Friday, October 6, 2017

July 2017 Health Camp Overview

The following article July 2017 Health Camp Overview is available on: http://ift.tt/1KCDKSo

Dear Friends,

Many subsistence farmers live in villages in and around Thirthahalli Taluk, in the Shimoga District. Preventive care is unheard of and there is no screening for commonly occurring health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, which often cascade into cardiac, kidney, and eye problems.

In July 2017, the Project Jatropha team led by Dr. Navya Narendra, Adarsha, and I organized a medical mission through the generous sponsorship of Nanjappa Life Care and Salur Grama Panchayath (Salur Village Council). The medical mission, which was conducted as a rural community outreach program at Salur Thirthahalli, attracted more than 700 farmers from surrounding villages. The medical team consisted of nursing staff provided by Nanjappa Life Care and eight doctors of different specialities including cardiology, internal medicine, neurosurgery, urology, and pediatrics. A total of 560 adults received early screening tests for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac diseases. Random blood sugar levels and blood pressure were checked for all participants. Approximately 300 EKGs and 160 Echos were performed.

We also organized an open medical forum where Q&A sessions were conducted to address specific medical concerns, such as snake bites, heart attacks, and obesity. We emphasized the advantages of early screening and provided vital information regarding the significance of balanced nutrition, personal hygiene, and regular exercise. Free treatment options, such as deworming agents, NSAIDs, and antacids, were dispensed in collaboration with a local pharmacy. Patients with more serious health issues were referred to the local government hospital for a follow-up.

Our team wishes to extend a special thanks to Mr. Benakappa, Managing Director of Nanjappa Care, and Dr. Avinash, CEO of Nanjappa Care, for being instrumental in making this medical mission a huge success.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Update: June 30, 2017

Update: June 30, 2017 was originally published to: Jatropha Biofuel Project

We apologize for the lack of updates over the past year, but we have some exciting news! In the past year, we have expanded our Global Call to Youth (a tree planting initiative) and Solar Energy Program to several new rural schools. We have also developed a nutritional intervention program to tackle protein calorie malnutrition amongst rural children. We have proposed a simple, low cost regimen of locally available and environmentally sustainable options for nutritional intervention in conjunction with nutritional education. We have also collaborated with a neighboring banana plantation to supply bananas on a weekly basis to the participating rural hostels. In a few weeks, the Project Jatropha team will head to India to expand the Solar Energy Program and Medical Missions to new locations.
We have also spent the past few months revamping our website, so please go check it out!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT: Ms. H. P. RANI PRABHA, Durgabhai Deshmukh award winner for excellency in voluntary sector

"To educate girls is to reduce poverty."~Former UN secretary General Kofi Annan 

As March 2016 was National Women's History Month (dedicated to honoring women of public service, and women in general), I wanted to showcase Ms. H.P. Rani Prabha, an amazing woman who runs a nonprofit organization to uplift and empower young, rural women in southern India. She founded Om Sri Sainatha Home Nursing Care Institute in 2008, an organization that aims to empower young, rural teenage girls who are unable to pursue higher education after tenth grade, by providing them a free training opportunity in the field of home-based nursing assistance. Once enrolled, these young women receive free housing and over a years worth of training from an Indian government-sponsored medical institute at the renowned JSS Hospital in Mysore, Karnataka (one of India's southern states). Once the training is completed, these women go on to provide assistance to a variety of patients, from the elderly and terminally ill to post-surgery patients and patients suffering from dementia.

The institute also provides spoken English classes, communicative skills training, and leadership training. Ms. Rani Prabha herself plays a vital role in recruiting young rural women to the program. She, along with Sri Channabasappa, the director of the organization, run the nonprofit.

I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Rani Prabha at her institute and meeting the students. It was a memorable experience to hear the stories of the young rural girls as they seek to becoming nursing aides. Rani Prabha has dedicated her life to women empowerment, and has brought about remarkable transformations in the lives of many girls from underprivileged socioeconomic background.

It is an honor to profile such an inspiring women role model in our blog. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors and thank her for her extraordinary humanitarian service.

Apoorva Rangan 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Climate Change and the Destruction of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world, spanning 134,364 square miles (348,000 square kilometers for you metric-lovers), which makes it larger than the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the Netherlands combined. You might think "oh that's just 3 small European countries so it's not THAT big" but you'd be thinking wrong, courtesy of helpful infographic below (courtesy of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)). 

The reef has a stunning amount of biodiversity as well: it contains 400 types of coral and hosts 1,500 types of fish and 4,000 mollusk species, as well many other species such as green sea turtles. Unsurprisingly, this massive biodiversity lead the Great Barrier Reef to be recognized as a World Heritage Area in 1981.

As an scuba diver, I've always wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef, probably due to a healthy diet of Cousteau documentaries when I was younger. But now, I might not get to see a lively reef at all.

Why? Coral bleaching. This is what happens when corals are exposed to certain stresses, such as warmer-than-average waters (COUGH ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE CHANGE COUGH) for prolonged periods of time (we're not talking centuries though). In response to the stress, the corals expel the algae that give them their vibrant colors, meaning that the corals become white (due to their composition of limestone and other minerals, which don't have much color). This can be temporary, if the algae come back into the corals, but if the stress occurs for too long, the coral (which is made up of organisms, remember) can just die, and the algae can't recolonize them and restore the coral (and the color). In essence, on a large enough scale, this kills the reef.

Now, the Great Barrier Reef HAS experienced bleaching in the past. This is not some newfound phenomenon. Specifically, the reef had large bleaching events in 1998 and in 2002, but the current mass bleaching is vastly worse in the eyes of experts. Up to 95 percent of the GBR’s northern reefs are currently showing signs of extreme bleaching (in 2002, the bleaching there was only 18 percent).

Remember though, corals can survive bleaching! If the stress doesn't last long enough, the algae will recolonize the coral and the reef will be restored. Right now they don't have enough data to determine the long-term impacts of bleaching on the corals, but scientists are not optimistic: they estimate that 50% of the bleached corals will die, which is a huge amount given how much of the northern reefs are already bleached.

Alright, what's causing the bleaching, and can we fix it? As I hinted very subtly earlier, climate change is one of the big causes for the bleaching: ocean temperatures are rising in the area, and that's one of the biggest factors driving coral bleaching since corals are very sensitive to water temperature fluctuations (even a few degrees). In addition, El NiƱo, a famous weather pattern, is particularly strong this year, which further drives local water temperatures up, and the weather pattern is expected to continue throughout much of the year (increasing the duration of coral bleaching and thus increasing the mortality rate of the bleached corals). El Nino, along with other weather patterns (including but not limited to its Atlantic counterpart La Nina), are influenced by climate change in ways we don't fully understand (other than "this usually does not bode well for people and wildlife" but that's vague and not very scientific). As anthropogenic climate change continues to escalate, it's likely that coral bleaching (not just in the Great Barrier Reef, but in reefs all across the world) will continue to worsen, potentially making these beautiful natural phenomenon a thing of the past.

National Geographic does good reef coverage, check them out for great photos like these.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Project Jatropha Kick Starts 2015 with Phase II Solar Energy Project through Global Call to Youth

Dear Friends,

Apoorva and Adarsha demonstrating the  installation of the solar kit

We are very excited to share our continuing success of Solar Energy Project in rural south India.
  If you recall,  In 2012-13 winter break, we launched a brand new solar energy project as a part of environmental education of our Global Call to Youth (GCY) . During our rural school visits of 2010 and 2011, we observed that there is a tremendous amount of power outages throughout  rural India. The staff told us that at times, they have power cut for 18 hours/day !!  Even during day time, these small rural schools are poorly lit. Many of the rooms lack windows. We wanted to see if we could teach the children an alternative method to light up their room. This led to our 2012-13 Solar Energy Project involving rural schools of GCY.
 Our Best bet was to introduce the power and importance of Solar energy. It was just not about donating solar panels to the schools. We wanted the children to learn the mechanism by which the system works and learn that there is much more to electricity than wires and switches. We wanted them to understand how they can still light their rooms during power outage.

We chose 4 Watt Solar Shed Light from Chicago Electric.
 This was the easiest in terms of assembly. The unit is portable. It provides 4 hours of back up power.
 We were informed that the significance of solar energy is integrated in their science curriculum but only in theory. Our goal is to demonstrate the actual mechanism using these simple kits.
For the Phase II of Solar Energy Project, In the winter of 2014-15, we  demonstrated the installation of  the solar kits and the basics of how the system worked in selected rural schools, hostels and orphanages.
  We plan  on extending the solar energy project to all the participant schools of GCY in the coming years. As it will be impossible for us to visit each and every school personally, we are partnering with  a private school : Vidya Varidhi Shikshana Trust: ARALU MALLIGE VIDYASHRAMA situated in bilikere, Hunsur Taluk. This will be our anchor school.
we plan on extending our Phase II of Solar Energy project through this anchor school.
The management committee, teaching staff and the students are all very enthusiastic in joining hand with us.  A team of students and staff will reach out to the neighboring small rural schools to distribute the solar kits, demonstrate its installation  and the basics of how the system works.
 As we repeatedly emphasize, we are counting on the demonstration effect of the solar kit to inspire and interest the  rural children. We strongly feel that this is a great start to teaching them the power of small-scale renewable energy. we believe that this will help foster their curiosity and environmental education.

