contributors who are based in Sri Lanka, Singapore, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

We highly appreciate your contribution on coding, testing, feedback and also make awareness on this community project.

Localization & Internationalization

English UI, is already under testing and soon we will be releasing Tamil UI as well. Feel free to reach us if you interested in contributing to your native language.

Future..

We shall continue with our development and try our best to make this system to have many more features before the next disaster. Mobile App and SMS alerts will be releasing soon. Registration of individual and group volunteers, suppliers and many more features to be release.

On going development of reliefsupports.org

Awareness Programs

Apart from the development work of reliefsupports.org platform, we started making awareness on effective relief management and educate community on benefits of this system. A week after our initial release, we decided to reach community and get their feedback while we educate them. Today, 5th June 2017, three schools in Southern, Uwa, and North Central Provinces, of Sri Lanka join this program and conducted awareness program. These students were able to access our staging server and feed data in to our staging environment.

School students working on our staging server as a part of awareness program.

Together we rise! Together we build!

#LKA #srilanka #Flood2017 #FloodSL #OpenSource #reliefsupports.org