Category Archives: Mission 4636

General news and updates about Mission 4636

Mission4636 at Relief 2.0 in Haiti

I was an invited speaker on behalf on Mission 4636 at the “Relief 2.0 in Haiti” conference and panel sessions at Stanford University:

Haiti emergency response: the power of crowdsourcing and SMS

Conference site

The conference was very positive in its focus. I was especially comforted to see so many smart and dedicated people looking to the future and discussing sustainable architectures for the rebuilding process.

Were you a 4636 volunteer?

Were you a volunteer at Mission 4636? Even if you just helped once for a few hours, you made a big difference!

A lot of us would like to know more about each other! If you would like to share information about yourself you can add a comment to this page, and if you like, a photo too. Feel free to share whatever you like – your name, where you live, how you found Mission 4636, what it meant to you to help, and/or anything else you would like to add.

You can also join us on Facebook at: If you don’t want to share your details but would like to remain updated, you can always email us directly ( – if nothing else, we would simply like the chance to thank you for being a part of Mission 4636.

Successful training in Mirebalais

The first workers were trained on Sunday (14 Feb) to take over the core process of Mission 4636: translating, categorizing and geo-locating the messages. 47 workers were trained in total – they are smart, motivated and were ready to begin immediately.

The workers are part of an NGO called 1000 jobs for Haiti, who had signed a partnership with Samasource just minutes prior to the earthquake. We are very happy that Mission 4636 is able to start providing jobs for people within Haiti, especially because they are needed now more than ever.

Lukas, Martial (director of FATEM in Mirebalais) and Leila conducting the training session in Mirebalaiss

Lukas, Martial (director of FATEM in Mirebalais) and Leila conducting the training session in Mirebalais

The new center is in the town of Mirebalais, just outside Port-au-Prince, where the workers were trained by Leila Janah of Samasource and Lukas Biewald of CrowdFlower. The program director is Anar Simpson and the local project manager is Frednel Isma, working with Jacky Poteau and Martial Marcellu of FATEM.

A robust permanent internet connection is still being established. From Sunday, 5 workers were able to join the volunteers in the process, and as of today (Feb 20) 15 workers are now able to work at once. When the center has a permanent reliable connection (which will happen very soon) 100 workers will be able work at any one time. This will be a powerful labor force providing a secure income for the workers and their families, while allowing the great work of the whole Mission 4636 effort to continue.

This was part of a long trip for Leila – see her blog entry also: Giving Work – Europe, Haiti, and Beyond, and photos/videos from both Lukas and Leila: Photostream from Haiti.

The heart and soul of 4636

The global locations of the 4636 volunteer translators

The heart and soul of 4636 have been its least visible members: the Kreyol and French-speaking volunteers. They are the hundreds of people from around the world who have joined us online to translate, categorize and geo-locate each message. If you have been helping with the translations, then on average you have delivered the first food and water to a person in Haiti for every message you have translated. Mission 4636 has directed emergency response teams to hundreds of medical emergencies and directed the first food and water to tens of thousands. Every single message has gone through this teams of translators – about 30,000 messages so far.

The Mission 4636 translators have been ahead of the curve on every part of the relief effort. From launch, they were collating maps about aid stations and food distribution centers. For non-emergency texts to 4636 they were using these maps and replying to people individually with directions, acting as the first open dialogues between relief efforts and people directly affected by the disaster. In contact with their social networks in Haiti, they were updating the open source maps of the relief efforts for all aid agencies to exploit and passing all information by text message back to individuals on the ground. When a message came to 4636 that simply asked to tell some overseas relative that the person was alive and well, they forwarded those too.

They were also ahead of the curve in terms of turning this into a sustainability. Is was also their initial idea to transition the service to paid workers in Haiti, allowing a long-term sustainable future for 4636 in Haiti that is creating 100 jobs where they are needed most.

Admiral, alex, aline, Anya_Petrova, Apo, Aramys, AudreyUH, BLR, Brian, Carline, Caroline, Carter, Christina_Xu, Claire, Connie, csik, Dalila, Danya, Douglas, duygu, Emmanuel, fabienne, Fio, Fiona, Fred-Michel, GeekNomad, gerhard, Gina, Girlgeek, Gis, Giscard, gsvaughan, Guerda, GundarK, gwadaboy, GwoNeg, Gwotet, gwyn, Haitianboy, J-R, J_Positivity, Jackie, jazzunionhaiti, Jenn, Jennifer, Jeremy, Jim_mwen, Jimi, Jis, Johanne, JoshNesbit, JYOOP, ka, kaneila, Karina, Karine, Kat, Kenny, Kenold, kouraj, lago, ljonas, Lunecee, M300_Ministrie, marc, marc_uh, maribux, MarjorieJ, Mark, mark_d, Mary_Jane, Meg, Mel, Midy, mik, mnm, Montreal, mrJ, myrka, Nan, Nancy, nick, Nita, Paquette, patbam, Patricia, pheelin_eerie, pouchon, Prez, pyrl, RalphArnoux, RAM, Raymond, Rebecca, regine, rescuemehaiti, RJJ, RN4Life, Robens, Robert_Montgom, Robert_Munro, Robs, ron, Ronald, ronny, Rose, S_Michel, sandra, sara, Sarah, SarahU.H, Sarah_B, Sebastien, smile, sophiap, stephan, Stuart_Moffatt, Stephane, Susana, SuzetteNo1, sxpert, sxwork, Ti_Zwazo, TiWosignol, Tom, UNIONHAITI, yami, Yamille

