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Rappi: The Colombian Unicorn that Has Given Venezuelans a ChanceThe socio-economic and political crisis in Venezuela has forced millions of citizens to flee the country in pursuit of better opportunities. In fact, there are approximately 4.5 million Venezuelans abroad. Almost 1.8 million are in the neighboring country of Colombia. This migratory movement has generated a demand for blue-collar jobs. Rappi, the Colombian unicorn, has become a very important niche for migrant labor. It allows them to start over and overcome their poor economic and social condition.

Rappi is an innovative App that works as a large shopping center in which the customer gets all kinds of products. The product quickly arrives at the customer’s location. This business model requires thousands of office employees as well as shoppers and distributors. While many of the Venezuelans that enter neighboring countries only have a high school diploma, Rappi has opportunities for them. The Venezuelans can provide for their families with only a bike and a smartphone.

The Presence of Venezuelans in Rappi

With only five years in the market, Rappi has seen a constant 20% growth every month. This reaches thousands across 9 countries in Latin America. This rapid increase has been directly correlated to the massive emigration of people. Today, 57% of Rappi’s distributors, or better known as rappitenderos, are Venezuelans. This is because Rappi only requires the special permit acquired with the traditional migratory process and no previous working reference.

Many studies have shown that Venezuelans in Rappi work considerably more hours and days by choice in comparison to Colombians. Rappi provides a flexible model in which distributors accommodate the hours they work according to their necessities and availability. The Venezuelan rappitenderos work around 10 to 12 hours a day, while Colombian rappitenderos work approximately 8 hours. Moreover, 97% of Venezuelans work up to 7 days a week while only 5% of Colombians work 6 days. 

Rappi has helped Venezuelans find a job in which they can provide for their families. It also has looked for other ways to help their families. Rappi has partnered with Valiu, a Colombo-Venezuelan startup. This collaboration helps the rappitenderos send money to their relatives that live in Venezuela and struggle with poverty. This partnership has created better alternatives for distributors to manage their income and help their families.

The Impact

Rappi is the first fully Colombian, and one of the most important, tech firms in Latin America. It is the perfect innovation that has eased people’s lives, changed consumption habits and helped small businesses thrive. More than anything, it has allowed thousands of Venezuelans that have been looking for a better quality of life. It has become a means to reduce poverty and close the gaps of inequality.

The startup was born with the mission to make people’s lives easier. It extended its main goal to a community that today calls for help and needs to generate extra income for their personal and professional goals. Additionally, Venezuelan migrants contribute to the national economy of Colombia. Despite challenges and migratory processes, they have found their way and Rappi has been the dominant employer for this strong workforce.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Pixabay

Battling Asthma With Smart InhalersAsthma is a far-reaching condition that affects many people’s breathing ability. Patients typically use inhalers to treat their symptoms. Unfortunately, only 6% of patients know how to use an inhaler to its fullest potential. As a result, only half of all asthma inhaler users manage their symptoms. However, with smart inhalers being developed there may be a solution.

What is Asthma?

One with asthma may experience coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. These symptoms are due to the swelling of the airways. It causes the airways to partially close, lessening one’s breathing ability. Asthma experiencers may endure chest pain, an increase in coughing and other symptoms when having a cold or when exercising.

Different circumstances may worsen asthma. Asthma subcategories include allergy-induced asthma, exercise-induced asthma and occupational asthma. Allergy-induced asthma causes asthma symptoms to increase when the patient is near allergens, such as pollen or animal dander. Exercise-induced asthma worsens asthma when doing physical labor because the patient is already breathing heavily. In addition, occupational asthma produces asthma symptoms when working in a place with chemicals or gases.

Asthma and Poverty

Poverty can play a substantial role in asthma and asthma relief. Managing asthma can be difficult when a family doesn’t have enough money to pay for doctor appointments or inhalers. Additionally, families struggling with money may not have a car or be able to attend doctor appointments to get diagnosed or proper treatment. Studies have shown that poverty relates closely with asthma in cities. For example, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania comes in at number four on the overall asthma national capital ranking and number three on the poverty ranking in the United States.

Asthma kills many more people in underprivileged societies than in prosperous areas. A lack of medicine is a large contributor to the deaths involving a manageable condition. Limited treatment, medical knowledge and a high cost of medicine all contribute to the fatalities caused by asthma. Moreover, there is minimal research done on the ways that asthma affects the poor versus the affluent. For instance, due to the varying studies, the rate of the seriousness of the problem in developing countries can range anywhere from 3% to 30%.

Asthma Relief

There are a couple of ways to treat asthma, but nothing makes the condition disappear. Patients struggling with asthma may find it helpful to take allergy medication, as asthma is known to worsen with allergies. Others may find it useful to treat the condition with long or short-term solutions. Long-term medications would include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers or theophylline. These medications are pills or inhalers that work to relieve asthma symptoms on a day to day basis. Medicine that relieves symptoms as quickly as possible would include some beta-agonists, anticholinergic drugs and oral corticosteroids.

Smart Inhalers

In the UK, proper treatment could have saved 66% of asthma patients’ lives. The hope for smart inhalers is that it will be able to provide better care than the typical inhaler. A notification may inform patients of conditions such as allergens or chemicals in the air that may worsen their symptoms. The smart inhaler could also alert a patient if they are using short-term medication too much. Excess usage of quick-relief medication would demonstrate that the patient needs a new treatment plan or to see a doctor because the medication is not relieving the symptoms.

Smart inhalers could potentially allow patients to understand and correct their faults with the usage of their inhalers. Hopefully, this would allow patients to have better control over their asthma. For impoverished communities, the smart inhaler would be able to alert the asthma patient when their condition is advancing and when to see a doctor. The patient likely would not avoid going to the doctor if the inhaler notified them that their breathing was putting them in danger. This has the capabilities of preventing many deaths in developing countries. Smart inhalers would need to be made cheap and accessible to poorer countries for it to be a promising solution. However, it may be a good start in the bettering of treatment for this disease and an improvement in the world’s fight with asthma.

Hailee Shores

Photo: Flickr

University of Southern California (USC) has a course called “Innovation In Engineering and Design for Global Crises.” As part of the class, a team of USC undergraduates visited the Moria refugee camp to learn from and engage with the displaced peoples about their experiences. The need for more livable housing was the impetus for students’ project development. The result was Torch Tile — an adaptable, low-cost, user-friendly solution to the sheltering challenges of the displaced peoples in Moria.

Living Conditions of the Sprawling Moria Refugee Camp

On the eastern coast of the Greek island of Lesvos, is the Moria refugee camp. Moria is the largest refugee camp in Europe. It is the landing pad for the daily stream of refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, Syria and Turkey via a harrowing boat trip across a six-mile stretch of the Mediterranean Sea. The camp was originally designed to shelter 3,000 people. Currently, it is overflowing with over 13,000 refugees.

Tents sprawling the foothills surrounding Moria have constituted as impermanent shelters or “homes” for these refugees. Some asylum-seekers have even established residence with flowers, hand-made tandoori ovens and power cords for hijacking electricity. Despite these additions, the tents are no match for the temperature swings of Greece’s climate. In the summers, heat waves can break 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters on the island bring lasting snow from the sea moisture. Asylum-seekers can expect to wait a year before their asylum applications are processed ensuring they will experience both extreme weather conditions.

In the past, asylum-seekers have employed cardboard and tarps in an attempt to block out the extreme cold and heat. Increasing the temperature a few degrees led to refugees living in environments with dank, humid air that condenses on the tent inner walls. Running water is only available inside of Moria, and these moist environments put asylum-seekers at risk for health complications. Many suffer from pneumonia and heat stroke, which there are limited resources with which to treat.

In stepped the Torch Tile.

The Product

After over thirty different prototypes and dozens of hours of overnight testing, the team created the Torch Tile. The users’ needs were at the forefront of the creation’s design. The product comes in 36 or 55 sq. ft. sheets that can be laid side-by-side (like tiles) to fully surround a tent. The sturdy, lightweight and flexible material of the tiles is Aluminet.

The knitted screen-like material allows for airflow, reduces indoor humidity and lets light into the tent for visibility. Secured using zip ties and draped over the tent ceiling, the Torch Tile cools the interior by deflecting outdoor heat and light on warm days. Similarly, in winter weather one layers a tarp over the Torch Tile to warm the tent by 5-15 degrees by reflecting body heat inward.

Then, the team founded Torch Global Inc., a nonprofit currently fundraising to mass produce tiles for distribution. The goal is to provide tiles for those in Moria and for the unsheltered populations in Los Angeles.

Protecting Homes during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The distribution of Torch Tiles has been paramount to enabling people to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. One Torch Tile user from Los Angeles shared, “I have COVID and can’t isolate because my tent is too hot. This product will keep my tent cooler, so I can actually stay inside and isolate.” Recently Torch Global Inc. fundraised $13,000 for the ordering of 1,500 more Torch Tiles — protection for 1,500 more people in their homes.

The collective, global mobilization and coordination of resources necessary to resolve the refugee crisis in Greece is unlikely to occur soon enough. Even when it is, situations and conflicts will likely displace more people in the future, and asylum-seekers living in tents will be inevitable. By thermo-regulating shelters, Torch Tiles alleviate one aspect of refugees’ vulnerability and address the downstream effects of displacement.

Tricia Lim Castro
Photo: Flickr