Toilet Paper. Imagine a huge crowd in Costco, rushing and fighting for a pack. As unglamorous as it is, not being able to find toilet paper and hand sanitizers were our inspiration. Being the arrogant millennials we were, we thought we were invincible. It was a fine Saturday morning and our regular drive to Costco was met with crowds fighting over essential supplies. Notifications were pasted everywhere, list of items out of stock, “1) NO TOILET PAPER 2) NO HAND SANITIZERS”. We tried all the mega supermarkets you could think of and there was none. The shelves were empty. Where do we go next?
Neighbors and friends. Going home, all it took was a simple knock on a few doors, a friendly smile, and a great conversation and we found ourselves with some toilet paper and hand sanitizers. If resources were this scarce, what then of those in third world countries? We knew this is a problem we need to solve.
As stated in Matthews 19:19 “Love your neighbor as yourself”, we came up with an idea to help those with surplus supplies meet the needs of those who are in need of them. We created MyNeighbor.
What MyNeighbor Does
MyNeighbor App (means "TetanggaKu" in Bahasa Indonesia) creates a free platform for anyone who is not able to find and in desperate need to request essential items. It will allow a party to freely request resources and another party to donate resources with churches acting as coordinators and mobilizers.
Our mission is simple — we want to reflect God’s Love through generosity by creating a culture of giving. Targeting all third world countries, we will use Indonesia, as our pilot. As God has given His Grace freely to his children.
Let us love our neighbor just as God loves us, freely giving our resources to our brothers and sisters in need.
Who Is MyNeighbor For
MyNeighbor is an app that is targeted towards all third world countries but we bring focus to the Indonesian church members and their neighbors. We chose Indonesia because we realized that in a third-world country as such, people are hindered by less-advanced technology and poor infrastructure. This is evident as to how an average Jakartan spends “10 years of their life in traffic” (Van Mead, The Guardian, 2016) and the Inequality gap in Indonesia continues to widen (Samir, TheJakartaPost, 2019). However, due to a tech revolution thanks to a company called GoJek, now even people with low income have smartphones as they are employed as delivery-men by these companies. They need to get smartphones in order to receive and send delivery requests where, ultimately, leads to decent financial stability for them and their family. Therefore, this is an opportunity to share God's love through smartphone apps to Indonesia's 264 million population (#4 most populous country). With this window of opportunity, through MyNeighbor, we felt the need to help Indonesia to redistribute resources in terms of time, goods, and funds.
Further, in a third world country like Indonesia, the majority of people do not earn enough to have their own savings to be used during emergency times. The COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home policies have caused business activities to suffer. Amongst all, the worst affected people are those who work in the micro-business sector, such as street vendors, online-drivers, and other contract workers (low-income earners), who earn even less income or may completely lose their income — this is a tragic disaster which we aim to alleviate. In Indonesia, the mathematical model predicted that the pandemic would be completely over by June, with its peak in May (Kumparan Video, 30 Mar 2020); those workers still need to feed their families during that time. Knowing such facts, many Indonesians (who are more economically fortunate) have made multiple movements to randomly order food online and generously tell the delivery-men (usually an app-based delivery contractor) to take it home for their families/friends. These actions further validate our idea that MyNeighbor would be beneficial and more on-point to help perform kind acts and reflect God’s Love.
How We Built MyNeighbor
We used agile project management methodology throughout our software development lifecycle. At the beginning of the project, before the hackathon even started, we gathered people and created a WhatsApp group to discuss some common grounds, such as the challenges we will pursue, some assumptions, the needs of Indonesian churches, limitations, etc. We then created a shared Google Drive to store all our documents for requirements gathering. Our first meeting consists of getting to know one another (as it is the culture in Indonesia), a brainstorming session, and planning the tools needed for development and who will take charge of what.
