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What do the Nepal earthquake, Cecil the Lion, and Star Wars all have in common?

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Oxfam distributes hygiene kits in Sankhu. The kits contain a bucket for clean water, a bar of soap, oral rehydration salts, and towels, helping people to meet their basic sanitation needs. Oxfam has also provided the community with emergency latrines to help prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases. Photo: Aubrey Wade / Oxfam

Every year Google releases its Year in Search results and these three cracked the top list. This year the results come with enough visualizations and downloadable data sets to keep analysts warm through winter. They also bring a global message of hope and empathy.

Megan Weintraub is the director of digital engagement at Oxfam America

When I started digging through the data, I saw evidence everywhere. For instance, among the typical searches for celebrity pregnancies, cat gifs, and solutions to the Rubik’s Cube, we also see that on April 25, “How can I help Nepal?” was the top question asked by Google users around the world. In that moment after an 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck, we turned our collective attention towards a country that already faces so much poverty and asked what we could do.

Then in September, after the body of three-year-old Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkey shore, Google saw a spike in searches related to the refugee crisis. People asked, “What is a refugee?” “Why are people migrating to Europe?” and “What happened to Aylan Kurdi?”

While some of these searches could have been generated by fear about a world that experienced so much turmoil in 2015, I believe they also came from a place of optimism and curiosity about the global events that unite us. At Oxfam, we see this all the time. When an earthquake hits a poor country or violence displaces millions of families from their homes, our community reaches out with questions and support. You volunteer, donate, share photos with your friends and family, and ask how Oxfam will address emergencies with long-term efforts.

Google’s Year in Search allows us to “explore the biggest moments and the questions they inspired.” I encourage you to dig in whether you care about embeddable charts or simply want a view into how the Internet aggregated and reflected some optimism for us during a tumultuous year.


2015 has been a year in crisis—but you can bring hope to families around the world. Help people lift themselves out of poverty with your tax-deductible year-end gift today.

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