Author’s Note: Reporting from the U.S. Imagine Cup finals in April we asked- are social entrepreneurs the new heroes? The response was overwhelmingly positive so we thought we’d share some more stories of the students preparing for the Imagine Cup worldwide finals in New York this July.
Today is World Refugee Day-a day where we recognize the current reality of more than 43 million people displaced by war, conflict, and human rights abuse. Earlier today we heard from the UNHCR on their global efforts helping more than 36 million refugees worldwide.
This challenge has inspired a number of Imagine Cup contestants this year including Team Hawk from the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUI-S), winners of the Iraq Imagine Cup competition. The team consists of Choman Jalal, Kosar Osman and Enji Issa with Dr. David Cook acting as the team mentor.
We had the pleasure to hear from Choman Jalal who told us an inspiring story of how Team Hawk came up with their award winning concept to help refugees:
The Imagine Cup competition challenges students to use technology to address the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, so what specifically directed your focus on helping refugees?
Close to the AUI-S campus there is a refugee camp called Qawala. University faculty and students have been helping the refugees there in a number of ways for some time. There are various fund raising activities and donations going on throughout the year for these displaced people. These activities do not involve technologies but rather activities such as clothes collections, fund raising events and classes and entertainment organized and run by the students for the refugee children. We wondered what could we do with technology that would really help.
How did you decide on where to focus your efforts?
The concept came from talking through ideas with Dr. David Cook who is a faculty member and became the team mentor. For several years before he came to Iraq he had worked in Namibia and helped with charitable work through the Rotary Club. He shared a story about someone he had met in Zimbabwe. Many years ago he had taught a Nun who had asked for help. She was desperate to help refugees in the North of Zimbabwe to register for aid quickly so that food and medical supplies would be allowed to reach them. Her request was for a Landover equipped with a generator to drive a computer which she wanted to use to get registration details to the government agencies quickly. In those days mobile phones were not very well developed and almost unheard of in the under developed areas of the world. That story inspired us. We believed we could do much better with modern technologies.
Can you tell us about your project?
We decided to develop a mobile phone based application which would help refugees register for aid quickly and efficiently. The idea works as an application for a Windows phone which is connected via wireless 3G to the internet where the data is stored for interpretation and access by those who need it. This will provide a mobile means for NGO’s to enter data relevant to the welfare and educational needs of refugees. In addition, this project will automate registration and hence speed up access to welfare for refugees.
So, what is next?
The excitement is building as we prepare to showcase Iraqi student achievements in July at the Imagine Cup world finals in New York City., to the world. Will we win? Of course!
Team Hawk is, like many of the finalists for this year Imagine Cup, a great example of the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Now here is where you come in! These students along with the other 123 teams heading to the Worldwide Finals in New York City, have worked hard to develop concepts that will hopefully make change for the future of the world as we know it, and you have the opportunity to VOTE for your favorite. That’s right, the Imagine Cup People’s Choice Award is open for you to vote on your favorite project. Who has your vote??
p.s. The People’s Choice Award winning team will receive a prize of USD $10,000. The prize will be awarded onsite at the Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals in New York City on July 13, 2011, so VOTE VOTE VOTE!