It was following a pro-Ukraine protest at Balboa Park in February that Avi Schiffmann couldn’t shake the thought that he needed to do something to help.
“I know how to make all these websites and apps and, you know, I felt that nobody was going to do it,” said Schiffmann, a Harvard University student. “So why don't I just do it? So, I made this website.”
Schiffmann, 19, is a California resident who excels at coding. Two years ago, he developed a website to help track the spread of the coronavirus. So he didn’t think twice before using his skills to help this time.
“That night, I started working on designing the user interface and the basic site structure, went to sleep, woke up in the morning, and called my friend Marco from college, who's an amazing web developer,” said Schiffmann.
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The pair worked almost non-stop to create a website that would be easy enough to navigate for people offering help and those seeking it.
Then on March 3, just four days after, they launched Ukraine Take Shelter. The website is in 12 languages and it is a place where Ukrainian refugees can find hosts with spare rooms.
“It's like a public bulletin that you can bring with you no matter where you are," said Schiffmann.
On the website, refugees type in their current locations, and dozens of host offers pop up. The listings include the language spoken by the host, information about the space available, and whether pets are allowed.
“We're really thankful for the real volunteers or the people hosting their homes for all these refugees,” said Schiffmann. “We've heard incredible stories.”
What started as a simple idea is now helping many find a safe place to stay across the world.