I’m Matt and I’m one of the two founders here at Wicked Sites (the other being Nic). From March 1 to March 18 I was in California doing a bit of sightseeing with an old family friend Mark. Flying out on March the 1st I really had no qualms about the virus. It was still mostly in China, and small cases here and there in other countries. As the holiday went on, we noticed it was appearing more and more in the news. Then our friends started reporting that toilet paper was no longer available in major supermarkets, which really shocked me. In America there was nothing like that - everything operated normally.
Towards the end of the trip, we were getting nervous. Places were starting to go into lockdown, and we’d realised America had not been testing anyone so the virus was likely all over the place. Last thing I’d want is to be stuck in America and their expensive health care system while a virus goes rampant.
I spent 6 hours on hold for Qantas, trying to move my flight forward. They didn’t answer so I gave up and resigned myself to flying out on the 18th. Mark, who had sold all of his possessions in Australia and was planning on travelling the world, decided to just buy a $1800 ticket back to Australia the same day as me. So much for his adventure of a lifetime.
We both flew out fine. Arriving in Melbourne, they handed us a sheet of paper explaining we need to self isolate for 14 days. I didn’t really care - I was happy to be out of America! I had been in contact with a close friend who lived in my apartment building. He had agreed to buy groceries for me - I was all set for my isolation.
A couple of days into the isolation I realised how lucky I was having a friend to buy groceries for me. What if you didn’t have any friends in your area? What if you were old or immunosuppressed and didn’t want to go to the supermarket? I did some research and saw that mutual aid Facebook groups were popping up everywhere - basically groups allowing people to ask for help or offer help.
The problem was a Facebook group is not good for this kind of thing. It’s designed to be a kind of newsfeed, so people’s requests for help would quickly be lost and forgotten about. Plus there was no way of knowing where that person lived and whether it was feasible for someone to help them.
I thought of a simple idea - a website where people put out requests for help and it’s matched to their address. Anyone within a certain radius of that request might be able to then help them. I’d keep it fairly anonymous (first names only) and never reveal the actual address - the requester can privately reveal their address to help offerers if they feel they can trust them.
I bounced the idea of Nic and Mark - both liked it - Mark even said he’d come up with a similar idea independently of me. I started developing and within a week had launched a basic version of Crisis Heroes - self isolation is good for one thing: a ton of free time. In that time Nic built a beautiful home page that got our message across and prompted people to sign up. Within 2 weeks, we had 1000 sign ups and it’s still growing.
We hope that Crisis Heroes can bring hope to people in need, as well as helping foster local communities. You can check out Crisis Heroes here.