Imagine you’re a refugee. Imagine escaping a war-torn country and - after a long process - finding yourself in the United States to start anew. You have nothing and right off the bat you’re in debt to the government for your family's plane tickets. You need money. You need a bed. You need to put food on the table and a table to put it on...

What it does

...That’s where Ellis comes in. Ellis is here to connect you and your needs with people who are ready to help. People who have been there, people who share a culture or a language, or people who just want to volunteer.

How we built it

We began by admitting that we could not possibly imagine all of the unique challenges and needs of every immigrant and refugee. Instead, we wanted to create a platform where those in need can make requests, in a language they're comfortable with, for the things they require. We also believe that there are kind-hearted people who want to help. We also recognized that sometimes these two communities, those with immediate needs and those with the ability to help, may not speak the same language, and so we built our application to support multiple translations and even emoji support to break down language barriers.

Challenges we ran into

The issues faced by recent immigrants, refugees, and others when moving to a new country are vast. We spent a lot of time considering the sorts of problems that an individual or family might encounter, and how we could leverage our own skills in building something to help. On a more technical level, it was a challenge to quickly plan, organize, and delegate the many features that we wanted to add to Ellis in such a short period of time.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of having dedicated time and energy to building an app that:

  • Contributes to building communities across language barriers by supporting multiple languages and modes of communication (i.e., emoji!)
  • Assists individuals who share a common language in finding one another and growing an online and potentially offline community of mutual support
  • Offer individuals the first step towards Employment: jobs and gigs offered can be integral to building a useful resume.
  • Allows those willing to help to track their efforts and feel satisfaction in helping others, as well as grow cultural literacy while simultaneously joining a growing community within our app.

What we learned

Through trying to find ways to connect with people who don't speak the same language we feel as if we saw into a window of what that challenge is like.

What's next for Ellis?

  • Supporting in-app communication between users to protect identities until they are comfortable exchanging information.
  • Facilitate positive and efficient fulfillment of user needs when there is a language barrier present
  • Grow the user base and become an online community hub.
  • Identify recurring needs and work with relevant NGOs, as well as local and federal institutions, to leverage data in ways that might lead to systematically targetting common challenges in foreign-born communities.
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