It was mid-September, when I received news of the devastating hurricanes, Irma and Maria, which had hit Saint Lucia’s sister islands, and destroyed the life of almost all my fellow Caribbean islanders, leaving them homeless… and some even hopeless.
However, early in December, a light of hope was sparked, within me, and within my brothers and sisters when the Ocean Generation emailed the Ministry of Education in Saint Lucia, requesting a team of Saint Lucian programmers, innovators and scientists who could participate in the Dadlihack Hackathon being held in Antigua. A few days later, I received a call to be a member of Team Saint Lucia and come up with a digital solution to help provide post- hurricane relief. Without a second thought, I accepted the offer and we formed a team consisting of 3 A-Level students and one Software Engineer. We formed Team Saint Lucia #758.
Upon arrival to ABIIT, in Antigua, where the Dadlihack event took place, we were warmly greeted by the Ocean Generation, the UN and all the organisers of the event. As soon as the opening ceremony commenced, I could feel the enthusiasm of every single person in the room, who came from varying backgrounds from all the way from London, to right here in ABIIT. But they all came for one goal. The goal to support humanity. The goal to hack into hurricanes.
After almost two days of designing, erasing, re-designing and delicious donuts, we finally came up with the concept for our app called “Neticane”. Our app would help solve communication problems in Caribbean islands by allowing members of a community become aware of the damages done around their community so that they could provide help, especially when emergency services are down. And all this can be done without our good old friend: Wi-Fi.
Soon, it was time to pitch our idea to the judges. Nerves were tense, butterflies were awakening, and palms were cold and sweaty, but we were ready to present. After a series of inspirational presentations, it was finally time for us to present. In 3 minutes (which honestly felt like 3 seconds!) we presented our app. Then in the question and answer segment, one judge asked us “You are a group of A-Level students, when would you get the time to develop Neticane?” At first, I could not calculate how much time I would spend. But then I realized that this was no question which required scientific evidence or calculations. It was a question of whether we would help humanity survive. So, for a brief moment I erased all the code and numbers and calculations in my head and I answered using my heart. I said, “Every citizen of the Caribbean has a responsibility to provide post-hurricane relief whether they were affected or not, whether they are male or female, whether they are Antiguan or Saint Lucian and whether they are students or experienced engineers. Thus, we as 18-year-old Saint Lucian students, have the responsibility of helping our brothers and sisters in any way that we can”. As soon as I said this, I saw hope awaken in our audience and judges and I knew that it was then that we achieved our goal.
The presentations were finally over, and it was time to announce the winner. After a new phase of butterflies in our stomachs, the winner was finally announced. Team Mack360 from Barbados emerged victorious! They were truly fantastic, and I was so glad to see their hard work pay off. However, even though there was one winner, we all were winners in truth. This was because we all realized that our Caribbean islands needed saving and that we, as a global community, could do something to help.
A few hours later, we took our flight back to Saint Lucia. I remembered my flight from Saint Lucia, over the Caribbean Sea, and all I thought of was the devastation that happened in the Caribbean. But on my way back to Saint Lucia, all I could think of was the 15 inspirational teams who could help the Caribbean move forward… who were the light of hope… who could help the Caribbean hack into hurricanes.
P.S. Did I mention the donuts at ABIIT were delicious?
Reshul Narhari | OG