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Faber’s 2020 Day of Service – Serving Together while Physically Apart

January 2021

Faber Daeufer & Itrato recently held its 2020 Day of Service by revisiting a worthwhile cause serving the urgent needs of the most vulnerable people and places across the globe. The risks and necessary precautions of COVID-19 placed some limits on the firm’s Philanthropy Committee as they searched for this year’s activity, but they found the perfect fit with an initiative that Faber supported for a previous day of service.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is an international organization using open mapping to further humanitarian actions and community development. Working with volunteers worldwide, the team creates and provides map data that reduces safety risks, transforms disaster management, and furthers Sustainable Development Goals.

Many parts of the world have been uncharted, which complicates the efforts of emergency responders when disaster strikes. To combat this problem, thousands of volunteers come together, both virtually and on the ground, to create open map data that enables disaster responders to better reach those in need. Through the Missing Maps project, HOT creates maps of high vulnerability areas where data is scarce. Their efforts put millions of the world’s most vulnerable people and places onto OpenStreetMap, a community-driven free and editable map of the world. The resulting tools are provided to organizations free of charge and are consistently utilized by partners such as Red Cross societies, Doctors Without Borders, UN programs, government agencies, and various NGOs.

Susan Litterst of Faber’s Philanthropy Committee helped coordinate the service project. “If there’s a catastrophe or a need for medical supplies, some of these places are literally not on the map,” she said. “HOT has volunteers from all over the world working on this initiative.”

While disaster response is the organization’s primary goal, it is far from all they do to assist global communities. Their mapping efforts also help with a variety of other initiatives, including:

  • Disaster Risk Reduction – These projects focus on mitigating the impact of natural disasters on local communities. Working with localities and disaster management agencies, HOT uses mapping to identify risks and develop comprehensive data sets to produce realistic natural hazard impact scenarios for better planning, preparedness and response.
  • Poverty Elimination Projects – This initiative maps the lowest income areas of the globe in support of humanitarian and development programming. According to HOT, mapping access to financial services helps individuals living in those areas become more economically stable.
  • Refugee Displacement Assistance – There are currently more than 22.5 million refugees worldwide. These individuals often choose to resettle outside of traditional camps in cities and host communities. Mapping of human displacement, resettlement, and access to services has become vitally important to geographically dispersed responses.
  • Gender Equality - HOT prioritizes the inclusion of all members of society in decision-making processes, including the empowerment of female mappers and support for projects promoting equal rights. The organization also encourages mapping of features important in understanding gendered issues.
  • Environmental Mapping – These projects monitor changes in environmental features such as coastal erosion and wetlands to address climate change, flooding and sustainable livelihoods.
  • Public Health Projects – HOT provides data to NGO and government initiatives on issues related to malaria prevention, cholera outbreaks, maternal healthcare, vaccination campaigns, and HIV awareness to connect local people with necessary public health services.

Recently, HOT has also contributed to efforts at containing the spread of COVID-19 in areas of Northwestern Nigeria, with volunteers mapping safe places and quarantine centers. The project digitized roads, tag/name features, and provided road attributes by training local community members and ambulance response teams in using OSM and OSM routing tools.

The remote capabilities of the emergency mapping initiative also helped Faber maintain its pandemic safety protocols. “We are spread out geographically, so we were looking for something we could do together but remain apart,” said Litterst. “The project lends itself to this environment. We can all be at home in front of our desktops and tune in with colleagues remotely while being of service at the same time.”

She explained that each participant set up an account with HOT. “We were all connected through a meeting platform with a facilitator from the organization. You could see the areas needing to be mapped, and we all chose one to work on. Then, we used Google Earth to draw boundaries around buildings, houses, and roads. We could all see what our colleagues were working on.”

Faber’s day of service centered on Guyana, advancing an initiative to map buildings in the Caribbean and surrounding countries impacted by the hurricane season and the pandemic. HOT is supporting the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the World Bank to increase knowledge share and use of open geospatial data across CDEMA countries.

As part of the Caribbean region, Guyana is highly exposed to various natural and manmade hazards. Combined with the threat of global climate change and various economic vulnerabilities, much of the Caribbean region sits in a particularly unstable socio-economic situation. HOT is supporting CDEMA with integration of OpenStreetMap data into one comprehensive platform, so that resources and disaster response information can be shared and utilized. The OpenStreetMap data is often the only source of spatial information available in the midst of a disaster because Caribbean governments do not regularly share data with one another. As such, with the help of HOT, CDEMA acts as a “clearinghouse” for all disaster risk management information within the region. To date, these efforts have included 201 community mappers and almost 50,000 total map edits, with more than 51,000 buildings and 280 roads mapped.

This was Faber’s second time working with HOT.  In June 2016, the entire Faber team participated in a map-a-thon sponsored by the organization. At the time, the project focused on Mozambique. Homes, roads and rivers were pinpointed in order to direct spraying efforts in a malaria elimination project.

CLICK HERE to watch this informative TED Talk and learn more about the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

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