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a new kind of bindiWhether wealthy or poor, the women of India are proud of their heritage and embrace their unique culture. One of the most noticeable components of Indian women’s culture is the bindi. While the rest of the world views it as a simple accessory, this tiny dot that sits in the middle of the woman’s forehead is a key element of reflecting Hinduism. Today the bindi is capable of being more than a religious adornment. The Life Saving Dot is a new kind of bindi that provides its wearer with a daily dose of iodine.

Iodine Deficiency in India

Iodine Deficiency Disorder, or IDD, is especially common in India due to the lack of iodized soil and nutrition. The Life Saving Dot has not only directly improved women’s health, but has also brought attention to the importance of including iodine in the everyday diet.

IDD is common especially in India for a number of reasons. The soil in India is famous for its lack of iodization, leaving crops with an insufficient amount of iodine. A majority of Indians favor a vegetarian diet and rarely eat seafood, which is another important source of iodine. A lack of iodized nutrition and a simple lack of awareness are the main contributors to IDD in India.

Iodine deficiency leads to a number of health issues. It is the largest contributor to brain damage which is often permanent. IDD is especially common among women as it affects pregnancy and can lead to breast cancer. Although IDD can have severe consequences, the disorder itself is easily preventable with a sufficient daily dose of iodine.

The Life Saving Dot: How it Works

The technology of the Life Saving Dot is comparable to that of a nicotine patch. The wearer absorbs the nutrients through her skin while wearing the patch. The Life Saving Dot provides the wearer with 150 to 200 micrograms of iodine when worn for at least four hours. While most women wearing the Life Saving Dot report beneficial results, the effectiveness of the dot will depend on certain factors such as skin thickness and even weather. The precipitation level of the current climate has the potential to affect the effectiveness of the dot.

This small dot has had a tremendous impact on the overall health of Indian women. Women wearing this bindi have reported a decrease in headaches, a common side effect of iodine deficiency. Costing only 10 rupees (equivalent to 16 cents in USD) for a pack of 30 dots, it is easily accessible to women of all income levels in India.

Impact of the Life Saving Dot

While the Life Saving Dot has a clearly direct impact on women’s health, perhaps the most important success of the dot is the awareness it created. The greatest contributor to IDD in India is a simple lack of awareness of the importance of iodine. An easy and effective way to combat iodine deficiency is by cooking with iodized salt. However, a significant number of Indian households were unaware of its importance.

India has made great progress in the search for IDD alleviation. According to a recent survey conducted from October 2018 to March 2019, awareness of iodized salt benefits is at 62.2% in urban areas and 50.5% in rural areas. Out of the 21,406 households included in the survey, 76.3% now have iodized salt in the home.

Awareness of iodine necessity increased due to media and the efforts of the Life Saving Dot. This new kind of bindi allows women to represent their proud culture while protecting their health. The direct health benefits of the Life Saving Dot are awe-inspiring and the awareness it presents is life-saving. By improving the awareness of the importance of incorporating iodine into one’s diet, families are protected from goiter, pregnancy complications and even brain disorders. Thanks to a small dot on the forehead, Indian women and their families are protected from IDD and the potential health risks it brings.

– Brittany Carter 
Photo: Flickr

help Guatemala
Currently, in Guatemala, 200 people are missing, 110 people are deceased and more than 1.7 million people have been impacted by the eruption of the Fuego volcano that began on June 3. It was the nation’s most severe volcanic eruption in 45 years and the size of this disaster has compelled many around the world to act.

Images of the volcano’s victims and its devastating impact are easily accessible on social media, as are advocacy and volunteer opportunities. Keep reading for a few examples of how to help Guatemala’s Fuego victims and bring awareness to the crisis.

Advocacy on Social Media

Social media has made advocacy from home possible and is one of the easiest ways to get involved in a cause. Several hashtags have popped up on social media platforms since the eruption began as a way to raise awareness along with fundraising and donation opportunities. With a simple search on Instagram or Twitter for any of the hashtags mentioned below, users can see pictures and updates on life in Guatemala after the volcano.

