Intel Interns Virtually Volunteer During Missing Maps ‘Mapathon’

Story by Julia Green / American Red Cross Cascades Region

American Red Cross volunteer assisting with damage assessments in September 2020 after Hurricane Laura. Photo from American Red Cross.

Millions of people across the country have been affected by a natural disasters this year.

Along with the pandemic and social unrest, the United States has been hit hard in 2020 by hurricanes, monsoon flooding, and raging wildfires. 

From its inception, one of the main functions of the Red Cross has been to help people in times of crisis by assisting in disaster relief on the individual, family, and community levels.

This process commonly includes setting up temporary shelters and providing meals and additional support for those displaced from their homes. 

In the U.S., disaster relief requires thorough, but quick, planning, preparation, and logistical organization. However, if a disaster occurs in areas of the world where resources like roads, bridges and facilities are missing from that area’s map, it suddenly becomes much more difficult to carry out disaster relief operations.

There are many parts of the world that have incomplete maps, and they are often in communities most vulnerable to natural disasters, conflicts, and disease epidemics. 

September 19, 2020. Gates, Oregon. American Red Cross volunteers Sean and Kristen Flanagan speak with Virginia, in front of the home where she lived that burned down in the Oregon wildfires, in Gates, OR on Saturday September 19, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Missing Maps is one way that the Red Cross is working to combat this inequity in disaster relief across the globe. Founded in 2014 by 4 NGO’s (the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and Medecins Sans Frontieres), Missing Maps is a humanitarian project that strives to put “vulnerable populations on the map.” 

According to its website, “each year, disasters around the world kill nearly 100,000 and affect or displace 200 million people. Many of the places where these disasters occur are literally ‘missing’ from any map and first responders lack the information to make valuable decisions regarding relief efforts. Missing Maps is an open, collaborative project in which you can help to map areas where humanitarian organisations are trying to meet the needs of vulnerable people.”

One way that the Red Cross contributes to the work of Missing Maps is to organize “mapathons” with their local partners.

Most recently, Wes Breazeale, a Regional Philanthropy Officer for the Red Cross Cascades Region, organized a mapathon with Intel’s summer intern group. 

Mapathons are opportunities for partner companies to encourage employee engagement, increase employee satisfaction, and help a good cause at the same time.

Wes describes Missing Maps mapathons as “mutually beneficial” events for both the partner and the Red Cross — and of course those who ultimately benefit from having their area “put on the map!”

Intel has been a historically generous partner of the Red Cross, and has long supported the Missing Maps concept. In a continuation of their partnership, the Red Cross earned $10 from the Intel Foundation for every hour volunteered by Intel interns during the mapathon through the Intel Involved Volunteer Matching Program.

During the virtual event, Wes presented a quick history of the Red Cross and Missing Maps, explained the mapping process, and answered any questions as the Intel interns began their mapping. 

Mapathons are collaborative, and each participant receives a unique map grid square to work on. In order to complete the mapping, volunteers use satellite imagery to mark buildings and relevant landmarks. The Missing Maps team validates the mapping with local community members in order to ensure that the maps match what the communities actually look like. 

Overall, 125 Intel interns virtually participated in this event all across the country. Blake Horner, the Oregon Community Engagement Manager at Intel, helped coordinate the event with Wes.

The mapathon was an effective volunteer opportunity during this time of virtual employment because all the interns needed to participate was wifi and a computer. 

“Missing Maps has been this savior in virtual volunteering,” said Blake. “It’s great to still maintain our relationship with the Red Cross virtually and safely during this time.” 

According to Horner, the interns enjoyed the event, and Intel plans to coordinate another mapathon event this fall with employees all across the country. 

Learn more about Missing Maps and how to get involved by visiting missingmaps.org or contact your local Red Cross chapter for opportunities in your community.

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