October 1, 2022


Your Partner in the Digital Era

Harvard online whiz, 19, produces site connecting Ukrainian refugees with hosts

The teenage world wide web activist who constructed a web page to retain the globe up-to-date on the distribute of the Covid pandemic has just introduced a new internet site connecting Ukrainian refugees with hosts in close by nations around the world.

Soon after attending a protest in support of Ukraine subsequent its invasion by Russia on February 24, Avi Schiffmann, 19, decided he had to do a little something to support the now above a million refugees pouring out of Ukraine.

With guidance from his Harvard College classmate Marco Burstein and other volunteers who lent their laptop and translating competencies, Schiffmann released UkraineTakeShelter.com on March 3. The secure web page matches Ukrainian refugees trying to find a area to continue to be with hosts giving to get them in.

“I found that what was out there to help the refugees to come across sanctuary was just also clunky and sluggish. It was stuff like filling out sorts on federal government web sites and waiting for a reaction,” Schiffmann advised The Moments of Israel in an interview from San Diego.

“There experienced to be anything quite streamlined and intuitive to use. Refugees are quite pressured, confused and misplaced. There needed to be a little something that lower as a result of the litter,” Schiffmann explained.

UkraineTakeShelter.com is aimed generally at getting hosts for refugees in the countries straight away bordering Ukraine’s western border: Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Slovakia.

Ukrainian refugees are seen at a non permanent shelter at the border crossing in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, on February 27, 2022. (Peter Lazar/AFP)

On the other hand, everyone around the world can access the web page and present refugees a put to keep. The European Union has declared a program enabling Ukrainian refugees to dwell and perform in the EU for 3 decades. Canada, property to the 2nd-major Ukrainian diaspora exterior Russia, has produced a Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Crisis Journey that would make it possible for an limitless amount of Ukrainians to enter Canada and stay for up to two a long time.

Refugees can simply go to UkraineTakeShelter.com on their mobile cellular phone or notebook personal computer and enter in the nearest metropolis to which they are found. A record of close by hosts will appear. The hosts can be contacted at the Telegram sign, WhatsApp selection, or web-site they have presented on their listing.

Sample host putting up on mobile version of UkraineTakeShelter.com. (Screenshot)

Refugees do not build accounts on the website, but hosts should do so in get to be capable to input information and facts, make any updates, or incorporate a new submitting. Hosts may possibly pause or unpause a listing, and they are asked to mark listings as crammed so that the facts on the web-site is saved current.

“A host can be a spouse and children of two or a college with place for 50 in a dorm setting up. Help businesses can also post on the web page,” Schiffmann mentioned.

The website incorporates optional filters so that each hosts and refugees can designate unique information about the accommodation staying supplied or sought. These incorporate childcare guidance, transportation, amount of people today, language, authorized or first-help guidance, and regardless of whether pets are welcome. There is place for hosts to insert further reviews or descriptions.

“We are going to be incorporating filters for religious choice, and for gender choice. These types are essential for issues of comfort and safety,” Schiffmann mentioned.

Buyers also can report listings that they believe are inappropriate or harmful.

Sample search page of cell model of UkraineTakeShelter.com. (Screenshot)

At present, the site is available in English, and in Ukrainian and Polish indigenous translations, meaning that the site appears quickly in these languages. Within just the subsequent 24 hrs, the internet site will be translated into other languages, these as German, Romanian, Slovakian, Russian, and French. Schiffmann would welcome volunteer aid for translations into other languages, like Hebrew and Arabic.

Neither refugees nor hosts deliver their actual locations for protection explanations. Refugees and hosts also do not link straight by way of UkraineTakeShelter.com to ensure everyone’s security.

“That way there is no document of discussions involving refugees and hosts on the internet site in scenario it is hacked,” Shiffmann described.

He asserted, however, that point out-of-the-artwork protections have been put in position for UkraineTakeShelter.com, and that the site has been vetted by cybersecurity professionals. Techniques have been taken towards a dispersed denial-of-services (DDoS) assault, and anti-website scraping technological innovation has been utilized, among other safety measures.

“I was concerned principally about the Russians hacking the web site. They have been carrying out a whole lot of cyberattacks all through this war,” Schiffmann stated.

He has strategies to expand this new internet site, turning it into a centralized system for a range of resources for the refugees by including facts like which nations are having in refugees, and how to utilize for visas and asylum.

19-calendar year-previous net activist Avi Shiffmann’s new internet site UkraineTakeShelter.com helps Ukrainian refugees find hosts in other international locations. (Courtesy)

UkraineTakeShelter.com is just a further illustration of the young technologies maven’s push to do great. Following developing his COVID tracking web page (for which he won a Webby Award), he launched 2020protests.com, a web-site with centralized details on Black Life Issue protests around the United States. Also in 2020, he established WhoTo.Vote, a website to combat disinformation and introduce the main issues involved in the 2020 US election in an impartial and user-helpful way.

A passionate autodidact, Schiffmann feels additional comfortable undertaking his individual matter than sitting in a classroom. He completed his initially semester at Harvard very last tumble, and is now using a go away of absence to go after different technologies tasks. He’s touring all over the US and Europe, staying in “hacker houses” and including to his previously substantial community of mentors, colleagues and collaborators.

Avi Schiffmann (still left) and Marco Burstein at Harvard, 2021. (Courtesy)

A budding entrepreneur and leader, Schiffmann recognizes that he could not get his projects off the ground so immediately (he slept only about five hrs this 7 days to get UkraineTakeShelter.com up and working) with out relying on the assistance of others, together with his good friend Burstein, a gifted coder.

Schiffmann is focusing his awareness mainly on Net3 and Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technological know-how. He presently has an internship looking into consumer experience of patients in BCI trials at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Typical Medical center.

“I am concentrating 100% on what I want to be carrying out suitable now,” Schiffmann stated.

The 19-yr-aged has big strategies for launching major corporations and platforms. He wishes to be “an inspiring individual and a superior chief.” He sees massive opportunities for superior factors to come from technologies getting designed nowadays. He’s learning ethics so that he can be section of the energy to make absolutely sure that technology’s leap forward is done in the ideal way.

Additional right away, Schiffmann observed a way he could make a big difference at this moment in the lives of possibly hundreds of 1000’s of desperate people today.

“It was just a make a difference of utilizing know-how in a useful way to assistance in these awful conditions,” he stated.