At first, since our team was relatively small, we just communicated through WhatsApp and Slack. We created a separate MyNeighbor Slack Workspace from our Slack Channel in the COVID-19 Workspace to help organize our teams. Down the line, when our team grew, we started incorporating the use of Trello to divide tasks between team members who are located in different countries and timezones. Using Trello, we were able to divide, categorize, and prioritize tasks.
We used different programming languages and tools for our products. For the front end, we used Flutter. As for our Database, we used Firebase as it integrates with Flutter well when using the programming language, Dart. We follow a process where we first created the logic for our functions in Python (a language that we are more familiar with) and translated our code from Python into Dart. We used Git for our version control and a way to be able to collaborate systematically according to the tasks in Trello. We also implemented a quality assurance system where some of us took a role to check the APK and revise as soon as we found an error.
Challenges We Ran Into
We ran into a multitude of examples. Too many to list. The top 2 were Communication and Adaptability.
Communication: Our team comprises different people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, who came from all over the world. We have people from the US, Singapore, Indonesia, and Germany. Further, some of us are young professionals and some of us are students. The different time zones were extremely challenging, what made it worse was that we had different working schedules. We solved this by subdividing people into teams within our team. However, we were careful not to create a form of political hierarchy as we wanted this team to be as flat as possible. Team leads were basically organizers who made sure that everyone knew what had to be done and communication could be conveyed to the core of the team. As such we did our best to make communication and updates as smooth as possible. On the bright side, having such a diverse team, our team was basically working 24/7 because of the differing time zones :D
Adaptability: As all of us are from different walks of life. We learned how to code from different schools, different websites and different people. What was extremely challenging was that each of us always had multiple questions but cannot have them clarified because of the lives we were living. In addition, we grew our team over the 8 days, allowing people who were looking for a team to join us. After all, our goal was simply to grow and have fun. We noticed that growing teams meant increasing communication lines among ourselves. This would make project management more complex. This was when we introduced Trello, to help us with organization. Adapting to these circumstances was definitely challenging. Nevertheless, our team was able to build a form of trust and relied on each other’s work. Questions were usually left in slack channels, and we would trust that they would be answered the next day.
Despite those challenges, we were able to move forward (with God’s help). Just as a wise man once said, “In the midst of DEVASTATION there is an OPPORTUNITY for INNOVATION”.
But above all, I believe this hackathon made our team closer and forged stronger bonds than ever before. We did it guys!
Accomplishments that We're Proud of
The App of course! We made an actual app! In 8 days! We learned so much coding in various languages, learning more from one another. Making friends, learning different cultures!
Amazing. We learned and accomplished more than we thought we would. In specific, however, we were very proud of how smooth the app is. How clean the style of our code actually is.
In the end, we were not just able to build the app. But we were able to get to know each other and develop meaningful friendships along the way.
What We learned
We learned the importance of Listening and Communicating. As a team, we cannot stress how important it is to listen. Yes, we need things done. Yes, we need smart people. Yes, we need hardworking people. However, without the patience to listen, to quiet down and just listen and think carefully, the project would not have been possible because we would have just entangled ourselves and not moved forward in progress!
Feedback gathering. Constructive criticism. Trust Teammates - Our Neighbor.
Coding can and should be used for God's glory and it is our duty as Agents of Renewal to redeem each and every square inch of His creation. #coding4Christ
What's Next for MyNeighbor
We plan on keeping our team intact towards the future. We created a channel in our MyNeighbor Slack Workspace called #future_ideas where we will continue to improve our product. We will continue to fix errors, implement better controls, and think of more ways to serve our neighbors, just as what Jesus taught us.
Moreover, we want to bring more to churches and their members as one body of Christ. Sometimes, we always think of coding and learning these skills to make more money for ourselves. In this, we forgot about God. However, coding can be so impactful in helping spread the Gospel and bringing people together. Our focus in supporting Christians and the Church to increase the trust factor and making people work together is already an example of God’s Love and Glory.
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