Helping Haiti on Facebook: Linkin Park, the UN Foundation and VSee

On Tuesday, Feb 22nd, VSee enabled “Haiti Today, Haiti Tomorrow”—A Facebook Town Hall, featuring Linkin Park and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the CEO of the UN Foundation.

They were talking about the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti and how you can support the UN and its partners in helping Haiti rebuild and transform.  They talked from LA, San Francisco, and DC via VSee to their moderator, Randi Zuckerberg, Director of Market Development at Facebook.  Viewers sent questions in real time and participated in the discussion.

We did it by hosting the VSee meeting on an additional computer which funneled all the feeds into one.  This feed was then streamed through Ustream to the UN Foundation’s Facebook page.

The Facebook Town Hall for Haiti provided a unique opportunity to keep a broad public audience engaged in support for Haiti after last year’s earthquake.  The involvement of Linkin Park with its tremendous fan base (20 million Facebook fans) helped connect new parts of the Facebook community with the UN, the UN Foundation, and USAID.  The online impact was matched by a clear message:  people around the world want to connect with Haiti and help partners make a positive difference.  Tens of thousands of attendees watched live and asked questions as representatives from the United Nations, members of Linkin Park, the USAID,  and the UN Foundation’s very own Kathy Calvin spoke about the latest developments in Haiti and ways for individuals to continue helping the Haitian people one year after the devastating earthquake.  In addition the Town Hall was featured in more than 80 news articles, and has garnered coverage in such outlets as Look to the Stars, MTV.com, The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post.

Thank you everyone who attended.  To keep abreast of more events as they come up, please go to our Facebook page!

Here’s Milton with Linkin Park at the Facebook offices…

Update from Haiti—Checking in on HELP

Randy Roberson is In Haiti today.

We’ve mentioned Randy and his organization, HELP (Humanitarian Emergency Logistics & Preparedness), several times in the last couple weeks.  Well, I spoke to him yesterday while he was in a hotel on the Haitian border in the Dominican Republic.  I recorded some of the interview and we’ll post some video here once we’ve had a chance to edit it.  In the meantime, let me tell you about their efforts and some of their needs.

Randy said they were going to pick up a few tons of rice and water, adding it to what he and his group had brought overseas, before crossing into Haiti.  He’s got a three man team on the ground there.  They’re coordinating with the larger effort through some of the tools likely worked on and discussed at CrisisCommons.

He’s also working to bring in a 20 foot “container” clinic.  That’s a clinic made from a shipping container to make it easy to move from relief area to relief area.  They would like to fly it in to provide another clinic more quickly, but due to budget constraints they will likely need it shipped to the coast, then transported by boat the rest of the way.  Randy has two surgical teams willing to come in and work through that clinic.

They currently have more ties to doctors in the states than they will likely have the ability to utilize.  There are groups monitoring beds at ICUs, doctors in Chicago, and doctors in Arizona.  However, HELP’s cost for their satellite link is $16.55 per minute, restricting HELP’s ability to do telemedicine for Haitian quake survivors.  The current budget only allows them about two hours of linkup time per day while the demand (and available help) requires closer to 10 or 12 hours per day.   They can mitigate this somewhat because some survivor issues can be handled without a live doctor in the US seeing them in real time.  Randy referred to “store and forward” techniques:  For many survivor/patients, aid workers can take notes and pictures, attach them to emails, then wait for the medical advice to come back the next time HELP is able to go online.

(I can’t neglect telling you about the few thousand dollars-worth of extra solar power supplies needed to power all the equipment in their operation.)

They are utilizing tools by InSTEDD (Innovative Support To Emergencies Diseases and Disasters—a humanitarian group created by Google) and Ushahidi, which provides interactive maps for various distressed areas around the world.  People are able to text to the Haiti map messages like, “Corner of X and Y.  Need help,” or, “Looting on this street.”  This map has been lauded as one of the most important in coordinating aid efforts.

If you’re able, please donate something to help HELP out.  Go to their website and make a donation.  We have also done an interview just today with a second group in the Dominican Republic right now (GATR), and we’ll post about that, along with some screenshots and video from both interviews.  Randy has promised a couple minutes of that precious satellite time in order to help spread the word.  These two organizations are continuing in the aftermath at a time when the news organizations are beginning to pack up.  Check back in and we’ll continue to share their stories.

Video Communication and Disasters

The recent earthquake in Haiti and the ongoing tragedy has reminded me of the great responsibility of VSee and the industry as a whole to continue advances in disaster relief, search and rescue, and reconstruction.

Now, we’ve worked with several agencies using VSee in its normal function of video conferencing but also implemented to allow ad-hoc and secure video from things such as unmanned robots, drones, and the like, organizations such as Strong Angel and Humanitarian Emergency Logistics & Preparedness. Over the next couple days or so I may share a few examples, but right now I just wanted to express how the industry is working to help in times like these.

VC as “video communication”, rather than the narrow “videoconferencing”, has and will continue to help save many lives, both of those being actively rescued, especially in places a rescuer can’t reach, as well as the rescuers themselves, by helping keep them out of harm’s way.

Unfortunately, whenever disaster strikes, especially in such an impoverished nation as Haiti, the financial repercussions exacerbate the loss of life, and hamper reconstruction afterwards. Communication also becomes difficult with many strains on emergency organizations.  Low-cost and efficient deployments of VC services such as ours will continue to do whatever we can to continue making rescue, relief, and reconstruction safe and economical.

Our hearts go out to everyone in Haiti tonight, and to all their loved ones worldwide.