Mobile app promotes acts of kindness

The GEMS app can be downloaded from the IOS or android app store and your community service can start.

Have you ever sat in your work chair, wishing you could follow your passion or do your bit for humanity? Well this is exactly what David Shields and Camilo Ramada did and together they developed their own mobile app to help volunteers find community service projects.

Called GEM, which stands for Going the Extra Mile, the app helps you help others and get rewarded while doing it.

Users of the app can collect gems, which are each worth R1 and can be donated or redeemed for groceries, airtime and electricity.

The app, available on iOS and android, has more than 7 000 users. It alerts users to local charity projects, SMSing details of the projects they choose, while telling the organisers to expect their arrival.

When you sign in at the event, your gems are added to your account.

The app gives a different spin on the rewards schemes we’re already familiar with. “We receive incentives and rewards for so many things, such as shopping at a certain place, or flying a certain airline. Why then not offer incentives for the really important things, such as taking care of babies, helping to paint a school, working in a community garden, making food for the homeless, or cleaning-up neighbourhoods?” said Mr Ramada.

GEM has partnered with various organisations, such as Sustainable Brothers and Sisters, in Stellenbosch; Lucky Lucy Foundation, in Malmesbury; James House, in Hout Bay, and Ladles of Love in the city centre.

GEM’s Claremont-based project co-ordinator, Danielle Jarvis, said the app allowed users to specify their availability and the types of activities they’d like to join.

“On the app it has area by area or date by date. If you want to work with children or animals or if you only have Saturday morning’s free or Thursday afternoon after work. You can go and spend an hour here or there. We have donors who donate gems and that becomes the reward. One of our partners serve over a thousand meals to the homeless every week.” The app is also in a USSD format for those who don’t own a smartphone.

If you would like to know more about the app, download the ‘GEM Project’ app on your iOS/Android device or dial *120*GEM1# free of charge from any phone to get started. You’ll be shown a number of community projects you can volunteer for, including animal shelters, orphanages, soup kitchens or community clean-ups. Choose the one that suits you best and click “attending”.