By Dr. Simon Deichsel
A few months ago, some folks here at Project A volunteered to get together on their own time to try to come up with ideas on how to help the ever growing number of refugees currently being hosted here in Germany. We started screening already existing projects, contacted other volunteers, and bounced some ideas of our own off of each other.
In the meantime, our group had grown to include a few individuals from outside the company, such as Andreas Müller, Thomas Schindler and others from delodi, Daniel Kollmann, and some nice people from graphscape. Our ideas quickly became more concrete: We decided to help by doing what we do best — building web-based solutions. The general idea was to build an app for matching donations. So we started to build the first alpha version of HiMate. At that point in time, the app was still named “Waslchiraa”, which ,according to a developer who worked on the app, should mean “gift voucher” in Arabic. Unfortunately, many Arab speakers didn’t understand it so the quest for a name continued. Other candidates were “restart”, which was unfortunately already taken by another group, or “GoGoethe”. But to be totally honest, I’m happy we didn’t go with the latter in the end ;).
In October, our attention was drawn to the refugee hackathon which was soon to take place in Berlin. Project A decided to sponsor the event and our group wanted to contribute with what we had been able to achieve up to that point. Uwe Horstmann already gave some insights into his personal as well as into Project A’s motivation for supporting the event. Since the hackathon, we’ve been working on the app on a regular basis. Developers, designers, product managers and people from other fields all did their part without receiving any compensation and we’re happy to already have a working and visually appealing app, which will be continuously improved in the future.
How Does HiMate Work?
HiMate provides a platform for companies, institutions, and event organizers who are willing to provide vouchers for registered refugees. We often refer to it as a sort of “social Groupon for refugees”. The app enables direct help and is supposed to aid refugees by providing them with essential products as well as vouchers for restaurants, cultural activities, and in the future also educational and maybe even job offers. Donators can easily submit their vouchers to the platform and refugees can choose what they need. Simple as that.
Why We Think HiMate Will Help
First of all, most refugees rely heavily on their smartphones as the most important means of communication — so a mobile approach ensures that we reach as many people as possible without being restricted to a specific region. On the other hand, a lot of companies are willing to help but are not quite certain how. Through HiMate, we aim to establish a direct connection between companies and aid organizations on the one side and refugees on the other.
When we started to develop HiMate, we explicitly decided not to build upon the concept of demand lists for a couple of reasons. First, companies will more likely submit what they are willing to offer when they don’t have to screen demand lists and ship their products/goods or vouchers to the respective locations. HiMate is supposed to be as convenient as possible for the donating companies and refugees alike. Second, the app aims not only to provide refugees with the most essential goods but also with vouchers for restaurants, cultural activities, and other things. The latter ones are far easier to manage via the app than they would be using demand lists. We hope that HiMate will complement the concept of demand lists as well as solutions for donating money like www.betterplace.org, www.goFundMe.org, or similar platforms.
HiMate is the first digital and scalable solution for locally relevant donations. Using the app, companies and others have the opportunity to help in a direct and transparent way regardless of the company size and no matter whether it’s on a continuous basis, once, or occasionally. Refugees, on the other hand, benefit from direct and local help. By making local services and cultural activities available, the app aims to foster the integration of refugees, thus aiding them in coping with their difficult situation. HiMate explicitly addresses registered refugees who have already gone through the initial bureaucratic processes and are now trying to start a new life in Germany.
Up to now, HiMate has already collected about one hundred vouchers that will go live in the next weeks step by step. In addition, a good dozen companies have already committed to participating in the program and almost a hundred more are interested.
The long-term goal is for HiMate to move beyond vouchers for the most essential goods and cultural activities by additionally supporting refugees in terms of educational and professional pursuits. Even further, there is no reason why HiMate should not be used in other cases where there are people in need and others willing to help.