Creator Spotlight | Rene Casaña AppSheet App Helped Reunite Families | Full Length

November 14, 2023
Case Studies

Creator Spotlight | Rene Antonio Casaña Amaya | Full Length

Helping Families Reunite with an AppSheet App

In this Creator Spotlight, we sit down with Rene Antonio Casaña Amaya, a Systems Engineering Student and Monitoring and Evaluation Technician in Honduras. He tells us his inspiring story about how he built an AppSheet App to help reunite families during an intense hurricane season in Honduras.

Rene was working in Honduras for about 4 years with several NGOs. He worked with a group of about 16 to 19 social community workers. During this time Rene saw a need to help families that had lost contact with each other due to Hurricanes Eta and Iota. These were category 4 hurricanes that just hit Honduras less than two weeks apart from each other. Families began reaching out on Facebook to try to find each other but were having a difficult time searching through all the spreadsheets that had been created.

That’s when Rene got the idea to begin building an AppSheet App. This App would help reunite families that had lost contact with each other due to energy services being down for a couple of days. Rene knew AppSheet would be the best solution for this use case. In just a couple of hours Rene began building the App and uploaded it to the Google Play store the next day. Once it was uploaded to the Google Play store about 8,000 people were registered users of the app! The app went viral!

After this, families began reaching out to him and thanking him for the great work he had done. Because of this app that he created, families were able to connect with each other after not having any way of communicating during this natural disaster. Watch the Full Length Video below to see Rene tell his inspiring story.

Creator Spotlight Interview

How do you use AppSheet in your current job role?

“My name is Rene Casaña. I am a Systems Engineering Specialist. I have about 3 years of experience in monitoring and evaluation of several projects here in Honduras. I've been in several NGOs and basically, AppSheet helped me come up with fast ideas to solve problems at work.”

“In my role I’ve been using AppSheet to improve. To get information in a centralized way or get that information in a uniform way and at the same time getting all the team involved in that same app”

Why did you choose AppSheet as your No-Code Solution Platform?

“I looked at other platforms, but I chose [AppSheet] because it has some of this, maybe it has a bit of a learning curve or something like that.  I found out [AppSheet] is more useful because of the functionality of the logic that follows into building a web app for an application that makes it easy to change things on the course and deliver some of those updates without any hassle and to incorporate some new functionalities.

“Basically I was getting some of the participants from an activity that was related to several projects. When they do the database I look up for a platform to help me to make a fast application and found out that [with AppSheet]. I [like that it] incorporated several platforms like Microsoft, Apple, and Google and came up with that simple app.”

“After the first build it turned out to be an app that helped us to make more than that.  Like making a single report that can be useful for an accounting process. Maybe back then we used to have about 3 documents with participants from a project and we can follow up on how these participants go from one city to another and at the same time have a report of that activity.”

How did you use AppSheet to help families during hurricane season?

“The App was called Rescate and it helped us to share information about what was going on [during the hurricane season]. In the first place people wanted to find their families on Facebook”

How long did it take to develop this App?

“It took me basically a couple hours and I saw that I needed to add some uniform naming and copied the google sheets information. I think it just took me a couple hours, about 4 hours to make the app.

“After that it went through a process of approval on the Google Play Store. I have to upload it to Google Play Store so it is available for everyone and that took about another day.”

“You know, after the flood, you know, the crisis went on for about a week. The app was useful after that and even was useful after the second hurricane.”

How many people were using the App?

“Actually I got to count about 8,000 people registered in the app. About 8,000 people were registered by the team's. There was a team that gathered information from Facebook and WhatsApp and each one of them just uploaded information.

“I got several messages about three or four messages from families saying thank you. I found out my daughter and my husband were okay and got to a shelter.”

“I don't know if more people were able to find their relatives then, but it accomplished a good purpose. It makes you realize that with the fast development development that AppSheet provides you're capable of providing solutions for anything you want”

What opportunities did building this App bring?

“Red cross international organized a meeting. They had a specific way of working in that context which connected the families. They collected the information, but they didn't have a fast way of [collecting this information] and the app provided that fast way of connecting families. [During the meeting] we shared how the app provides that fast way to make a solution for that problem.”

How did building this App benefit your life in general?

“Well in life in general I feel like I have accomplished a new goal. It wasn't established before, but I saw the opportunity when I explored the things that AppSheet could do. That became like my north you know— that [when] I have a problem that can be solved with AppSheet I just go straight in and start building, you know some documents in the database. That provides me with a feeling of security. For my personal life I just feel you know that I've accomplished something higher.”

What is your background in technology?

“I have a coding background on computing. I learned about MySQL and SQL, Java NetBeans, you know I'm pretty much object-oriented. It allows me to understand easily when it comes to building formulas. Also, the [AppSheet]community is very helpful. [Overall,] I have a background in several sql-based databases.”

What inspired you to create this app? Was it related to your work?

“It wasn't related to my work, at that moment, [I was working]as a Monitoring and Evaluation Technician. I worked with AppSheet as a personal project, but at the same time I was using Appsheet for my work.

“The application was useful to register people in shelters. In the area where I work the catastrophe that happened was that the people's houses were destroyed. Because the soil became loose, the rivers flooded their houses. Because usually in the area where I work the people make crops near the river so that the river can, you know, irrigate the land. People near the rivers got their houses completely destroyed. I needed [an] AppSheet [App] to monitor that occurrence too.”

How did you design the app to monitor areas that were flooded?

“I just incorporated a fast report in the app that I was using for my work that generated a fast report where I have the communities number of houses, partial destroyed number of houses, number of families affected. [I then took] all that information and made a simple report. [Then] added [some] new modules on AppSheet where the community worker made a new report from that community and I got that information as soon as possible.”

How many apps have you built with AppSheet?

“I’ve built around 6, 7, 8 different apps. Some of them are just like a test. Testing different functions. I’ve explored creating documents directly. I haven't explored everything like making a report that gets me a list of another reference. I haven't tried that yet, but basically I have tested advanced formulas. I have used AppSheet basically for that.

“I'm pretty sure that maybe using the API functionality connecting API’s I'm pretty sure that I'm going to unlock a new universe. You know when I found out that I can do something new like that. One thing I feel proud about is that I made a rating star system or something like that rating star system. Then, someone came up with a better idea that I haven't implemented yet. I went WOW that's beyond what I created.”

“You know, it’s exciting. Sometimes you don't know how to make something and then someone comes up with how to do it and then you can just take this idea, this other idea, and make it even better you know. That's the power of the AppSheet Community!”

What would your advice be to new users to the AppSheet Platform?

“Well my advice can be that they should start by using the basics. Like connecting tables, to several basic formulas, then to advanced formulas, and then to connecting documents. Don't feel like you are not advancing and don't feel threatened by some of the cool stuff that it's hidden behind AppSheet. That will be the basic message: don't be scared [to] explore things because you're not going to make a mess, you know you can wrap everything and start again.”

Key Features of Rescate

Rene’s AppSheet app became the Official App for emergency situations in Honduras and Central America. Rene’s app was used by shelters to register people arriving, report their different needs, as well as several other features that you can find by downloading the app here.

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