World Humanitarian Day: RapidFTR, Digital Do-Gooders



Haiti’s earthquake, the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Uganda’s ongoing unrest; emerging from these traumatic events in our generation are millions of separated families with limited hope of reuniting.

Amidst turmoil and few resources, finding loved ones may seem futile, but for Jorge Just, a student in a class called “Design for UNICEF,” at New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts, it was a challenge he wanted to solve.

Jorge realized the key to the issue lied in simplifying archaic systems that depend on picture walls and endless paperwork that was manually entered into large databases. And so, Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification app, or RapidFTR, was born.

In an article for The New York Times, Jorge explains “a child might be on one side of a refugee camp, and their parents might be on the other side, but for all intents and purposes, they might as well be on different continents,” he said. “Even small distances in those situations can feel insurmountable.”

How does it work?

RapidFTR’s has the capability to photograph, record and share information about lost children cutting the time it takes to reunite a family to only a few hours.  A critical component of RapidFTR’s mission was to make the technology simple and easy to adopt.

Designed to function on devices that are widely used, such as BlackBerry, RapidFTR  has the ability to add a child to the database with limited information.  In distressed situations, children cannot remember their name, address or parents’ information, but a photograph begins the process. The app can function with and without a wireless connection with the ability sync to a server later.

RapidFTR is being deployed in South Sudan and has already been used at the Nyakabade Transit Center and the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement camp in Uganda, where children from Democratic Republic of Congo often arrive after fleeing attacks by rebel groups. Mr. Just said that he was aware of at least 70 children who have been reunited with their families through the app so far.

Who keeps it going?

More than 100 ThoughtWorks employees, either volunteering on their own time, working as members of dedicated pro-bono teams, or picking up a day or two of work between projects through the company’s Social Impact Program dedicate their efforts to make RapidFTR a staple for NGO’s abroad.

What can you do to help?

RapidFTR is an open source project. If you think you can help, you can help.

They are in particular need of:

+ Developers with experience in Ruby On Rails, Blackberry or Android
+ User testers with NGO field experience
+ Sponsors

In honor of World Humanitarian Day, we invite you to share organizations, entrepreneurs or friends that inspire, challenge and convict you to do a little bit of good every day. 

@Jackiedava is also a blogger on all things social and digital at

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