Ham Radio Smartphone, When smartphones fail: How students in a ham radio club are helping Puerto Rico

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Ham Radio Smartphone – At the age of smartphones, Snapchat and WhatsApp, a group of students in Queens, New York, used a more traditional form of communication to help Puerto Rican people. It’s been two weeks since Hurricane Maria destroyed US territory, and more than 90 percent of the island is still without electricity.

Lack of power and Wi-Fi makes communication in Puerto Rico difficult, whether it’s family members trying to contact loved ones, or aid agencies that try to share messages related to health and well-being. With telephone lines and cell phone reception, the American Red Cross and other aid groups have contacted amateur radio operators (or hams) to ask for help.

Ham Radio Smartphone

Ham radio can be managed anywhere and can communicate throughout the world. While some ham radio operators were recruited to work in Puerto Rico, returning to Queens, students at the Park School helped out of the small room that was the place of the Amateur Radio Club.

Anyone can send an email to the school and club members will share the message via a radiogram, and the message is then forwarded to the ham radio operator in Puerto Rico.

How Park Parks are involved
Amateur Radio Club began about a year ago, said teacher John Hale. It was part of the process of trying to teach students how to work with radio.

“The next thing, if you are part of the radio community with amateur radio, is to help people in need,” Hale said.

When Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean and the Florida Keys in September, Hale realized that there was a need for ham radio and arranged to train students about how to help.

“We slowly began teaching children about how to do a radiogram and start relay messages that will go down wherever they have to go,” Hale explained.

“When we were in a disaster, they were driving food, they were doing clothing drives, they were driving money to raise money. This allowed them to try to work with someone personally … now they know they are helping individual efforts to make contact with one their family members, “said Hale.

Student Jasmine Petrov agreed that individual contact was useful.

“What this gives is an actual personal touch … which I think makes it much more special,” Petrov said.

Club member Lea Medina said that reaching people in Puerto Rico was only “the right thing to do.”

“If I was one of these people, I would, of course, be as devastated as them. And I decided to go and join this just because it had to be done,” Medina explained. “You can easily connect with these people if you only think about how it feels if you can’t talk to someone you love and care about.”

Medina said he did not know anyone in Puerto Rico.

“But I know what it’s like to be separated from someone you love,” he said.

What that means for students
“The most profound message I have received so far is about this girl who is eager to examine her father and mother,” Medina said. “He asked us to make sure they knew that he loved them, he cared about them, and he wanted to know for sure that they were fine.”

Petrov was struck by the similarity of the message requested to be sent.

“Seeing how these people tried to send the same care messages, from: ‘Are you okay?’ And just ask their relatives, their friends about their welfare, “Medina explained. “All of that together, is extraordinary to be part of this emotional connection.”

Petrov said he joined the Amateur Radio Club because he was interested in learning how to work ham radio. He thought it would only involve school radio competitions.

“I never thought that would be so personal … it would be far more,” he said.

Medina said his interest in ham radio was back to the way it was used in the 1930s and 40s.

“I really liked the field radio operators in World War II and I found their work to be one of the most important. Because of those people there were countless lives saved by dropping supplies in the right place,” Medina said.

Medina reiterated that sending a message to Puerto Rico was the right thing to do.

“This gives me the feeling that there is actually something good in this world,” he said. “You see that someone is experiencing something terrible. You want to do something good to alleviate their suffering, and when you send this message you have to think about people on the other side of the screen and on the other side of this paper.”

“This is the life of the people at stake,” Medina said. “And they are people who just try to be desperate to talk to other people because there is no other way.”

Hale thinks radiogram is a great experience for students, besides being an important lesson for the general public.

“Amateur radio can help when needed.”

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