Humanitarian Hackathon’s Hacked my Heart

The weekend before the Sydney lockdown, after many mundane weekends of sleep and study, I decided to get hacking; not just any hackathon, but a humanitarian event. Completing "ENGG3001 – Fundamentals of Humanitarian Engineering" made me want to do more in the humanitarian sector and within weeks, I enrolled in "ENGG4103 – International Humanitarian Response", joined the UNSW Drought Resistant Uganda Student Project, and signed up for the hackathon. I dreamt about the thrilling experience of co-creating solutions with diverse communities, though escaping weekend chores for the hackathon was definitely a bonus.

Solomon Says Team Photo

The focus of the challenge was humanitarian issues faced by our neighbours, the Pacific Islanders and I chose the war on plastic. My team members were picked at random from around Australia, and a mini-challenge of posting a fun team photo made us actually turn on our Zoom cameras…shocking! These strangers had seen me in pyjamas, but after a hectic weekend of coming up with a solution to the plastic problem, creating and editing our video, we really bonded and became great friends.

After hearing about the first-hand experience from our humanitarian mentors in the Solomon Islands, the plastic issue showed to be a symptom of a much larger problem- people were buying bottled water or cheaper soft drinks because they didn’t have access to tap water! We couldn’t believe coke would be cheaper than water and is now covering this beautiful country in plastic waste. So, we came up with a solution that addressed the water issue as well as the plastic problem. I’m not sure if I’m prouder of our solution of using plastic bottles to make water-harvesting tanks or our team name ‘Solomon Says’ (pun intended).

Sleep-deprived and delirious, I couldn’t believe it when I heard our team name ‘Solomon Says’ as the runner up for the hackathon. We were about to receive prize money and a UN SDG badge!

This event went above and beyond my expectations of looking for something to do during my weekend and I will certainly be returning next year! The mentors, speakers and the community stories really touched my heart, and I wanted to use the prize money to do something that aligned with the spirit of the hackathon! And what better way than a water pump from UNICEF’s gift shop, which you can check out HERE

It’s amazing the difference we can make by simply using our time and money a little wiser and I hope you feel inspired to get involved in future humanitarian events!

2021 Hackathon Runner Up. F3 Solomon Says