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  • Writer's pictureCrista Buznea

That time Angelina Jolie photobombed my hackathon…

Updated: May 19, 2020

Back in 2014 I signed up to join a hackathon as part of a summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. I remember seeing an advert on the United Nations Association website asking for marketers and designers to attend, and I thought it would be a good way for me to spend my weekend.

I figured I’d learn more about different NGOs, get to hang out with developers and other marketers and have a change of scenery from my usual travel industry folk.

We started the day assessing different social issues that were happening in war-torn countries. We then voted on the most interesting issues, and split into groups - I ended up with the group tasked to create an app that would map Syrian shelters and help connect survivors with NGOs.

As we started developing our project, we ended up having a surprise visit from the organisers of the summit, which were - to my surprise - Angelina Jolie and William Hague.

They bid us good luck, and for the next 24 hours we worked non-stop to develop a prototype app that could use real-time data and map Syrian shelters in Lebanon. All hackathon attendees ended up having access to meeting rooms at a nearby CitizenM hotel, and we were even allowed to access to a couple of rooms where we could take naps if we wanted to. We worked really hard, and by the time we were ready to share our prototype, we knew we had given our all.

We ended up winning the competition, and Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans awarded our prize: some funding to continue developing the app and develop a trial. It was the first time I’d ever been exposed to a small group of people that gave me the feeling that with small steps, we can really change the world for the better.

I will always be grateful for this event, and what I learned from it. Here's an article Sarah Linney published about my experience back in 2014:

Hugs to the world, Crista

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