This spotlight is the first in a series profiling the faces of crowdsourcing.
As the news of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake broke, Fred Michel, a graphic designer living in Montreal, followed the international coverage intently. He wanted to find some way he could help. He learned of Mission 4636 and went to work translating emergency SMS messages.
Like the majority of translators, Fred was a Haitian native and his motivation was personal. The personal nature of his volunteerism became exceptionally tragic when he learned that his sister Nathalie, who was working as a Bank Manager in Port au Prince, was buried beneath the rubble. His mother survived the earthquake, but was left to live on the streets homeless, and initially helpless.
Fred translated thousands of devastating messages, working around the clock for two weeks. Robert Munro a lead organizer wrote in an email to Fred, “It is safe to say that there are more than 1,000 people who received the first food or aid because of the information in the messages that you translated and plotted. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
Fred devoted countless hours to extra meticulous instruction that included details of streets, potential navigational issues and colloquial language explainations. As a result, Fred’s work directed responders to dozens of time-critical emergencies, from search and rescue to childbirths.
“I really didn’t want to think about my sister. When I found out about the project I thought it was a really good thing because I could help people, instead of just donating to charity,” Fred said.
In the wake of the earthquake Fred sought a way to provide direct contribution to the relief effort; what he found in Mission 4636 offered a profound connection. For the first time in disaster relief, thousands of off-site volunteers found themselves serving as a necessary bridge between emergency needs and relief agencies.
Samasource workers in Haiti are still responding to messages coming in to the 4636 number.
Fred has moved back to his regular work in Montreal. After several weeks, his mother was able to safely join him. Fred and his wife are expecting their first baby girl later this year.
To read more stories like Fred’s visit the Mission 4636 website.
Special thanks to Robert Munro and the entire Mission 4636 team.