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Associated Alumni

Changemaker Anita Naidu is making life easier for immigrants and newcomers

Anita Naidu

Anita Naidu (BScEng'05, MScEng'08) wears many hats: engineer, project manager, filmmaker, human rights advocate and changemaker. Her work has taken her to the Middle East, Africa, India and Europe, and her work with nonprofits "is fuelled by the belief that an NGO's purpose is to no longer be needed; that the quest to produce a fairer, more just society should become the expected norm rather than an out of the box pursuit."

Naidu is part of three-member, Vancouver-based, nonprofit PeaceGeeks, who last spring won Canada's first-ever Google Impact Challenge for its innovative app, Services Advisor, a web-based platform that allows refugees and immigrants direct access to services. PeaceGeeks beat 900 other nonprofits and has already launched the app in Jordan and Turkey, servicing over 600,000 refugees, and will be deploying it in Somalia to more than three million refugees.

The Services Advisor app was created in 2015, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as a way for Syrian refugees living in Jordan to locate the offices of humanitarian service providers. The app is designed to address a common coordination problem in refugee areas, in which essential organizations that provide medicine, food, shelter, and protection, are unable to serve those most in need. The app reveals, with easy functionality, the location of specific offices, and is updated regularly with important information.

"Technology has rendered individuals more powerful than ever," says Naidu. "We put technology and communications tools in the hands of peacebuilders, human rights defenders and humanitarian responders. We connect them with skilled volunteers so they can gain access to relevant technology, tools and training. With these tools, we empower civil society organizations to build safer and more stable societies, cultivate good governance, promote gender equality, respond to humanitarian crisis and share critical knowledge."

The $750,000 Google Impact Challenge prize allows PeaceGeeks to bring its web app to Canada, which welcomes 300,000 newcomers every year.

"It allows newcomers to Canada to play an active role in their own future and well-being. The services advisor technology takes a very overwhelming process and makes it much more digestible."

Back to Alumni News Direct - September 2017