New Brunswick

Tech-savvy Samaritans create web tool for co-ordinating help for poor

A group of tech-savvy Fredericton volunteers has created a web tool to help faith-based communities co-ordinate their good deeds.

Caring calendar helps charitable organizations share information about efforts

Civic Tech Fredericton is a group of volunteers who've created a calendar that helps different faith-based and charitable organizations co-ordinate their efforts to help homeless people. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

A group of tech-savvy Fredericton volunteers has created a web tool to help faith-based communities co-ordinate their good deeds.

The Caring Calendar tool is available to churches, mosques and synagogues in the area, a place where they can tell each other what they're doing to help and perhaps share resources. 

The idea came out of the mayor's task force on homelessness, and a group called Civic Tech took up the torch, said organizer Sandi MacKinnon.

"We mapped out all the services that our faith-based community provides to people in the circumstance of poverty in our city, and it was amazing the amount of work they do," she told Information Morning Fredericton. "We realized on that day that our community could really benefit from some kind of a coordination tool."

MacKinnon said the calendar could also be used as a reference tool to point people in need of food, showers or tax services to the right place, as well as for sharing resources and leftovers.

It was like leave your theology at the door, and how do we help community?- Sandi MacKinnon, Fredericton Civic Tech organizer.

"Our faith-based community will be the lead, but we have a number of other organizations now," she said, naming Greener Village and Downtown Community Health Center as two of the groups that want to include their services.

MacKinnon said the tool is not available to the general public, but she hopes in a year that organizers will be able to make it into an app for everyone to use.

Bringing religions together

MacKinnon said the meeting of minds at the task force gathering "has never happened in our city before."

"It was like leave your theology at the door, and how do we help community?" she said. "It was one of the most inspiring days — brought tears to my eyes. It was beautiful and every single organization that reported on the services they provide said we could do more."

Civic Tech's role

Civic Tech is a national movement where programmers, data scientists and IT professionals volunteer to find solutions for non-profit organizations.

MacKinnon said Civic Tech Fredericton is the only one in Atlantic Canada.

"Last week we had 28 civic tech people all hacking out solutions and working on different projects," she said. "They have many skills from being developers to [user experience] experts, designers, data scientists, geospatial."

She said the project is funded by the City of Fredericton and has resources from local corporations. The group has attracted people from all over the globe.

"We have so many new Canadians who who come to Civic Tech," MacKinnon said. "Last week we had representatives from Brazil, Greece, Vietnam, Spain, from all over, Tanzania."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton


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