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Ron Savage (5224)

Ron Savage
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Journal of Ron Savage (5224)

Wednesday June 02, 2010
08:16 PM

Volunteering thru

[ #40376 ]

When I'm between contracts, I do some volunteer work thru
goodcompany, where small community groups post requests ('wishes') for people ('angels') to help ('grant the wish').

I only respond to Web/IT requests, but there are a range of categories into which requests can be put.

In Australia, there are between 600,000 and 700,000 such community groups, and many share the same sorts of problems, e.g. managing lists of contacts and donors.

So, I thought I'd report of on a few projects I've helped with, most of which are for charities:

o The East West Overseas Aid Foundation

They donate money to India for property and school classes, for example.

At first, I just helped with their list of contacts. But I'd seen a number of groups struggling with Excel for this, and ended up writing App::Office::Contacts and *::Donations, although they're not yet ready to use my code.

Now, we're working on bringing their web site up-to-date.

It'd be nice if there was a very-light-weight CMS in Perl we could host of a VPS.

On CPAN I found Miril, but sometimes it used MS-DOS slashes, (in config files) and I didn't feel like debugging it. And I've have to redesign the interface, to start with.

o Association for Children with a Disablity

I met a senior manager, who quickly got serious, making a small but revealing derogatory comment about my clothes!

We had a long talk anyway. She'd been quoted $16,000 by a local MS-oriented computer shop to do this project.

I offered to do it for %10 of that, or even for free. But no, a couple of weeks later she emailed saying my help wasn't wanted. Very strange.

o Windermere Child and Family Services

This was my first project thru goodcompany.

This charity had bought an Australian donation manager program - imaginatively called DonMan -, but had never used it.

So I wrote a bit of Perl to reformat several Excel spreadsheets into a CSV file acceptable to DonMan, and that was it.

o Court Network

This is the latest project. Attending court can be a bewildering experience for people who are most likely going to court due to some disaster in their lives anyway.

So, Court Network has a stable of about 450 volunteers who accompany the court user thru the process, both here in (the state of) Victoria, and in Queensland.

They had a paper-based system of matching up court users with volunteers, so I've written a classic web app to replace that.

When it goes live, the public will be able to submit details themselves, rather than go thru Court Network's office staff.

And the latter have extra features (Search, Update, Reports).

They're a non-technical group (a common situation), and so far haven't been able to tell me who hosts their web site (some other volunteer process), so we still have to deal with getting CGI and database features working.

And my contact there is going to get DreamWeaver training, so at least I won't be dealing with web site content.

o Life's Little Treasures Inc

This is a support group for women who've had premature babies.

Indeed, some premmies are still in hospital a year after birth, so their problems must be major.

In the end, this group chose Joomla, since they wanted to expand their on-line forum network's power, now that they're handing out brochures to all mums with new-borns, in some hospitals, not just to mums with premmies.

News flash: I checked their outstanding wish, and they're now asking for a WordPress export. I guess they just couldn't find a volunteer to help with Joomla. Or perhaps the Joomla side of things has been sorted out.

I'm thinking of getting East West (above) off TYPO3 and onto WordPress, but that's a coincidence (perhaps).

o Australian Karen Foundation

The Karen are an ethnic group in Myanmar, who are being genetically exterminated by the psychopaths who run Myanmar.

Some Karen have fled into a refugee camp in Thailand, where the Thai government gives them some support, and has just a few weeks ago even connected them to the internet, albeit only a couple of hours a day (I think).

Someone from a town near the camp visits occasionally to repair their PCs. They have about 10 machines, most of which work most of the time. The machines run MS Windows, but are not networked.

The A. Karen Foundation collects 2nd hand laptops from Australian companies and someone carries them over to Thailand once a year or so.

I've been collecting info on freeware directories, and on universities where free courses on learning English, maths, etc, can be downloaded.

I put the info into a TiddlyWiki - a brilliant 1-page-wiki manager.

o Lastly, Cottage by the Sea

This is a holiday/respite home for children, on the other side of Port Phillip Bay from where I live.

They are 120 years old this year, and are very slowly digitising their records (photos, annual reports, list of children who've attended).

I've offered to design a database to hold these records, and to write a search engine for people researching the historical record.

We'll see what happens.

o Summary

I've skipped a few places where I went and just had one meeting.

Nevertheless, you can see there is no way of predicting what sort of work comes up, or what it will entail, exactly.

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