We have always known that access to safe shelter impacts every other aspect of life, but this pandemic is proving it every day. Homes allow families to feel secure, stay clean, and continue growing together. They offer a foundation for flourishment.

It’s nearly impossible to track all of the benefits of a home, but we like to leverage our tech to try.

Before we build a community, we have conversations with families who will be living in it. These conversations show us the needs, desires, and cultural preferences of communities. We can then build accordingly. But we don’t stop the conversations when we complete construction. 

With the help of Felix, New Story’s data-collection app, we can survey our communities and understand their wellbeing long after they’ve moved into their new home. These surveys allow us to continue to care for our communities for the long haul — regardless of the season. 

During COVID-19, we have leveraged Felix to help us focus on the holistic health of our families. After surveying all of our communities in El Salvador, we discovered families’ real needs and worked with our local partners to mobilize and provide better support. 

Before the pandemic, we surveyed families in the comfort of their new home. But for the safety of our communities and local partners, we had to find a new way to connect with families without entering their homes. 

Our Tech Team responded by building out Felix to include a web submissions feature. Now, from anywhere in the world, teams can create surveys and send a link to the survey directly to families through Whatsapp.

This solution is allowing us to quickly adapt our technology to meet the needs of the moment. Our local partner in El Salvador, Gente Ayudando Gente, is currently leveraging the survey results to support families throughout the pandemic.

“Surveys provide an anonymous channel for families to express their needs…they have taught me that each community — as diverse and unique as they might be — is going through a similar scenario where the main problems are job secureness and anxiety.” — Marco Castro, Project Director for Gente Ayudando Gente. 

By asking the families what they’re worried about the most during COVID-19, we found employment and healthcare to account for 64% of the community. This was no surprise when the survey showed us nearly 90% of the community had experienced unemployment or a loss in wages since the pandemic. 

On the other hand, when we asked what they’re worried about the least, we found safety to be the most common answer. This proved to us that families are feeling secure in their new homes but still need more help. 

For instance, one out of every three families stated “not enough food” as their most difficult part of the nation-wide quarantine. 

Marco went on to say that “the results of the surveys have served as pillars for creating action plans and addressing each communities’ needs.”

With the local government’s help, Gente Ayudando Gente was able to safely deliver over 123,000 meals to our communities in El Salvador. 

More than 80% of the community stated it has been hard to access basic necessities such as food, water, heating, and medical care. It’s painful to imagine the potential damage if we were to have simply built the community and left without continuing to have these conversations. 

We’ve always known homes won’t solve everything. But they do give families a foundation to address every aspect of their lives. They also provide us the influence to help holistically.

Marco told us that his team “wanted to use the survey to understand the complete living conditions of these families — emotionally, physically, economically, and socially — during a pandemic and a period when we had lost proximity to the families for not being able to visit them for so long.”

Nearly 50% of the families admitted to experiencing anxiety every day during the pandemic. But we believe providing platforms that allow people to be honest with their overall health is the first step towards creating helpful solutions. 

Now that the nation-wide quarantine is over, Gente Ayudando Gente is hosting community meetings for every community we support in El Salvador. The survey gives their team a clear picture of the current problems and how to best structure their time together. When overall experiences are shared publicly, people can know they are not alone in their struggles. 

Our desire is for every family to thrive together. Having a safe place to call home is the foundation for this goal, but we know it can’t end there. We have to continue innovating tech, human-centered solutions that meet the needs of the most vulnerable populations. We have to continue having conversations that help us understand our neighbors in need. For it’s these conversations that empower us to build solutions focused on the holistic, long-term wellbeing of the most neglected communities.