Static Sites for Quick Relief

In October 2018, Trinidad and Tobago experienced a period of consistently heavy rainfall. As simple as that sounds, it resulted in a devastating natural disaster where many people lost all their belongings. Thankfully, the response to the flooding was immense. Citizens, NGOs, businesses and government wholeheartedly gave their all to aid those affected.

Many software developers in the country felt that providing a technological solution would be their best contributions to the relief efforts. I do think technology can play a huge role in future disaster situations, as heartening as it was to see so many acts of kindness the coordination between them was nearly nonexistent. There was an excess of perishable food and used clothes as example. It'll be interesting to see how ODPM (Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management) reflects and grows from this experience.

I was able to come up with two websites during that time to contribute to relief efforts. Both were static sites as well, simply because of how quick and easy they are to develop and deploy. At Wepala we decided to create a website with a list of relief centres. The idea was the help alleviate those coordination pain points by showing people a map where they can drop things off. We used a community created and maintained list of relief centre details. With the same in-house static site generator we used to make the company's home page (built with Go) we were able to fire up https://relief.wepala.com in 2 hours. Basic search and map functionality made it useful to many, and of course it was mobile friendly.

The second static site I created was a simple fundraising site for my former secondary school, https://batce-support.org. I first looked at Gatsby but at the time theming options were as limited as my experience with the framework. The quickest option for me would be Hexo. Registering a domain, finding an HTML theme and setting up the site with Hexo took about 4 hours. The site added some legitimacy to our call for donations.

Google analytics showed the relief site had hundreds of users but it was really hard to tell if this was from victims, those wishing to donate or people just sharing on social media. The BATCE Support site was limited as it had no donation option to go straight to the school's account. If it did, we could have tapped in to a diaspora community eager to financially assist former teachers and schools students.

Maybe with more time mechanisms could have been developed to resolve those issues. A lot of my volunteering time was spent calling for donations and handing out supplies to homes I could reach. But I'm happy with these two small websites. I love how easy they were to implement but loved their purpose more - they were not start up projects trying to disrupt relief and get VC funding, they were just tools to help humans do better. In the end, that is technology's greatest use.