11 Oct 2021 | Guest Writer
Inspiring Hope: VR brings users to explore a school in Haiti

By Sarah Porter, Director of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships, Hope for Haiti

Poverty, corruption, natural disasters, end of story. This is often the narrative used to describe Haiti and how the country is portrayed in the news. Joyful children, healthy families, thriving communities - this is what our team strives to achieve everyday, despite the numerous challenges. This is our vision for Haiti.

I’m the Director of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships with Hope for Haiti, an organization focused on poverty alleviation that has been working on the ground in Haiti for over 30 years. We have always valued showing our donors and supporters the impact they enable us to achieve, however, the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more difficult to bring people to Haiti and into the communities we serve. But what if there was a way to bring Haiti to them? 

I’m blown away by how sophisticated VR has become; when you strap on your headset it’s as if you’ve entered a whole new world that you can feel in a visceral way. I can’t play any zombie games because there’s a part of my brain that actually believes I am about to be consumed. Studies also show that VR also increases empathy in ways that text, photo and video do not. VR could be one of the best and most effective ways to connect users to social causes while having an impact in the real world. How can we take the technological sophistication that works so well for games and apply it to the work of nonprofits? 

Through a collaboration with the VR studio FXG we designed an experiential app that is modeled off one of our partner schools in rural Haiti. On Wednesday, October 20th, Hope for Haiti and FXG will host an intimate event, Inspiring Hope: An Immersive VR Experience in Haiti, for a small group of users before the app becomes publicly available. Attendees can explore the Haitian landscape and a three room school and interact with different elements such as a well, chalkboard, flag pole, etc while using a customizable avatar. The exploratory space is designed to not only provide an engaging and hands-on experience, but also to give users an alternative (and more positive) perception of Haiti. Guests can interact with each other, members of the Hope for Haiti team, and FXG while learning more about Haiti and our work. Those interested in attending on October 20th can apply here, and we will also be at AWE in November to showcase the app. 

With this app and launch event, we have an opportunity to positively impact the lives of the Haitian people, primarily those whose lives were affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14th, 2021. NFT artists have come together to launch an NFT Auction which supports our Earthquake Relief Fund and to rebuild schools in Haiti that were damaged or destroyed. Our team in Haiti is on the frontlines, providing critical aid, supplies and medical care. The auction is currently live on hic et nunc and select NFTs by well-known artists will be available for bidding on October 20th and will also be displayed in VR on the walls of the school inside the app. You can help us reach our $50k fundraising goal for earthquake response by purchasing or contributing NFTs, donating cryptocurrency or donating standard currency. The app will be available for public download after the event.

And don’t forget to check us out at AWE this year! During AWE Hope for Haiti and FXG will be leading a session on VR for Social Impact on Nov 11, along with hosting a side event on Nov 10th for attendees to explore the app for themselves. With this app, we believe that we can counter the narrative about Haiti that has persisted throughout the years. We can also harness the incredible power of VR and use it for meaningful and tangible societal change. Haiti is truly an inspiring place, and with VR we can show that it’s a reality. 

Come meet Hope for Haiti and FXG at this year’s AWE in Santa Clara! They will be presenting on November 11th at 2:15pm in Grand Ballroom C (Virtual Reality for Social Impact in Haiti) along with a side event on November 10th.


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