Examples of popular hashtags include:

  • #PrayForGuatemala
  • #GuatemalaEstoyContigo
  • #TodosPorGuate
  • #VolcanDeFuego
  • #FuerzaGuatemala

Finding Volunteers on Facebook

Another social media site that has offered ways to help Guatemala is Facebook. Beyond matching donations, the Crisis Response page on Facebook for the volcanic eruption has become a way for locals to find and give help. Facebook users can post to the page and list what they are offering or need, their location and how to get in contact with them.

Scrolling through the page shows people offering food, shelter or supplies, requesting help and asking for volunteers in specific locations. What is even more impressive is the number of posts that have already been completed or closed. This is yet another example of a relatively easy and effective way to help victims of Fuego’s eruption.

Red Cross Volunteers Working Hard

The Red Cross, led by the CruzRojaGT or Guatemalan arm of the organization, has been working tirelessly to provide rescue operations and support to Guatemalans. This organization has no intention of leaving soon and is putting long-term plans into place in order to keep helping survivors of this crisis.

The organization administered an emergency appeal to maintain programs in Guatemala to support 6,000 vulnerable people for at least a year. More than two weeks after the initial eruption, there are still 1,600 volunteers helping families evacuated during the eruption.

The American Red Cross is offering help as well, with programs set up to help people find loved ones they may have lost contact with in Guatemala. Beyond donating to the cause, sharing this information and keeping up to date on the current conditions are great ways to get involved with the Red Cross efforts.

Donations Flow In to Help Guatemala

In horrible times of crisis, sometimes the only positives are outpourings of support from the global community. There are many organizations and nonprofits accepting donations to provide help to burn victims, shelters, supplies and future rebuilding. GoFundMe set up a page with verified campaigns aiming to raise money to help Guatemala. Many of these funds were started by Guatemalans or people with ties to the country and some have already raised over $100,000.

This is partially made possible by the thousands of social media users who have used hashtags and posts to bring awareness to these causes and the ongoing impacts of the eruption. After the dust settles in Guatemala, it is important to keep sharing and being advocates for the millions of people impacted by Fuego’s eruption and to bring awareness to this crisis.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

Gates Foundation

On February 22, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation published its eighth annual letter, detailing global concerns and presenting goals for the foundation.

Energy and Time

Letters from previous years have included a variety of specific goals in the organization’s mission statement, ranging from disease prevention, economic improvement and resource distribution in developing countries. This year, the philanthropic duo is tackling two particularly salient topics: energy and time.

The annual letter’s structure is hinged on a conversation that took place at a high school in Kentucky. The students asked the co-founders: if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Bill’s answer, “more energy,” falls in line with his decades-long work on climate change and clean energy solutions. In addition to elaborating upon his climate talk-spurred partnership, Breakthrough Energy Coalition, Bill highlights flaws and misconceptions about the world’s current carbon output data and the need for a zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century.

He follows a blunt equation—Population (P) x Services (S) x Energy (E) x Carbon Dioxide (C) = CO2 (a necessary net zero)—with the solemn remark, “We need an energy miracle.”

Call for Youth Involvement

Piggybacking on a year of climate talks, international partnerships and private investments from big donors, the call falls upon open ears. The call is also directed towards the world’s youth.

His More Energy portion of the annual letter pleads for a multi-generational solution, rightfully acknowledging that the gears continue turning well into future years. He aligns with The Power Dialogue, a student-to-state forum held between student representatives and national leaders.

The event, which is sponsored by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, took place on April 4, 2016, under the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Women’s Rights and Global Poverty

Likewise, Melinda’s superpower, More Time, raises awareness around another turbulent issue: women’s rights residing at the core of global poverty.

She evaluates the theory of opportunity cost and underscores the issue of extreme gender inequality within poorer countries. “[What are] the other things women could be doing if they didn’t spend so much time on mundane tasks[?]” she speculates.

Her letter also foreshadows the focus of pop-culture front runners who, on March 7, signed an open letter to world leaders calling for the right to education, health and equal opportunity for women around the world.

