Disaster relief can be a confusing, costly and time-consuming matter. If you're in the middle of the disaster, communications break down, rumors spread misinformation fast, and everyone is in a collective state of shock. If you're outside the disaster, it's difficult to decide exactly how to help: so many charities to sift through, so few other ways to offer anything tangible.
Sparkrelief is trying to change things. Currently under development, this website aims to be your one-stop disaster shop. Once it's fully up and running, Sparkrelief will provide a real-time information stream for people both in and outside of a crisis, coupled with the capacity to enable good Samaritans to provide disaster assistance in several ways, with things like relief goods, food, money, and housing.
The crisis in Japan has provided an excellent opportunity to test this service, as Sparkrelief announces that the housing option is now up-and-running. With half a million people displaced by the events since the Tōhoku earthquake struck on March 11, an app like this is most welcome. At the time of writing, there are 120 places available, several of which are able to accommodate up to 10 people.
Certainly, it won't put a dent in the overall crisis at this early stage of Sparkrelief's development, but it will make a difference to some people. And every person out of a shelter is one little bit less of a strain on the NGOs and public services that are being stretched to the utmost at the moment.
For a project that only started development in November, Sparkrelief deserves kudos simply for trying. Any effort to deal with something of this magnitude does: