Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maps that Save Lives

I was captivated when Benedict Thambiah from Bang PR first broached this subject with me. A humanitarian organisation dedicated to creating & providing maps to international agencies involved in disaster & poverty relief work. Who would imagine that something as fundamental & crucial as maps to reach remote villages & disaster zones could be overlooked?

Example of a map created to track street kids in South Africa.

Map created to aid disaster relief workers in Pakistan 2005/06.

I said YES to the interview opportunity, without hesitation. And the result was our marvelous chat with the Director of Global MapAid (UK), Jessamin Kaur Roothman.

Jessamin Kaur Roothman, Director of Global MapAid (UK), shares how maps can save lives.

Jessamin is an entrepreneur who runs her own web development agency. She started out as a volunteer with GMA, using her skills & expertise in web design. When she was invited to be Director of GMA (UK), she admitted to almost turning it down because she felt the role was too big for her to fill. But because she believed in the value of the work, she agreed.

She shared with us about how GMA works with local volunteers in the field, using satellite kits, to map out areas that are poverty crisis hotspots. These include orphanages, HIV monitoring, even environmental rehabilitation.

Although Google maps has mapped out most corners of the globe, their maps are more generic than specialist. Hence the need for a humanitarian organisation like Global MapAid.

"We have a lovely plane, but please help us fuel it," says Jessamin.

The most urgent need for this non-profit organisation right now is funding its various projects. It takes a huge amount of resources to acquire satellite kits for volunteers to collect data in the field, computer systems to generate maps, transportation etc. As Jessamin puts it, "We have a lovely plane, but please help us fuel it."

So whether you're an individual looking to contribute in cash, or a business looking to donate computer systems, do contact them. In fact, Bentley Systems Inc made a generous donation of three sets of software systems to GMA to be used for their project in sub-Saharan Africa to map schools and hospitals there.

To find out more about their work & mission, click here.

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