Over 80 signatures, including comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and prominent figures such as Sir Elton John and Oprah Winfrey, underline Melinda’s scrutiny of women’s participation in unpaid work, and the extreme gender gaps at home and abroad. “Once we see a norm,” she writes, “we can replace them with something better.”

The Gates’ Philanthropic Way

Bill and Melinda Gates, through the work of their foundation, governmental and private partnerships, continue to push the conversation forward toward a generation of world improvers. And their annual letter proves: you don’t need a super suit to do it.

Nora Harless

Photo: Wikipedia

antibiotic
Antibiotic resistance poses one of the greatest threats to global health and so-called “superbug” infections continue to grow. The latest World Health Organization (WHO) survey shows widespread confusion surrounding antibiotic resistance in developing countries.

The WHO reveals that those most affected by and at risk for antibiotic-resistant infections are confused about them. This poses a challenge to the treatment and eradication of antibiotic-resistant infections, which are propagating all over the world.

“Antibiotic resistance is occurring everywhere in the world, compromising the treatment of infectious diseases and undermining many other advances in health and medicine,” says the WHO.

According to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, bacteria become resistant either by a genetic mutation or by acquiring resistance from another bacterium.

The survey, carried out in September and October 2015, covered 12 countries including Barbados, China, Egypt and India. The statistics cover the countries’ use of antibiotics and knowledge of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

The results were below expectations. Although respondents acknowledged that antibiotic resistance is a threat to them and their families, they did not fully understand how it affects them or what they can do to protect themselves.

According to the findings, “64 percent of respondents believe antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, despite the fact that antibiotics have no impact on viruses.”

Almost one-third of respondents believe they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than for the full course of the prescription, which is also incorrect.

This uncertainty is occurring at a time when the threat of antibiotic resistance is reaching a peak. Deaths caused by antibiotic-resistant infections, known as “superbugs,” are growing faster than we are able to respond to them. The death rate for patients with infections caused by common but resistant bacteria treated in hospitals can be about twice that of patients with infections caused by the same non-resistant bacteria, says the WHO.

With results as pronounced as these, the WHO has started a new campaign to increase global awareness and improve understanding of the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: WHO 1, WHO 2, WHO 3, TUFTS
Photo: Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance

compassion_international
Compassion International, a Christian ministry organization, is highlighting the reality of global poverty through an interactive event hosted in the United States.

The exhibits are free to the public and seek to display true stories of children living in challenged developing countries such as Kenya, Uganda and the Dominican Republic. Through this forum, the organization gives visitors the opportunity to step into the lives of people living in developing countries without getting on a plane.

Visitors are guided through exhibits laid out over 2,000 square feet. Throughout the tour, people have the opportunity to experience the lives of three children who are sponsored by Compassion International. Each of the children featured narrates their own story.

“The tour took us through his life in the streets and eventually to the point where he became involved with Compassion International,” Joseph Hughes, who resonated with the story of Rueben, a child from the Dominican Republic, said. “It was a moving experience. I’ll admit, when Reuben finally became stable, had food and access to an education, I teared up a little.”

According to UNICEF, 1.9 million children are living in poverty today. The interactive tour started when Compassion International teamed up with local churches to provide child development programs and assist children living in poverty.

James Hays, a pastor who helps lead the event, said he wanted to give others the opportunity to experience life in different regions of the world that are impacted by global poverty.

“We thought it would be something not only our church would benefit from, but the community could as well,” he said.

Overall, the response from visitors has been positive. Jillian Kissell, a participant of one event in Searcy, Arkansas described the event as “enlightening”.

“I think it’s important to see how others are living and what their daily lives look like,” she said. “I like experiences that will get me out of my comfort zone and learn something new.”

Hays said this is the first time Compassion International has put on the event. According to information found on Compassion International’s website, the tour will visit 35 cities this year.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: UNICEF, Harding, Access Atlanta, TCPalm, The Connection
Photo: Flickr

Global_Health_Film_festival
The Global Health Film initiative held its first festival last month to use film and media as a catalyst for discussion and change on global health issues. The festival included film production workshops, in-depth panel discussions and pitching opportunities.

The inaugural event was held in London this year on Oct. 30-31. The festival – Films to Inspire Change, began a new era of global health discussion, incorporating art and expression into the previously science-only forum.

According to the Global Health Film initiative, workshops at the festival included:

  • Film for social change in low-resource settings ( by Medical Aid Films)
  • Guerrilla filmmaking and global health (by What Took You So Long?)
  • Crowdfunding for global health film (by Dartmouth Films)
  • Impact of global health film (by BRITDOC Foundation)
  • Innovation at grass roots: filmmaking in low resource settings (by BBC Media Action)
  • Media training for health advocate (by Rockhopper TV)

One of the films featured at the festival, “Body Team 12,” follows the first female member of the Ebola response teams in Liberia. Another, “Fire in the Blood,” documents the battle to make AIDS drugs cheap enough for poor countries to afford them (Sci Dev Net). “TB Unmasked” and “TB Silent Killer” cover tuberculosis, while “Outbreak” exposes the “hidden” beginning of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

In order to facilitate discussions such as those sparked at the festival, the Global Health Film initiative also developed two labs this year to support global health advocates and produce films that highlight critical global health issues. The Global Health Film Lab houses nine fellows and gives them the training and tools they need to produce their own change-inspiring films.

The initiative also holds screenings for new films that present new ideas in the global health field. Past screenings include “Girl Rising,” which promotes the education of girls in developing countries, and “Open Heart,” which tells the story of Rwandan children with rheumatic heart disease.

These films continue to raise awareness and present otherwise widely-ignored information in a way that evokes an emotional response.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: SciDev, Global Health Film 1, Global Health Film 2
Photo: Pixabay

World Hunger Action Month
Established five years ago, World Hunger Action Month has been an international holiday aimed at raising awareness and inspiring people to donate to one of the several causes on World Food Day.

This holiday takes places throughout the month of October with World Food Day occurring on Oct. 16, 2015; in the spirit of this holiday, the list below describes several prominent organizations for those who are inclined to donate:

  1. World Food Programme – The World Food Programme was created in 1961 as part of the UN in order to aid countries susceptible to malnutrition. Its mission is to create a world where one has access to his or her daily needs at all times. Operating with sister agencies in Rome, the UN and with NGO partners, the WFP routinely affects more than 80 million in 75 countries with food assistance.
  2. UNICEF – Originally founded in 1946 to aid post-war countries, by 1954 its mandate adopted the needs of children who also lived in the developing world. Today, working in roughly 190 countries, UNICEF provides nutrition, safe water, sanitation and immunization to the world’s extreme poor; approximately 90 percent of revenue goes straight to the programs it supports.
  3. Stop Hunger Now – Stop Hunger Now is a relatively new foundation that began in 1998; despite this, the organization has since become a major influence by providing more than 180 meals to recipients in 65 countries.
  4. Action Against Hunger – This is a highly rated organization. The effects of this charity can be seen in more than 45 countries, and it aids around 13 million people annually. Reportedly, for every dollar, 93 cents are invested in relief programs.
  5. Freedom from Hunger – Freedom from Hunger is a longstanding organization focusing its efforts strictly where poverty and hunger are paramount issues. Today this organization reaches 24 countries across the world.
  6. Save the Children – Beginning in 1919, Save the Children was founded by Eglanyne Jebb to assist war-torn Europe. After the Second World War, its revitalization then spread from continent to continent, ceaselessly expanding even through today with the undertaking of the Millennium Development goals.
  7. FHI – Food for the Hunger International Federation began in 1971 founded by Dr. Larry Ward; it was not registered as an international NGO until 1987 in Geneva.The FHI provides various services depending on the need of the locals, yet focuses on health (including nutrition), sanitary water and agriculture.
  8. Hunger Project – The Hunger Project is an innovative organization that attempts to empower men and women in rural regions to become self-reliant and sustain their own development.Its work has reached 24,000 communities, affecting roughly 20.6 million individuals.
  9. Bread for the World – This organization produces change by advocacy. Bread for the World was founded in 1974 and reaches out to elected officials through letters in order to produce responses among the congressional leadership.
  10. Heifer International – Established in 1944, this organization provides livestock and training to those in poverty in order to break the cyclic struggle to access food.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: WFP, UNICEF, Stop Hunger Now, Action Against Hunger, Freedom from Hunger, Save the Children, FHIF, THP, Bread, Heifer International
Photo: Flickr