Some of names of the volunteers, taken from the volunteer chat

They are the only irreplaceable step in the 4636 process. Every technology that was vital to the 4636 effort existed a decade ago – the text messages are read into a feed, plotted on map, and streamed back to responders on the ground. The volunteers collaborate in a simple chat room. The media might be reporting that 4636 is triumph of technology, but it has really been a triumph of people. The part that didn’t exist a decade ago was the belief of the volunteers that they could come together online and not doubt that collectively they were making a real-time difference on the ground.

One month on and we are still the only such emergency reporting service available to every Haitian. The maps alone are the most trusted source of information for many agencies. This means that a dedicated group of Haitian diaspora with cellphones were able to create richer geolocated intelligence than the many of efforts of the Red Cross, the UN and joint military response (this is not a competition, of course – these groups all take advantage of these maps and are the ones who inform us of their accuracy). The reason for this is that the volunteers bring vital local knowledge to interpreting the text messages – turning Kreyol into English and even the nicknames of suburbs into precise coordinates. A typical slice of the volunteer chat-room:

Dalila: I need Thomassin Apo please
Apo: Kenscoff Route: Lat: 18.495746829274168, Long:-72.31849193572998
Apo: This Area after Petion-Ville and Pelerin 5 is not on Google Map. We have no streets name
Apo: I know this place like my pocket
Dalila: thank God u was here

And then this from the responders:

“just got emergency SMS, child delivery, USCG are acting, and the GPS coordinates of the location we got from the translators were 100% accurate!”

It has taken much courage from the volunteers to decide to step in and become part of the emergency response. We might never even know your name, but we owe you all our thanks for the success of 4636.

Some positive feedback

Clark Craig of the Marine Corps: “I cannot overemphasize to you what the work of the Ushahidi/Haiti has provided. It is saving lives every day. I wish I had time to document to you every example, but there are too many and our operation is moving too fast. […] I say with confidence that there are 100s of these kinds of [success] stories. The Marine Corps is using your project every second of the day to get aid and assistance to the people that need it most. […] Keep up the good work! You are making the biggest difference of anything I have seen out there in the open source world.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “The technology community has set up interactive maps to help us identify needs and target resources. And on Monday, a seven-year-old girl and two women were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed supermarket by an American search-and-rescue team after they sent a text message calling for help.” (Clinton did not specifically refer to 4636 but we were the only such service)

Lieutenant General Blum, 2nd in command at NORTHCOM: “You are doing a remarkable job. We all need to learn from you.” LtGen Blum changed his schedule to personally visit the Ushahidi-Haiti Situation Room at Tufts University. He gave “Awarded for Excellence” coins to all present.

Craig Fulgate, FEMA Task Force: “[The] Crisis Map of Haiti represents the most comprehensive and up-to-date map available to the humanitarian community.”

[Name not public], FEMA Task Force: “No matter what anyone else tells you, don’t stop mapping, you are saving lives.” (Conference call to Ushahidi).

Daniel Friedman, Office of Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization, US State Department: “Just wanted to thank you guys and let you know I’ve found your mapping to be really helpful to what I’m trying to do here.”

[Name not public], Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, (OFDA) at USAID: “Your work has not only been a) inspiring, but also b) incredibly helpful to so many in this relief effort. Incredibly grateful for all you do.”

The 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit: “We had data on an area outside of Grand Goave needing help. Today, we sent an assessment team out there to validate their needs and everything checked out. While the team was out there, they found two old women and a young girl with serious injuries from the earthquake; one of the women had critical respiratory issues. They were evacuated.”

The 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit: “Based off some information that we received from Ushahidi, we inserted the recon platoon this morning to check out a remote village that was listed in some of the blogs. We are now in the process of medevacing two local nationals who would not have received medical treatment in time for life or limb had we not found them.”

Roz Sewell, of Mission 4636: “We also know that two days ago the World Food Program delivered food to an informal camp of 2500 people, having yet to receive food or water, in Diquini to a location that Ushahidi had identified for them.” Roz herself wrote this blog post on one of her success stories.