Yash Bhutada


makeContact: Mobilizing Resources for Survivors after Tragedy

Advised by Arianna Mazzeo (SEAS) and Luba Greenwood (SEAS)

In the aftermath of mass tragedies, communities must navigate significant trauma beyond the number of people killed or wounded. The reality being that trauma manifests differently across individuals, making resiliency a complex, personalized journey. Across instances of disaster, communities must respond to mass crises not only in the short term, but in managing long-term trauma as well. In some cases, such as after a mass shooting in a school, individuals must attempt to resume daily living in the site of their trauma, regularly facing retraumatization through the sights, smells, and sounds reminiscent of that day. While interviewing student survivors of mass shootings, I discovered nuances in accessing healing unique to this population: student survivors are typically dismissed during decision-making, lack the rights or ability to self-advocate, and are largely dependent on a caretaker. Designing around a population with these barriers better enables us to consider solutions across ages and other tragedies involving localized crisis response. If we can understand what student survivors need, how to engage them, and how to improve their utilization of relevant healing services, we may deter unhealthy and dangerous coping behaviors that often manifest after a traumatic event and improve PTSD healing. To do this, I evaluated several crisis responses across disasters, including mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and natural disaster, and observed that immediately after mass tragedy, a rapid influx of donations, emergency services, and volunteers help communities deal with initial shock and loss. But then short-term crisis support subsides, and survivors are left unsupported in the interim while communities prepare more permanent services. Thus, I introduce my systemic intervention makeContact, a new service model for intermediate crisis response that helps connect survivors and communities with the right resources after mass tragedy. By designing a platform that enables communities to rapidly and repeatedly evaluate survivor needs in the aftermath of crisis, communities can call for more targeted resources at different periods in healing—whether it’s professional skills, time, or donations—to address the otherwise unknown and unmet needs of survivors.

Yash Bhutada, MDE. Photograph of an elementary school classroom with multiple children sitting curled up on the floor.
Yash Bhutada, MDE. makeContact is a digital platform that helps communities navigate well-being after mass tragedy.
Yash Bhutada, MDE. makeContact centralizes the experience for survivors to access resources on their terms.
Yash Bhutada, MDE. makeContact is a platform for survivors, service coordinators, and providers to connect with each other and access what they need after initial crisis response subsides and communities must pick up the pieces on their own.