Light-The-Way
On Sept. 24, at sundown, thousands of candles, flashlights and lanterns were raised to the sky in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Sustainable Development Goals

These 17 goals, which would be announced by world leaders in New York the following day, range from ending poverty to protecting marine life and providing quality education.

Each country would decide whether or not to commit to the fifteen-year agenda to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.”

The Sustainable Development Goals were designed to build upon their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, implemented from 2000 to 2015, targeted the eradication of poverty, disease and hunger.

Now nations hope that the SDGs will finish the deal by directly addressing issues that promote poverty, such as unsanitary water and social inequality.

“This agreement marks an important milestone in putting our world on an inclusive and sustainable course,” says Helen Clark, the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

The biggest challenge now is ensuring that these goals remain on track and leaders exercise vigilance in carrying them out. This is where #LightTheWay steps in.

#LightTheWay For a Better Planet

#LightTheWay was founded by action/2015, one of the largest civil society campaigns. The idea was to “call on leaders to light the way to a better future for people and planet.”

#LightTheWay, described by Our Voices as “a tidal wave of humanity,” ensured that the Sustainable Development Goals will not be quickly forgotten. It tells leaders “we’ll be watching every step of the way to ensure they are met.”

Over 100,000 people in cities across the globe organized vigils in both public and private settings to send a message to world leaders that their citizens support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Organizations such as Our Voice and action/2015 encouraged participants to post pictures and videos of the vigils on social media with the caption “#Lighttheway.”

Some world leaders see the enthusiasm and determination as a promise of a better future and fully support their citizens’ efforts in #LightTheWay.

A Global Effort

After more than 150 people gathered on the Millennium Bridge in Dublin, Ireland’s President, Michael D. Higgins, said, “It is my hope that by 2030, we will look back on the 25 September 2015 as a decisive moment in global history.”

Even prominent figures such as Stephen Hawking and Malala Yousafzai participated in #LightTheWay to show their desire for a safer and more stable world.

Said UN Youth Delegate Eoin O’Liathain, “These new goals are lighting the way forward, everyone must work to make them a reality.”

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Action 2015/span>, Our Voices, UNDP, UN , Development Education Programme
Photo: Action 2015

syrian_refugees
The Syria Refugee crisis is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. With the picture of the young refugee boy whose body washed up on shore grabbing the attention of the world, more people than ever are paying attention to this humanitarian crisis.

With increased awareness of the Syrian Refugees, comes an increase in advocacy (as people in many countries are stepping up to tell their governments how they feel about accepting refugees into their countries) and an increase in activism.

Individuals like hotel owner Andrew Davies and lettings agent Wendy Wilcox on the Greek island of Symi, are stepping up to help these those who are fleeing violence and pain in hopes of finding a better life.

Together, the pair has launched a reception service on the tiny Greek island called Solidarity Symi, using an abandoned post office as their resource headquarters.

This organization is a not-for-profit that works to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment to destitute Syrians who have crossed over the Mediterranean into Europe.

These heroic individuals work at this project eight hours a day in addition to the jobs they work at to make a living.

There are 30 core volunteers that work to get the refugees taken care of while they are in Symi and to direct them to resources about how to continue their journey safely.

Though some Symi residents worry about the influx of refugees hurting their tourism-based economy, Davies’ thoughts on the matter are simple. “How could we lie on the beach reading books when people were suffering?” he asks.

