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News || Tuesday, 07 June 2011

World Vision and Souktel Launch Mobile Psychosocial Support Service for Children and Families

In conflict zones, it's important for families to stay connected to aid resources and community information--without putting themselves at risk. And when a simple act like walking out the door to buy milk becomes potentially dangerous, communicating via text-message offers a safe, effective solution.
 
Case in point: World Vision's year-long project, Atfaluna Amaluna (Arabic for “Our Children, Our Hope”), which wrapped up last month in Gaza. Its goal was to provide youth in this region--specifically those who show signs of psychological and social distress that are not uncommon in volatile Gaza--with psychosocial support.  Through life skills education, academic tutoring, field trips, and after-school activities in safe spaces (like refurbished community centers), World Vision gave local youth the skills and resources needed for daily life in a tough, often violent region.
 
To make sure that news about these activities reached families safely, World Vision approached Souktel to develop an SMS alert service for the project. Souktel was happy to help, creating customized software that let World Vision and 10 local partner NGOs create and manage large scale text message campaigns.
 
The results have been impressive: Over the past year, close to 7,500 SMS event alerts were sent through the platform, keeping families updated about field trips and support services for their children--while helping them stay out of harm’s way.  "This service has really helped us ensure that families across Gaza could get information about our programs quickly and directly, without putting themselves at risk," said Siobhan Kimmerle, World Vision's Program Director for Gaza.
 
Even though the project is winding up, the alerts continue to reach households across the Gaza Strip. To help the service take root in local communities, Souktel’s outreach team made two visits to Gaza, where they trained World Vision staff and local community leaders on SMS campaigning: How to create effective text message announcements, how to upload and group thousands of families’ mobile numbers in a database, and how to analyze campaign results. With local organizations trained to run the system themselves, the technology can now be used well into the future.
 
"We’re honored to partner with World Vision in Gaza," explained Souktel co-founder Jacob Korenblum. “During the 2009 conflict in the region, Souktel worked hard to provide emergency SMS services to support the Red Cross and UN: We sent thousands of alerts letting families know where they could find food or medical  aid. It means a lot to us to continue supporting these types of projects, and we hope to do so well into the future”.
 
Read more about World Vision here: www.worldvision.org