MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Tropical storm Maring (international codename Trami) is out of the country. But, online and on the ground, a different storm is churning. In school campuses, churches, and barangay halls, hundreds of people are collecting donations of food, clothes, and other relief goods for the benefit of the victims of Maring.
Relief operations and donation drives are now commonplace thanks to volunteer groups or individuals. The government also conducts its own relief operations through the Department of Social Welfare and Development. What binds all these efforts is a passion to help the less fortunate without expecting anything in return.
Thanks to social media, relief operations are now no longer isolated cases of small groups. Through the internet, organizations with relief operations are able to amplify calls for donations and volunteers over a wide network.
Online social networks also link people who are willing to donate or lend a hand with groups that are willing to pack and distribute relief goods. Through the use of the familiar hashtags #RescuePH, #FloodPH, #ReliefPH, #SafeNow and #MovePH, relevant information was passed on and monitored over social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
#RescuePH and #ReliefPH were born as a result of an urgent need to coordinate rescue operations during typhoon Ondoy in 2009. What started as simple crowdsourced googledocs then are now streamlined websites that make information easily accessible.
#MovePH, on the other hand, stemmed from an idea to link volunteers and relief operations. From there, the use of the hashtag has expanded to serve as a link between different relief operations centers and as a call to service for young Filipinos all over the country.
@MovePH Thank you!!— Ria Redulla (@RiaRedulla) August 21, 2013
With the activation of a large number of relief operations comes the problem of coordination. Some well-organized and well-known organizations receive more donated goods then they can process; while smaller lesser-known groups scramble for donations and volunteers.
To bridge this gap, Rappler initiated the #MovePH Relief Operations Coordination List — a crowdsourced public listing of active relief operations in the country.
The Google document provides critical details of a relief organizations’ location and contact numbers. But more importantly, the list also indicates what a relief operation center needs or what it can share with other centers.
This will hopefully reduce the redudancies and improve the efficiency of the relief effort.
Anyone can view the list but, for now, only designated moderators can edit the list.
Moderators are Rappler volunteers who ensure the accuracy of the list by calling each relief operation center to find out what they need and what they can share.
Volunteers have committed to keep this list current and active until Sunday, August 25 or until the cessation of most relief operations centers.
On the ground
Coordinating volunteers and relief operations is just the first step in bringing relief to where it is needed. Another important step is ensuring the efficiency of resource distribution, so that those who need it most get it first.
A group lead by #RescuePH.com co-founder Edwin “Ka Edong” Soriano has created another online resource that will hopefully address this step.
The “Sagot ko to’ ReliefPH Caravan” Google document is a useful tool to help relief operations center managers identify evacuation shelters that need relief goods. Shelter managers or relief operations center coordinators can sign-up and use the document to state their needs or what they can provide.
Soriano says proper online information management is critical to relief operations these days in order to avoid redundancies and synergize efforts.
Volunteer initiatives like these are a small step forward for positive social change. – Rappler.com