One of the girls, whose parents belong to Kerala, had visited the state during the floods last year and was inspired to create an app that could help during disasters.

Moved by Kerala floods Canadian schoolgirls develop app to help during disasters
news Disaster management Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - 14:45

When 13-year-old Leya Ommen came to her parents’ place in Kerala last July, the rains were heavy but the floods had not been unusual. They worsened later, after she went back to Canada, where her parents had moved to when she was a baby. She watched the devastation from far away, wanting to help.

A year later, Leya and her friend Ellen Brisley have developed an app that can help at the time of disasters. The app earned the girls the junior winners title in a North American competition called Technovation.

“Our app, A.I.D. (Aid In Disaster), aims to connect survivors, organisations and donors. Currently, survivors create an account on our app and input the resources they need, the amount and their location. Organisations select a region on the map and have access to all of the total resources requested for that particular region, and precise information on each survivor,” write Leya and Ellen in an email interview.

In Kerala, Leya had noticed how complicated the process of helping disaster victims was. Her parents were part of this process and had faced difficulties in communication and knowing where/who to donate to.

“One of their many worries was whether the money was being used correctly,” Leya says. She also noticed that her grandfather and other people in her town were preparing for floods and were donating items to local flood relief organisations. The problem was, they didn’t know what would be needed.

The girls are trying to get organisations to use their app. “We have been in touch with a representative from the Canadian Red Cross who explained to us the current disaster relief response process and problems that arise, their approach to a solution, and improvements/future additions for our app. He also recommended that we start small by releasing our app to local organisations and get their input. We talked to the local food bank about using a variation of our app in the future to fit their needs,” Leya and Ellen add.

The girls have participated in Technovation before. Technovation, according to its website, “offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. Every year we invite girls to identify a problem in their community, and then challenge them to solve it.”

Leya and Ellen say this is the first time they got a proper glimpse of what coding was really like.

“This experience has introduced both of us to the tech industry. It was wonderful to see our hours of daily work turn into something tangible that may one day help others. In the future we want to expand our app and make it into a platform for many other causes such as blood donations and food banks,” they say.

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