In the wake of the violent eruption of the Vocano Fuego just 19km away from Antigua on June 2nd, 2018, there were people suffering from burns, from inhaling toxic gases and smoke, and who were suddenly cut off from their normal medications. Thousands had been displaced and hundreds injured as a result of the eruption.
I started buying a few medical supplies that were listed “in need” by a local collection point. On a whim, I uploaded my bank information to social media in case anyone wanted to help buy medicine and medical equipment from my local pharmacy.
That simple step turned into thousands of dollars raised and, therefore, weeks of working directly with medical suppliers, the local health ministry, and shelters in desperate need. It quickly became clear that there needed to be a better system for identifying shelters’ medical and supply needs in real-time, and a way to connect that directly to donation/collection centers. I was swept up in planning the emergency response and relief at a inter-regional level, and even led hackathons and application development to aid our efforts. Some days were more about communicating across suppliers and medical professionals, some were more about directly buying and delivering crucial medical supplies, and some were about quickly coordinating food relief so that shelters of over 50 people would have something to eat the next day.
^ One of the shelters that received an overwhelming amount of donated clothing and toiletries, but no medical supplies and no way to prepare/cook food.