Social media often gets a bad rap, especially in the Middle East region (you know, toppling governments, defaming people, promoting extremist thoughts etc…). However, every once in a while something magical happens online that reminds you of how wonderful the human spirit can be.
Unless you’ve been living hermetically sealed away for the past 24 hours, you will have seen the news about the fire at The Address hotel in Downtown Dubai on New Year’s Eve. The 63-storey hotel which rises almost a thousand feet into the air was the place to be last night to watch Dubai’s fireworks extravaganza; the hotel was fully booked for last night five years ago according to media reports. Due to reasons still unknown, a fire broke out at 9:30pm which engulfed much of the five-star hotel and its residential apartments. Needless to say, no one was able to stay at the hotel and coming across any hotel rooms on a night which is usually the busiest on record for Dubai’s hoteliers would have been a problem no one who was staying at The Address would have wanted to face.
Deciding that they wanted to act to help what would have been the thousands of people staying at The Address, three people decided to start a trend and get others to open up their homes. Friends Shelina Jokhiya and Gillian Law asked each other how they could do something. Dubai resident and entrepreneur founder of DeCluttr Me Shelina explains in her own words.
“It started it as friend Gillian was watching from her balcony the fire and asked how she could tell the hotel guests that she had an extra bed if needed. I suggested I’d post it on Twitter for her. I posted her offer. Daniel replied and then posted his beds. I suggested we create a hashtag. As normal Daniel came up with his corker of a hashtag. And thus it started and blew up to epic proportions.”
The third person is Daniel Marc Evans, another Dubai Tweeter who has worked extensively in the tourism sector. Together with Shelina, they came up with #NeedAnAddress, a hashtag that people could use to donate rooms to those who had no room after the fire.
“I just saw [the fire] start and immediately worried what was going to happen with all this people. My first thought was the open doors hashtag during the Paris attacks and I knew that the Twitter community would do the rest,” explained Daniel.
And the first #NeedAnAddress tweets began.
Helped by influencer friends such as @theregos, the word spread. Incredibly, in the space of one hour the hashtag had crossed one million impressions.
And people came out to support the cause with rooms.
While I don’t know how many people were helped (and there were people reaching out on Twitter to #NeedAnAddress – see the below), the hashtag was still going strong this morning. In total, the campaign has ratcheted up five million impressions and over 5,600 tweets. All thanks to people who care.
At half past midnight, two hours of the campaign starting and three hours after the fire began we did get an official pledge to support those affected by the fire. It’s good to see people power leading the way, and getting others to follow suit.
Thank you Shelina, Daniel and Gillian for the idea. You’ve proved that even a simple gesture can have profound consequences.