Ffynone House School is the first school in Wales and only the second in the UK to receive training by The Missing Maps project. Our ‘Missing Maps Mentor’, Alisha Hemani (pictured above with brother Mohammed and sister Malika), explains what the project is all about:
Who runs the Missing Maps project?
Missing Maps is a project run in part by the renowned charity Medicine Sans Frontiers. MSF is also known as ‘doctors without borders.’ It is a non-profit organisation of French origin, best known for its projects in conflict zones and in countries affected by endemic diseases. MSF are normally the first to bring aid and reach the people suffering most in the world.
What is it?
Many people think that the whole world has been mapped out, however this is not true! We have satellite images of everything, but there are vast areas of land that are not mapped at all. We take our ‘sat navs’ and Google Maps for granted and yet there are whole towns and villages in the world who do not even appear on a basic map.
The purpose of the Missing Maps Project is to create maps for places that need them the most. When a poor country has lots of conflict going on and many people are injured, doctors and paramedics need to get to those in need quickly and take them to local hospitals. However, this is not an easy task when there are no maps to follow to get to these places or any indication of the size or nature of the affected settlements.
How does it work?
Missing Maps uses a software called ‘Open Street Map,’ this is accessible to everyone. You will be given a place in crisis that needs maps urgently and you can then look at
satellite images and mark out any building, rivers, roads etc. Validators will then check if you have marked things correctly. After that, field researchers will go out to these countries and finalise your maps. These maps will then be ready if any disaster strikes.
Missing Maps helps to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world. If anything were to happen there, people could be reached and rescued very quickly with the appropriate mapping.
How did I find out about it?
I first came across Missing Maps when I was looking for something to do for my D of E volunteering. I knew I wanted to volunteer for something that could make a direct impact and help people’s lives.
It’s so rewarding to know that the maps that I have made at home can be used by doctors and volunteers to reach injured and vulnerable individuals around the world. I can sit at my computer and help to save a life; that is very powerful.
Working on Missing Maps has also expanded my world view significantly. Whenever you open a new mapping project, you can read about the issues in that particular area and why it’s so important to have reliable mapping there. As we are all so privileged, I feel it is important to help others who are suffering.
Missing Maps is a project that young people can definitely get involved in. You don’t have to go anywhere, all it takes is turning on your laptop or phone and marking out a couple of buildings. With the help of my mum, I organised for Nilay Akkurt from MSF to come to school and give a workshop to some of my peers. Now they are spreading the message about the power of Missing Maps to their year groups and we have a lunchtime once a week in the ICT lab dedicated to the project.
Missing Maps even has a little app that you can use on your phone so it’s super-convenient. Just ten minutes a week can make a difference! Even my headteacher has registered and mapped seventy houses over the weekend! It is unarguably an instance of technology being used to make the world a better place and I find that truly inspiring.