Help Link People After the Earthquake in Chile

Amy Sample Ward
See all of Amy Sample Ward's blog posts

In some ways, the impact of the recent earthquake in Chile wasn't as immediately obvious as that of the earthquake in Haiti. President Michelle Bachelet initially refused foreign aid, but as the death toll has grown, the need for an international response has become obvious. This week, the American Red Cross increased its original response pledge to a quarter of a million dollars. After their hugely successful text messaging campaign for Haiti, the Red Cross has set up a similar campaign for Chile: simply text "CHILE" to 90999 to make a ten-dollar donation. Oxfam sent a team to Chile yesterday to survey the damage and recommend a rebuilding plan.

Upon hearing the news of the earthquake, many of us here at TechSoup Global immediately turned our thoughts to our colleagues at El Comité para la Democratización de la Informática, our Chilean partner NGO. In addition to running TechSoup's programs in Chile, CDI also provides computers and training to children and adults throughout Chile, particularly in lower-income communities.

CDI director Javier Figueroa told us this morning that CDI's staff is all safe. Checking with everyone had required several hours of driving, as many homes are without phones or electricity. He also told us the first details of CDI's plan to help NGOs throughout Chile get back on their feet and rebuild. The first step, he said, is restoring communications. From CDI:

Just a few days after the earthquake hit the south and central parts of Chile, water, food, fuel, tents, and communications are the most urgent needs. Even today, people are still trying to find out about their loved ones. In the areas most affected, people are completely uninformed about the situation in the rest of the country and how they can receive aid. Even in Santiago, some areas are still without electricity, water and phone lines.

Understanding how vital communications are during these first few weeks is that CDI Chile is putting together a mobile telecentre to reach several areas where today we still don't have much information. NGOs play a crucial role in society's well-being and this mobile telecentre will contribute to get NGOs back online.

Objective 1: Give access to communications through the internet to over 2,000 people in different towns of the 7th and 8th Regions of Chile.

A Van will be hired and will be implemented with 10 notebooks, an electricity generator, mobile internet modems, a tent, camping tables and seats for the mobile telecentre, and all the necessary equipment and provisions for the team of three that will be moving south. The rest of CDI team will help from Santiago coordinating the places where the mobile telecentre should go. Insurance is included both for the van and the team. … Besides NGOs, some stops will be considered in shelters where direct aid is being distributed to those most vulnerable after the earthquake. CDI’s local team in Santiago will be developing the itinerary for the stops of the mobile telecentre on the way back to Santiago, depending on the road accessibility and if there is mobile signal in those areas.

Objective 2: Raise funds and donations for NGOs in order to restore their IT infrastructure. During our mobile telecentre tour in the south, information will be gathered regarding the NGOs' IT status. Meanwhile in Santiago, a database will be created with a list of NGOs and the most urgent IT needs they have after losing their IT infrastructures. A campaign will be carried out to raise funds and IT donations to help these NGOs get back on line and continue serving their local communities. This information will be posted in our websites and partner websites.

This is an ambitious project with urgent goals and a clear plan for meeting them. CDI estimates a budget of USD 70,000 and they've created a fundraising page where you can directly support them and spread the message through social media. What's great about a project like this is that, by supporting CDI, you're also supporting dozens of local NGOs that will play a role in the rebuilding for weeks and months to come.

As we were surveying organizations for our disaster planning guide, one point that arose again and again was that times when your organization is struck by a disaster are also the times that the community most needs your services. That's why it's essential to conduct a post-disaster triage, determining what aspects of rebuilding need to happen immediately and what services to the community can't be suspended. That's what's great about CDI's plan: by identifying key organizations to provide resources and aid to, they're assuring that those organizations can play an active part in the rebuilding process too.

For updates, keep an eye on CDI's website and Twitter stream (both links are in Spanish).

Photo: CDI's Javier Figueroa and TechSoup Global's Salvador Luna

Cross-posted from the TechSoup blog.