British riots aftermath: hearts expand, help to rebuild

While some people’s hearts are still closed, and therefore capable of, and even deliberately seek, rampant destruction, (see last post), others feel the suffering and seek to help.

Here are two articles, showing two different approaches to how we help each other in the early 21st century. Both are creative, inspiring, and, you bet, heart warming.

Retweet to Rebuild: Social Media Helps Clean Up London Post-Riots

by Zak Stone,

August 12, 2011

“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron, referring to the riots in London that caused more than 200 million pounds in damages. Cameron said he’s considering a selective ban on “using social media for violence,” a suggestion some have called censorship, akin to cracking down on the telephone when people use it to discuss violent crimes.

While Twitter and Facebook helped organize the riots, social media has been just as useful in cleaning up the damage (just like in Egypt). Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and blogs prove to be a key instrument for organizing cleanups in areas affected by the chaos of the past week. We culled the internet for some of the more inspiring uses of social media to help rebuild after the London riots.

  • Twitter: The handle @Riotcleanup was created on Monday and already has nearly 90,000 followers. It’s been tweeting several times an hour: announcing planned cleanups, connecting potential volunteers, and celebrating successes of the rebuilding movement.
  • Blogs: 89 year-old barber Aaron Biber’s livelihood was disrupted when his uninsured barbershop (pictured above) was trashed by rioters. After 41 years cutting hair in Tottenham, he was left with no choice but to close up shop. In response, several blogs came to his aid to organize a cleanup and raise funds for repairs. The blog “Keep Aaron Cutting” has already received more than £20,000 in donations to support the local barber.
  • Facebook: The Facebook page Riot Cleanup has turned into an active message board for those who want to fix up their neighborhoods. Like “Keep Aaron Cutting,” the boards offers a repository of stories ofshopkeepers in need of help. Yesterday organizers posted that they are holding off on any new cleanups for the time being, since they’ve already accomplished so much.

As Cameron said Thursday, the “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.” That’s true about social media, but it could be said about any media technology, be it television or a carrier pigeon. And that’s no reason to ban them.

AK: Here’s the other one.

Riot Rebuild: The U.K’s Post-Riot Urban Intervention

by Ariel Schwartz

August 12, 2011

In the aftermath of the riots, a couple of noble London architects are injecting some guerrilla design into the cleanup process, and helping those who can’t rebuild.

The U.K. riots of the past week have done incalculable damage to businesses and homes. After the cleanup come the longer-term task of rebuilding–and many of the people who have been hit the hardest (i.e. small business owners) can’t afford the high costs involved.

Instead of allowing storefronts and homeowners to suffer, architecture school graduates Lee Wilshire and Nick Varney decided to launch Riot Rebuild, a so-called “post-riot urban intervention” (the website likens it to guerrilla gardening) that is harnessing the power of volunteer construction workers, architects, interior designers, and other qualified builders to help those in need.

The initiative was launched on Wednesday morning, and the response from people who want to volunteer has been overwhelming. “I just checked my email right now and I had 500 emails,” says Wilshire. “There’s a hell of a lot more on Facebook and Twitter. It’s hard to keep pace with it, to be honest.”

Riot Rebuild’s first project: helping Aaron Biber, an 89-year-old barber (right), rebuild his uninsured barber shop. But that’s just the beginning. The initiative plans to post another project on Monday, and anyone who needs help from Riot Rebuild’s group of volunteers can post on the website. Qualified architects, designers, etc. are encouraged to contact the needy parties to offer their services at a free or discounted rate.

Wilshire and Varney–both of whom also have full-time jobs–have also set up a rebuild fund to help offset the costs associated with repairing damaged buildings. “We’ll evolve over time into whatever is needed,” says Wilshire.

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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