Friday, January 22, 2010

Aidmatrix Haitian Earthquake Relief

My name is Julie Ross and I’m a member of The Aidmatrix Foundation team. We are currently responding to the Haitian earthquake disaster and ongoing aftershocks. I thought perhaps you might want to know a little bit more about what we do everyday and some of the first-hand experiences we’re having with this relief effort.

While we don’t physically mend people’s bones or serve them food for their hunger, we are standing hand-in-hand in the disaster zone with our charitable partners that do.

You see, we do things like fly to Haiti (this weekend) to help set up emergency warehouses so that all the donations that you and your friends make to organizations like CARE, International Federation of Red Cross / Red Crescent, Project HOPE, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, ACS, Children International and many more can be transported to the disaster zone in mass quantities and then divvied up to the relief workers on the front lines.

Our team has been working round-the-clock since the disaster struck to coordinate with major corporate manufacturers and big box retailers to get semi-trailers of goods to be donated connected with aviation providers to donate cargo space and flight crews. Then there are the federal government agencies, military and emergency services folks in Washington, D.C., the United Nations, NATO, who we work with to help clear the way for these things to happen. It brings a lot of diverse groups together for a common cause.

So in a way, we are community builders. But then, we’re also technology folks, too. We build computer systems that allow the relief organizations to post exactly what they need on our global “bulletin board” so the public can see it all in one place. The fancy, official name is called “Supply Chain Management.” These systems enable the NGOs to have real-time visibility into their available supply quantities and to share the inventories in their disaster warehouses with their own relief teams out in the field and with other NGOs. It’s a highly fluid process as pallets of products are arriving, checked in, broken down into smaller units, repackaged, and then transported out on-demand as the heroes on the scene order directly what is needed from their laptop & a web browser.

Disaster relief is an amazing thing to witness: the coordination of it all with so many moving pieces and brave, passionate, humble people. Historically, these relief organizations have done this all on paper forms or with spreadsheets and phone calls because the technology that the for-profit world uses (like bar code scanners and inventory databases used at the supermarket) is just so expensive. Thankfully we have grantors to Aidmatrix that help fund those costs so we can provide it to the NGOs. So what we do is basically to just amplify what these amazing NGOs have been doing so well. Simple systems that help manage the flow of donations dramatically reduce a nonprofit’s administrative and operational costs putting the public’s donations toward more aid. At the same time, it enables them to push many times more aid out to people in need because it’s just such an efficient way to process information.

We’re a small shop, compared to the international relief organizations and government agencies that we work with (there are about 50 of us). But we are high-energy optimists and realists and analyticals who really are working to help solve these humanitarian crises -- and together with this growing community, we’re making progress.

I want to invite you to follow what we’re doing on any of the sites below where you can see the work we do, because I have to say it’s a pretty cool and humbling experience that I get to do this for my job.

Linked In
You Tube
• or our website (

I hope you are well and safe. And if you’re not currently volunteering your valuable skills in some way, I encourage you to find something you can support locally and volunteer today. It just takes one to make a difference.


Julie Erkenswick Ross

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