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. The 63-story 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 9:30 p.m. that 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 that is usually the busiest of the year 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 the thousands of people who were 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,” Daniel explained.
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 1 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 Friday morning. In total, the campaign had ratcheted up 5 million impressions and more than 5,600 tweets by the afternoon. All thanks to people who care.
At half past midnight, two hours after the campaign started 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.