Team America Relief uses Airtable to help 22,000 Afghans manage visa applications and personal data

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The unpaid radical has helped much than 500 radical permission Afghanistan since August.


The non-profit Team America Relief is utilizing Airtable and Rownd, a information privateness service, to assistance 22,000 Afghan citizens use for American visas.

Image: Team America Relief

Afghanistan has dropped retired of the headlines since August erstwhile the U.S. authorities spent the period evacuating U.S. citizens and Afghans who had worked with the military. However, galore translators and interpreters and their household members are inactive looking for a harmless transition to America. 

The situation of helping these U.S. allies to find a mode retired of the state has conscionable begun, according to a unpaid with Team America Relief. Rob Thelen was 1 of the archetypal radical to articulation this radical that is helping U.S. allies get retired of Afghanistan. 

"This is not going away, this is going to beryllium with america for generations," helium said. 

Thelen manages the exertion powering Team America Relief's work. The task started with a Gmail address–Team America Afghan Evac–as it became evident that galore radical needed assistance uncovering a mode to America.

"The Gmail code started to get bounced backmost and distant successful Afghanistan and we were getting thousands of emails per hr from radical trying to get help," helium said. "Some were translators, immoderate were women lawyers, and immoderate were erstwhile employees."

He said the team's information postulation rapidly needed much than Excel and past Google Sheets could offer. 

"We went from 300 radical to 10,000 successful our database wrong days," helium said.

Team America Relief has helped much than 500 radical permission Afghanistan since August.  

Richard Porter is the CTO of Team America Relief and Thelen has been moving with him to negociate information travel and access. Porter besides served successful Afghanistan and helium and Thelen worked unneurotic astatine IBM for a fewer years arsenic well.

SEE: Navigating information privateness (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

"I automated the intake process and we added successful information privateness truthful radical could assertion and negociate their ain data," helium said.

Thelen said helium had utilized Airtable successful the past and thought the spreadsheet-database hybrid would beryllium a large instrumentality for managing the idiosyncratic data of radical looking to permission Afghanistan. 

"We wanted to beryllium capable to fastener down everything, including roles and views," helium said. 

Airtable employees volunteered to migrate the data, including much than 5GB of images, and wrote scripts to automate assorted tasks. 

As of mid-December, Team America Relief had much than 22,000 radical successful the Airtable database. 

"This has allowed a clump of low-code individuals to bash this successful a dynamic and accelerated way," helium said.

Managing captious migration information with Airtable

According to an nonfiction successful the New York Times, lone astir 135 of the 28,000 applications from Afghans seeking humanitarian parole person been approved since July 1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processes these requests and usually receives astir 2,000 applications from astir the satellite annually.

Thelen said Airtable's quality to stock accusation successful existent clip and robust entree controls are important for moving with authorities agencies. State section officials archetypal wanted static Excel files from Team America Relief volunteers but that has changed implicit clip arsenic officials person go utilized to a much modern mode of managing data.

"We would springiness them a nexus to the information arsenic good arsenic a static copy," helium said. "Over clip they started to clasp that they could download the information truthful real-time accusation is becoming the norm alternatively of the exception."

SEE: Low-code platforms: A cheat sheet

Thelen said that his enactment with the non-profit arsenic good arsenic different groups doing akin enactment are nudging the national authorities to follow much modern exertion for managing data. 

"We've seen tiny improvements successful the authorities department's process for verifying employment," helium said. "When it comes to large operations similar this, I anticipation they commencement to clasp that tech due to the fact that this is the cleanable usage for it."

Team America Relief volunteers usage Airtable's customized presumption options to enactment with different groups looking to assistance refugees.

"If a instrumentality steadfast wants to bash 400 pro bono cases, we tin springiness them a database and if that database changes, it's updated automatically," helium said. "If the FBI wants to tally pre-emptive inheritance checks, we tin springiness them a presumption too."

Thelen said Airtable's entree controls are besides a bully acceptable for moving with volunteers due to the fact that onboarding goes rapidly and it's casual to restrict entree erstwhile a unpaid leaves. The bulk of Team America Relief volunteers cleanable up and negociate data. A smaller radical serves arsenic lawsuit managers to assistance Afghans physique visa applications. Many of the volunteers are veterans of the warfare successful Afghanistan who worked with the radical trying to get retired of the country.  

Team America Relief is looking for Pashtun and Dari translators to assistance with the enactment arsenic good arsenic lawsuit managers. 

Protecting idiosyncratic information and privacy

Applying for introduction into the U.S. requires extended documentation. Team America Relief helps Afghans cod and negociate passport accusation arsenic good arsenic documents and images proving enactment history. In summation to organizing and storing the information, the non-profit uses a privateness extortion work arsenic well.

Rownd allows individuals to redact immoderate oregon each idiosyncratic information from the database. People moving with Team America Relief usage a "personal information center" via Rownd to negociate entree to their idiosyncratic information.

"A idiosyncratic tin assertion her information and deed redact and past crook it backmost connected astatine immoderate constituent arsenic needed," Thelen said.

Team America Relief's information retention work has go a harmless haven for captious data.

"Some radical aft they trusted america started to nonstop america each of their information due to the fact that they were acrophobic they would person to pain their stuff," helium said. 

About 5,000 radical person claimed their information and 2,000 person redacted immoderate of the information. Thelen said that astir 200 radical person utilized the enactment to delete their information completely. 

Controlling entree to this information tin beryllium a substance of beingness and decease for American allies trying to debar the Taliban successful Afghanistan. Thelen said that immoderate of his contacts successful the state said that members of the Taliban sometimes cheque a person's telephone to look for correspondence with the U.S. State Department. 

Just arsenic American soldiers had to physique spot with the radical they worked with successful Afghanistan, Team America Relief had to physique spot by giving individual's implicit power of their data. 

"For a batch of refugees, their individuality is each they have," helium said. "It was precise important for maine to marque definite my Afghan friends tin spell successful and crook this disconnected erstwhile they request to." 

Thelen led a 12-person advising squad portion helium was successful Afghanistan and mentored individuals. 

The radical helium met were generous and friendly, helium said, and helium would similar to instrumentality to the state during peacetime.

"The astir astonishing landscapes I've ever seen and the astir astonishing radical I've ever met person been successful Afghanistan," helium said. "I'd similar to enactment connected a backpack and locomotion done those hills without worrying astir being shot."

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