Adarsha and Apoorva

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and my thoughts on it

I'm sure that many of you have seen by this point the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that is spreading like crazy across the internet and the news. While the Challenge has succeded in raising 12 million dollars so far, there is a lot of criticism of the challenge, ranging from wasting water, to the lack of depth of the challenge. Having done the challenge and donated money to the cause, I find that nearly all of the criticism levied at the challenge is either unfounded or misplaced.

Not quite right.
Let's break down the 2 most common criticisms and see if there's truth to them.

Criticism 1: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is wasteful of water! In states with drought, it's contributing to that!

There's a grain of truth in here, in that technically, yes, in many cases, the water used int he ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is wasted. Here in California, we're currently experiencing a pretty awful drought right now, with the vast majority of the state in severe drought. So technically, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is contributing to the drought here. 

However, there's an issue of scale. Even if we assume that every Californian took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (highballing that number at 38 million people), and every Californian used 5 gallons of water to do so (in reality, most participants appear to have used 1-3 gallons), you get a grand total of 190 million gallons of water wasted. This sounds like a lot (it is), but again, this is an unrealistically high estimate, and you have to remember that the challenge is a one-time deal (nobody's dumping buckets of ice water on their head every day for this). I'd be surprised if 38 million people nationwide did this challenge (so far at least). But let's compare that number to other sources of water wastage.

For example, the average shower uses well over 10 gallons of water, and decreasing shower length from 10 to 5 minutes can save anywhere from 12.5 to 25 gallons of water (depending on the nature of the shower head). Replacing pre-1990's toilets with modern toilets can save up to 38 gallons a day per toilet. If we applied these numbers to even a fraction of all Californians, you quickly see that the amount of water wasted per day is greater for these activities than for my super-exaggerated ALS Ice Bucket Challenge example. 

Hell, if you want something to rag on for the drought, look at golf courses! The average golf course uses over 300K gallons of water per day, and the 57 golf courses in Palm Springs use a million gallons of water each every day. In the state, there are 921 golf courses total. If we say that the average amount of water wasted in those 921 golf courses was 300K gallons, then golf courses alone in California waste over 276 million gallons every single day. And it's pretty hard to argue that the impact of those golf courses is more positive than the millions of dollars raised for ALS.

In reality, the bigger issue is (corporate) agriculture, but this is just a fancy thought exercise at the heart of it.

All in all, saying that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is wasteful of water and thus shouldn't be done is like saying "hey Girl Scouts selling doughnuts and other sugary confections at bake sales to fund anti-malaria vaccines is contributing to an increase in overweight/diabetic children" Is it technically right? Possibly/probably yes (if you stretch "right" a bit). Is it a nearly meaningless statement in the larger context of the situation? Also yes.

Criticism 2: The idea of donating to a charity as opposed to doing the challenge is just an afterthought, therefore it doesn't mean anything! People are just doing it to gain Facebook likes and be popular! Most people don't even know what ALS is!

This is a less common criticism, but still equally invalid. People have pointed that that originally, the "donate to a charity" idea was an afterthought for this challenge and it ended up being used by the ALS movement. People have also pointed out that this trend has become viral on Facebook and other forms of social media and that it's seen as hip and trendy to do so, and quite a few of the people who actually do the challenge don't donate! And of course there are the cynics who harp on about how most people doing the challenge on Facebook or Twitter or whatever don't know what ALS is and are just doing it for the popularity.

My response is "So what?" There will always be people who don't know or don't care about a cause. That's a fact-you can't get everyone to care, and you shouldn't necessarily spend all your efforts getting everyone to care. But here's more facts. Right now, directly because of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, over 11 million dollars has been raised for a really good cause, and a lot more people know what ALS is. These are things that would not have existed without the challenge in this timeframe. This is a fact, and no amount of "BUT THERE ARE PPL WHO DON'T KNOW AND AND IT'S JUST FOR FACEBOOK LIKES" will change that.

Is the fight against ALS over? No. Is there more research and funding needed? Yes. Were there ways to improve the challenge (for instance, to incorporate some water usage awareness)? Yes. But do any of these things make the overall challenge a failure? Not even close.

Oh, and here's my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.