Volunteer spotlight: Coding for a cause

  • Liz Sauchelli. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/23/2021 10:31:35 PM
Modified: 1/23/2021 10:31:34 PM

Technology, we have seen over the past year, truly can bring people together.

A group of around a dozen volunteers with Code for Upper Valley embodies that with two community projects they’re working on to help people access food resources and improve internet access in the region. And they’re looking for other coders and programmers to join them.

“Folks with really any sort of programming, or an interest in learning programming, can oftentimes help,” said Craig Mackenzie, the brigade captain for Code for UV, which is part of Code for America, a nonprofit organization. “The projects we have can really impact people in a positive way. After the pandemic hit, it became even more clear how important both these things were.”

Volunteers are working with Little Rivers Health Care to develop an app that can connect people with food pantries and other resources in the region. Providers will also be able to upload information to the app including changes in hours, eligibility requirements and what products they have available at any given time.

“There’s not always a clear way for the people who need food sources and the volunteers who work at some of these resources to update their information,” Mackenzie said. “We want this not to be a burden, but something that’s super-easy for them to update information.”

Code for UV members are also working on a project called Rural Net to help address issues related to slow and unreliable internet. They are developing a website application that will allow people to test the speed of their internet and aggregate the data on maps. Community members can then use that information to apply for grant funding or advocate legislators to improve internet access.

“It’s very tough to get people to do that type of thing and sort of record it on their own,” Mackenzie said. The website application could help simplify that process.

The group meets online on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they were meeting at The Space on Main in Bradford, Vt. The next meeting is this Thursday at 6 p.m.

Programmers and coders aren’t the only people who are needed: As both projects move further along, Code for UV will need people willing to try them out.

“It’s more than just programming knowledge,” Mackenzie said. “It’s having good partners in the community who can guide the projects as well.”

More details about Code for UV and volunteer skills can be found at codeforuv.org. People can also email connect@codeforuv.org for more information.

“The people in the organization are really great, and every time we have a meeting I always come out feeling really good about the work we’re doing and the people in the organization,” Mackenzie said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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