There are various charities around the world bringing opportunities for willing volunteers to join and help those in need, however, there are not enough people comfortable applying on their own due to their nervousness as they’ve not participated before or since there isn’t any designated space for them to start seeking, they would have to do extensive research to find different charities; Or they would have to actively look for a charity in their local area which are often not visible in certain places. This leads to the unfortunate event of many families, groups of people or individuals in need not being able to receive the help they so deserved. Furthermore, as a few members in our team have participated in volunteering events before, the biggest issues they experienced were communication regarding the project, as well as information before joining between organizations and their volunteers were unclear. Not only that, we realise people frequently have the mindset that offering service equates to an unpaid job. We wanted to concentrate on those points, changing everyone’s thought process to let them know they are making an impact on others’ lives, that they can learn valuable lessons from these experiences. The world of volunteering definitely and rapidly needs a change, an impact, and this is what we are striving to achieve.

What it does

Preferably, we plan for VVOL to be a designated space for easy charity search in a 10km radius around our user's current location or any other locations they wish to start looking, which would also function as a pseudo social media platform trying to connect volunteers, mainly to NGOs for available charities but also with one another in the form of an AI-generated daily feed whenever they log on. They would also be able to see their friends' posts of charities they partake in, as well as user-specific recommendations for new charities within the area. However, due to having limited expendable time on this Hackathon and its difficulty we are unfortunately unable to implement all desired features. Nevertheless, we are able to create a website where NGOs can publish descriptions of their charity's events and for willing volunteers to access and be able to input their preferred volunteering location into the search bar, which will display precise locations of various charities around for them to choose. The actual application process will be as simple as a click of a button, since they will be able to enter their details beforehand as well as showcasing previous charity events they have done in the form of badges. This will allow quicker and simpler application reviewing for NGOs.

How we built it

We used Laravel in the backend and html,css,JS (Jquery) for our front end. To make the functionality of our platform work we use multiple google API's to collect the pin locations for the volunteering events. We used social media features for login and feed posts so volunteers can post and share their thoughts.

Challenges we ran into

One of the challenges we experienced during this hackathon started as soon as we began. Much of the time given was spent towards brainstorming, because there were many different plausible ideas, but once we started researching, many of them were discarded as we realised they had been executed before, hence it was difficult arriving at one totally unique idea. We were thinking about global issues as a topic and how as individuals we could change the world, to which, we immediately thought about the recent Turkiye-Syria earthquake. We've learned that volunteers’ effort in helping victims have massively improved the survival rate of survivors. Thus, we arrived at our current idea, in hope of helping and possibly saving more victims.

Fortunately, once we managed to introduce an idea fitting our preferences, we were able to begin our project. However, being in a time crunch, our challenges were far from over. As for the frontend of our product, we wanted to connect with google API, but we struggled with getting longitude and latitude of our pin location working properly, so when we wanted to search for one specific location that will display a precise pin with those two information, it was unable to output the desired result. Additionally, if we were trying to search for various locations within a 5km radius, it would refuse to work, causing us more time spent on debugging. Eventually, we went on the google API documentation, which we followed and debugged the error, that was missing a parameter in our code. Alongside the front-end of our website, we also had difficulty setting up our database in the back-end, which is meant to store NGOs as well as users’ data. We also struggled with connecting the frontend to the backend; As for organisations, that is to find where they are on the map and displaying information. In the perspective of users, we struggled with getting a functioning login feature. Despite all struggles, we experimented with PHP and through the process, trials and errors, we managed to produce a working result.

What we learned

This hackathon has not only been full of struggles, but also full of learning opportunities for us to learn. Some of the challenges we overcame were:

  • Communication Even though we were struggling with brainstorming and coming up with a plausible idea. We learned to settle with a few main topics we should concentrate on, and that made it easier for us to decide on one idea as a result.

  • Working with APIs We also struggled with getting the google API to work, but through trials and research we were able to debug the error and produce a functioning result in the end.

  • Working with PHP/Laravel We have never worked with PHP/Laravel before this Hackathon, which we had to learn from scratch and try to make it work with our project. Since it is new to us, we struggled with connecting the backend and frontend. However, we eventually got it working.

What's next for VVOL

Working mobile software: Customizable user profiles, able to showcase past charity events they partake in as badges, as well as any form of media (videos, photos, gifs, etc.) they wish to share for everyone to view. AI-generated daily feed (NGOs’ new events, Friends’ posts of their charity engagements. Connect with volunteers around the world through in-app direct messaging

We plan to compile our features into a mobile application which will be easier for volunteers to view and search for charities on the go. This will also include all of the above mentioned features that were not able to be implemented during this hackathon.

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