Offer A Home to Japanese Victims

A small non profit organization called Sparkrelief aimed at providing relief to disaster struck Japanese victims, has built a special web portal  at people can offer up their homes or apartments as temporary shelters for thousands of people displaced by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It’s called surfing for a good cause.

Just in more than 4 days after the portal is launched, it has received 40 submissions with the numbers getting tripled in next 2 weeks. That number may look small, but it’s a big step for the non-profit. The Japan quake is the first international crisis that Sparkrelief has helped in this way. The founder Eli Hayes of Sparkrelief said, “the impact extends far beyond simply providing temporary shelter”. Each person or a family that is given shelter lessens the load on relief infrastructure like community shelters, food / water supplies, and other basic amenities like showers and cleaning.

Offer a Home to Japan Victims

Hayes adds that the support goes much beyond providing people with shelter. “In a disaster, you’ve lost your sense of community,” Hayes says. “What happens when you go into someone’s house and they take you in and start cooking you breakfast in the morning is that you have that community back again.”

Hayes is also encouraging users to set up voice calls, or Skype meetings before offering to host someone. He plans to keep adding more features to guarantee credibility as the site expands to cover other disasters. While most offers come from Japan, there have also been offers to host from various parts of Europe and North America. Hayes quickly got volunteers to assist him to translate the site into Japanese to handle majority of their requests. As positive minded as the initiative is, there are also risks. When Hayes is asked, “How do you guarantee living conditions, trustworthiness, or safety?”. Hayes acknowledges the risk, but believes the system is no less dangerous than staying with a friend. He hopes to add shelters contributed from local government and various NGO groups.

The need for community support in a tragedy is something that Hayes knows more than anybody else as he and his brother were both displaced by a forest fire when he was a kid in Oakland. Hayes says they didn’t know many people and couldn’t afford to take shelter in hotel. They ended up sleeping on someone’s floor. Hayes later grew as a firefighter and joined military to serve the country.

Hayes started this when Boulder, Colorado was hit by a massive forest fire in September 2010. Hayes started hosting displaced victims, but it was difficult for him to gather information across bulletin boards to organise large number of shelters. So he formed a small team and created a portal to facilitate people provide information and shelter to those affected by the fire. Hayes took that same model and deployed it to the Japan earthquake.

Sparkrelief is just starting to get its root, but Hayes plans to speed up and provide relief support for natural disasters in the future. Hayes says, “There are 13 major earthquakes every year; that’s more than one a month and there is no downtime”. As a registered non profit organisation, Hayes i snot making any money from Sparkrelief and says he is providing for himself and his three staffmembers oh his own. Kudos to the relief efforts by Hayes.

If Hayes can improve his credibility measures and increase his audience, Sparkrelief can be a digital roof over many more displaced heads.

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