How office paper helps to find missing persons

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In Brazil, 200 000 people are reported missing every year and posters are the principal way to find them.

There’s nothing that leaves more of a loose end in the lives of those left behind than someone that goes missing.

Whether it’s a friend or family member, and whether they have chosen to disappear or been abducted, the sensation of a life missing and a hole where the person was can be even more disturbing for those left behind than a bereavement. They cannot grieve, or close a chapter, or move on – life is, in many respects, on hold, sometimes indefinitely. With no body to bury, closure is impossible.

Additionally, when someone goes missing – for whatever reason – gathering information about sightings can be crucial in finding them quickly and in most cases, safely. In Brazil alone, close to a quarter of a million people are reported missing each year, and simple sheets of printer paper are leading the way in helping to return some of them home.

NGO Mães da Sé has teamed up with printer manufacturer Hewlett Packard to create the Print to Help campaign: “Imprima para ajudar” (Print to Help). Owners of Hewlett Packard machines who are participating in the scheme and whose printers are equipped with ePrint technology have the ability to print posters directly from missing person emails as soon as they are sent. Displaying these locally in public areas is invaluable for spreading the word fast both online and offline; crucial in the safe location of vulnerable persons and missing children. Forwarding emails on, and sharing the poster on social media can also get the word out fast.

The scheme isn’t just a scattergun effect either; emails and therefore printing is activated by location, so the posters are distributed to the area the person was last seen in before they disappeared. For a popular brand of printer for both home and office use, that kind of reach is an essential aid to the police in their search.

The Director of Marketing at Hewlett Packard in Brazil, Marcio Furrier, made a statement about the company’s embrace of technology to solve real world problems. For a country where 15 people disappear daily in Rio de Janeiro alone, the hope that the use of new and developing technology to return at least some of those people back to their families is a very tangible one.

Sadly, missing persons cases don’t always end happily – there’s rarely an innocent reason for a person to disappear, whether they have vanished through crime or through mental health issues – but the knowledge of what has happened to loved ones can at least help families to a place of acceptance.

During just under two decades of operation, Mães da Sé has located 4.232 of the missing, and offers help in particular to mothers undergoing the particularly painful limbo that is a missing child. A network of connected printers receiving missing persons information in real time will only help them add their ‘localizado’ – found – tag to many more.