Something that matters

I’ve been working on Room for Refugees for the last month or so, donating my time to a Glasgow based charity, Positive Action in Housing. I’ve helped them automate processes around their decade-old refugee hosting scheme, and in the month we’ve seen growth from under one hundred registered hosts, to (as of this morning) two thousand. When you donate your time to something you care about, and something that matters, you can make amazing things happen.

As I wrote in my last post, I wanted to help the people offering to host refugees in their own home to have a chance to do that, safely. It seemed like there was a great, but fleeting, opportunity while people were talking about the crisis to do something meaningful. To get something up quickly, I put up a simple Google Form and embedded it in the PAIH website, and we spread the word in a few groups on Facebook, and via the charity’s mailing list.

My form went up in the early hours of Friday morning, and we started to watch some incredibly generous people pledge to share their home with refugees in dire need of help. Ten before ten o'clock, fifty by lunchtime, every few minutes another person was filling in our detailed form. By the end of the day, 260 people had registered, and I felt bowled over. Each morning, it started again with registrations coming in every five minutes on average, until late in the evening. I found it difficult to tear my eyes away from the results as they rolled in; a spreadsheet has never been so fascinating!

We had some issues, like the number of hits taking the website over the charity’s bandwidth limit, and some issues with users finding the Google Form interface confusing, but overall it felt very successful. I learnt a lot (that I already ‘knew’ in a theoretical sense) about the amount you can achieve when working on both something that matters, and something which people want.

I really recommend doing this kind of thing for a cause you’re interested in - I’d not even written a line of code, yet I felt like what I’d done had been more meaningful than any of my best professional work to date.