Welcome Home is an app that connects people through something that every culture has in common: food. Foreign born individuals and families are matched with hosts in their new city. Both sides prepare a dish, and they get to know each other over the shared meal. The hosts get access to an incredible variety of cuisines that they could never find in a restaurant, and the guests have a unique opportunity to practice their English and form real bonds in their new community.
One of our team members immigrated from Italy as a teenager, and he described some of the challenges he faced. He explained that it can be hard to find safe places to practice English, and it can be difficult to really connect with people if you don't share a common culture and language. We wanted to build an app that would benefit both sides of this equation so that both foreign born and established residents can help each other and build a solid foundation for lasting relationships.
What it does
Certain aspects of Welcome Home will feel familiar. It uses concepts from social networking, dating/matchmaking apps, and on demand apps. But it introduces a number of new ideas to make this the perfect experience for someone foreign-born. By finding matches between guests and hosts based on language skills, dietary restrictions, location, and more, Welcome Home makes it easy for both parties to enjoy great meals with great people.
How we built it
The primary experience is via a mobile app. Our prototype is built in React Native for Android. It connects to a PHP/MySQL backend hosted on AWS. Our team split up into the following specialties: design, front-end (mobile) development, and back-end development.
Challenges we ran into
This is the first time we've built a real native mobile app before, so we spent a lot of time learning the basics. As experienced developers, it's a bit humbling to spend hours trying to get a button to work.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're all really excited about the balance this strikes between being a fun, scalable consumer app while also being a practical solution to a common problem that immigrants and refugees face. We're also pleased with how simple the app is to use. We are used to building complex business applications, so it was a nice change of pace to make something so streamlined that it can be used even if you remove all of the text from the app.
What we learned
On the technical side, we learned the basics of mobile development. On the design side, we learned how to deal with the constraints imposed by having such a diverse and unique user base.
What's next for Welcome Home
We really think this is an idea that could work. Best of all, because it doesn't rely on volunteers, partnerships, or any real physical presence or significant infrastructure costs, we think it could reasonably be built out and scaled world-wide with relatively few resources.