When the Doctors Without Borders club sees a need for something, they spring into action. In years past, that has taken the form of bake sales, a fundraiser for the Yemen health crisis, or club meetings to raise awareness for medical needs throughout the world. This time around, they are participating in a first of its kind project: the Missing Map project. Club members are researching, locating, and mapping out a COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan for a South Sudan region.
When it was time for club leader, Sunny P. ’22, to choose one last assignment for Doctors Without Borders, she searched for something that was new and innovative, but most importantly, something that showed club members how valuable time is.
“I was a virtual student for a few months this year and during that time I found it really difficult to plan events or fundraisers with my club members,” she said. “When I was brainstorming, I realized that all of our past efforts usually revolve around fundraising, and that was a challenge for us this year. So I wanted to find something that didn’t require money at all, but instead required time, which in my opinion is much more valuable.”
Sunny notes that she wanted club members to understand that you don’t have to donate money to feel like you contributed to a cause, instead, she wanted students to understand that giving your time to an issue can make just as much of a difference.
And with that in mind, students began mapping. Using the platform OpenStreetMap, students learned that COVID-19 vaccination distribution in South Sudan was not quite up to speed with surrounding countries.
“There are several countries around the world that are struggling with getting the COVID-19 vaccination out in a fast and efficient way, but we learned that South Sudan is having a particularly difficult time so we decided to map that distribution plan because it was important for us to make a difference as soon as we could.”
By cross referencing Google Earth with OpenStreetMap, students were able to flag and label roads, highways, commercial buildings, residential areas, and waterways so that humanitarian organizations like Doctors Without Borders can easily locate accessible pathways for vaccine distribution.
“OpenStreetMap only shows you a 2D map, so we spent a lot of time researching 3D maps of South Sudan so we could see everything to scale,” Sunny said. “It is definitely challenging and a bit tedious but we were all so motivated because we knew we were making a really big difference.”
Once the club members finished their mapping, they submitted their work to the Doctors Without Borders organization for approval.
“It is so fulfilling to see our work get approved and know that we are helping people get their vaccine,” Sunny said. “Our club members showed up in large numbers, they were engaged, motivated, and happy to help others; I am so proud of us.”