Online volunteer Pat Redmond, an Australian freelance web developer, helped the UNHCR Regional Support Hub (RSH) in Nairobi develop a Regional Shelter Portal. The web-based portal serves as one stop shop for technical information about shelter projects in East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, enhancing the development of contextually responsive solutions that provide for the needs of displaced persons.
Pat’s initial commitment to provide advice to the UNHCR RSH on specific technical problems that arose during the development of the open source based portal quickly turned into an intensive longer term engagement: “Pat Redmond worked tirelessly for over 3 months, constantly adding suggestions and extensive improvements that were beyond the project brief and ultimately resulted in a tremendous effort from him”, says shelter expert Elizabeth Palmer. “In addition, the level of detail and quality of operation of the site are far more advanced than would have been possible without his input. There are technical capabilities that are now possible as a result of this input and the potential for expansion is also much greater due to his advice.”
The father of a family estimates that he worked between 250 and 300 hours on the project, providing technical support, setting up servers, installing software, implementing features on the site. On top, Pat agreed to extend his assistance to the RSH intranet, which he developed alongside.
Pat also spent many hours skyping with his counterparts in Nairobi “I have had the opportunity to be a mentor. I believe the skills we have shared during this time will have an ongoing benefit.“ Elizabeth is convinced: “The projects’ success would not have been possible without him.”
Pat, who believes that there is a great need to increase the effectiveness of responses to refugee events, hopes to continue to be involved so that he can see these websites reach their full potential.
“I have volunteered for many local projects in the past, however this experience has been unique because of the time zones and the international nature of volunteering (over the Internet) in another country. I have learnt more about Africa and refugees than I have ever thought I would, and my family has been involved in this learning too.”