ReliefNet (Organizing Disaster Relief Efforts)

ReliefNet helps Disaster Relief Organizations connect to those they are helping so that aid is delivered faster and to more people.

Photo of Irfan Nafi
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Technology

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth


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VA, Springfield, 22150

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

When a natural disaster strikes, everything becomes chaotic. The organizations that manage relief, such as the Red Cross, have to act as fast as possible. But the where and when of their efforts are sometimes hard to see. And what about the aftermath? Victims still suffer months after the actual disaster. This is why we created a system that raises awareness for such disasters and helps organize relief efforts.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Transparency and communication among the donors, shelters, and relief organizations are key to revolutionizing disaster relief. ReliefNet does just that; it is a network that connects the three groups, where the relief shelters post their needs, organizations show where they are, and donors, or the public, can see the status of each shelter. By displaying the supplies and conditions of multiple shelters on a website, such estimates for the amount of food, water, and clothing available, relief groups will have an easier time working together and organizing their efforts. But a major part of the network is dedicated to the general public and showing them how they can help. Presenting the specifics of a shelter, as well as photos and live updates, will help more people sympathize with the victims at a personal level. Having this information in an organized and transparent manner will make disaster relief more efficient and give the shelters a source of hope.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

When our teammate Irfan Nafi was six, he was caught in the middle of a cyclone that devastated southern Bangladesh. He was stuck in a make-shift shelter with little food or water for two days until the storm subsided. However, it took another week for support to reach his area. When he came back to the US and heard about the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, he knew that the people caught in the storm were going through what he did, probably even worse. But what could an eight-year-old do? But two years ago, after the three of us saw how Hurricane Harvey left Texas in ruins, we thought that adding a support network involving donors, relief groups, and relief centers would make disaster relief more efficient. The idea sat in the back of our minds until freshman year of high school, when we learned more about computer science and found a way to implement the system.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

We stepped up to make a change because we were inspired by these recent hurricanes to improve the systems for disaster relief.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

The website has 3 types of accounts: representatives from relief organizations, shelters, and donors. Representatives make an account before the disaster strikes. After the user registers and adds their shelter and location, the shelter will show up on a map. They include the amount of food, water, etc, available, how much they need, and whether or not a relief organization is already supporting them. Shelters with extreme shortages of supplies would be labeled with an “Emergency” tag. Representatives from organizations would select the shelters they plan on going to and an estimated date for when they get there. If donors want to send help, they would select a shelter and be redirected to the website of the relief groups supporting that shelter. The website will then send periodic emails to the donors with an update of the shelter’s conditions, such as photos and changes in supplies.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

1. By putting the data for multiple shelters in one place, relief groups will have an easier time working with each other and local shelters. 2. ReliefNet makes the public see what specific relief shelters are going through and what they need, giving the donor a greater sense of involvement. 3. People who donate want to see that their funds are going towards expediting relief. We allow our donors to see the impact of their donations by sending them regular updates of the shelter they decided to help.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

While ReliefNet has not been used in an actual natural disaster yet, we have made a website that manages accounts from relief centers and organizations and updates information in real-time. There are a few “test shelters” on the website to show new users how the system works. We are still in the process of testing the speed and reliability of our network.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We are in the process of contacting relief groups and proposing our system. The American Red Cross has several shelters in our area, so we will get in touch with them first. From there, we will try to collaborate with more groups, such as The World Vision and The Salvation Army. We also want the expertise of someone with the experience and connections to relief networks so that we can get proper feedback. We have the infrastructure of our system, such as the website and a plan, but we are lacking the professional input.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Plan & Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 80%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 20%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 80%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 20%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 60%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 20%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 20%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 80%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 20%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nikil Ragav

This is cool. Awesome and detailed proof of concept demo.

I like how (even if not everything works currently) you have built out the user interface for most of the functionality so that we can get an idea of how it can be used.

I could see this being very powerful if you have a mobile version so that people caught in a disaster or people providing aid to a disaster can see the status of shelters and service organizations near them.

During Harvey, several of my family friends were caught in the floods and had to be rescued by boat.
It would be great if there were a "I need to be rescued" button that called the APIs of the local authorities and disaster relief organizations.

Photo of Irfan Nafi

Thanks for your reply! We plan to work more on the website in the future, but as you said, it currently gives you an idea of how this concept would be used in practice. The "I need to be rescued" button sounds like a great idea and we'll be sure to implement that in the account system.

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