Many cross the Mediterranean in dangerously overloaded boats, with smugglers who overcharge them or delay the trip. But, in a country torn apart by war, many Syrians are left with no other choice.

As Francine Uenuma of Save the Children emphasizes based on the refugees she has spoken to near Serbia, “They’re fleeing violence. They’re fleeing persecution. And the risks they’re taking, I think, underscore that point.”

Right now, independent operations like Solidarity Symi are especially important in light of the strain on humanitarian aid agencies such as the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.N.’s World Food Program.

Solidarity Symi has raised over £26,000 through a Facebook site and donations from visitors. There are donation boxes set up around the island, and community members are working to raise awareness of the organization through on-site and online mediums so that it can continue to develop.

The Facebook page is also continually updated with items that the organization is in need of, so that those present on the island can make material donations such as soap, travel bags, specific foods, sleeping mats, and even toys for children.

The Solidarity Symi Facebook page is a very positive resource that updates supporters with pictures and posts about how their donations are helping and about refugees as individual people, not simply victims and members of a mass migration.

The people working tirelessly at organizations such as Solidarity Symi are a perfect testament to how each individual has the power to make a positive difference.

For more information about Solidarity Symi, or to donate to the organization, visit their website.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Blogspot, Daily Mail, Facebook, NPR 1, NPR 2, Reuters
Photo: cooksailing

news
Everyone has heard the phrase “ignorance is bliss” when they were younger. And it’s not a phrase that anyone can fully understand until they are suddenly faced with the gift of knowledge, and the world seems to fall out from underneath them.

Because it really is bliss, to live blandly and emptily and unaware of the world around you.

It’s hard for anyone to force themselves to become informed because it seems that by choosing to learn more about the world, what a person is really forced to do is to learn about all of the bad in the world and to be bombarded with negative images of all the horrific things that happen on the planet we inhabit every day.

Sometimes it feels like a wonder that anyone reads the news or tries to keep up with the times — every day it’s something new and uniquely terrible.

And it doesn’t help that sometimes all of this tragedy does is reinforce the idea that an individual is like a tiny drop in a massive bucket, not capable of making much of a difference. So we don’t educate ourselves because all it will do is make us sad, and what can a single person do anyway?

As Steven Shepherd states in a scholastic article on the perpetuation of ignorance, “Maintaining unfamiliarity is an ideal way to protect the psychologically comfortable (even if inaccurate) belief that [someone else] is taking care of the problem.”

The average consumer of news underestimates how much of a difference they are able to make but not the power of other individuals to make a difference. By assuming that other people will take care of the world’s problems, they effectively admit that it is only through the power of people that change will be affected.

The fact of the matter is, in some sense, we are all individual drops in a bucket. But it is only if every drop agrees to do its part that we can and will make the world a better place. As Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Once a person decides to make an active effort to change the world, then possibilities start to open up. “Seek and you shall find,” as the saying goes. There are causes and charities that are always accepting donations (use a website like Guidestar.com to verify the legitimacy of the organization, and check to see how much of their money goes toward the cause and how much to areas like administration).

There are rallies to attend, there is awareness to raise, there are petitions to sign, and there is understanding to spread. Because, though ignorance may be bliss, knowledge is power, and compassion is the most vital ingredient of our humanity.

The Borgen Project itself is a perfect resource for finding ways for the informed person to make a difference. Our “30 Ways to Right a Wrong” page is full of excellent ideas for anyone who wants to start making an active difference.

Pretending the problems of the world don’t exist won’t make the problems any better. In contrast, every individual who decides he or she is going to do what he or she can to right wrongs will make the problems better.

So yes, depressing news stories continue to flood the media waves can be depressing, however we should still pay attention:

  • Because it’s our responsibility to uphold the principles of humanity.
  • Because it is the only way that we can start to address problems.
  • Because by breaking out of our false sense of security, we can create a real sense of security all throughout the world. Our individual bubbles of privilege can be expanded to include all of the people across the earth.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Before It’s News, APA
Photo: Pittsburgh Parent