People of Change documents the work of NGOs and individuals committed to the betterment of their communities. We believe positive examples inspire change and can foster worldwide solutions.

 

Little Sisters of The Poor

“In this home, nobody dies alone.”

Poverty is debilitating at every age, but for the elderly it can be especially devastating. When an older man or woman is left with no remaining family or friends, he or she is left helpless, sometimes dependent on government aid. One organization determined to help this isolated population is The Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Roman Catholic congregation of nuns who, with aid from the public, serve the elderly poor in countries all over the world. Inspired by Saint Jeanne Jugan, a nineteenth century French woman who dedicated her life to helping the elderly, Little Sisters of the Poor are dedicated to providing assistance and companionship to the aged and needy of all religions.

What started in the mid-1800s in France has become an international organization present in over 30 countries. At St. Anne’s Home in San Francisco, California, over 20,000 men and women of all religions have received assistance over the last 100+ years. St. Anne’s home has a residential care center for those elderly capable of living on their own, as well as a skilled nursing area. Residents are encouraged to take part in social activities, including physical therapy, a beauty salon, and an ice cream parlor.

The Spring 2014 newsletter out of St. Anne’s highlighted how the organization is dedicated to connecting people of all ages, thereby educating young people on the plight of impoverished elderly. A trivia event was held, which a local sixth grade class attended. Teams were made of both the elderly residents and the youngsters, encouraging mental stimulation and social interaction on both sides.

The Little Sisters of the Poor believe that poverty is as much a daunting challenge for the elderly today as it was in the days of Saint Jeanne Jugan. Their willingness to help men and women of all races, religions, and creeds demonstrates the true spirit of giving.

Who’s the Man?

The gender issue seems like a tale as old as time, yet its presence is still grievously palpable. Luckily, there are men that are helping to eradicate such a reductive social paradigm.

Take Arunachalam Muruganantham (AKA Menstrual Man), for example. He started a sanitary napkin revolution in a country where speaking of such “dirty things” is taboo. In fact, on average only 7% of women in India use sanitary pads, and only 2% in rural areas. This leads to unsanitary conditions and, in worse cases, disease. This unfortunate situation is due to the social shame that menstruation connotes and to the ignorance surrounding this natural process. At first Muruganantham was seen as a pervert and was shunned by all of his family, but now he’s an entrepreneur that has brought a sustainable business model to rural areas of India and power to the women of that area, and he credits this success to his ability to “think like a woman”.

Or take, Malala’s Father (AKA Ziauddin Yousafzai), whose courage and love has been transmitted to his first born, Malala Yousafzai. As a Pakistani educator, he has always believed in the right of education for all humans regardless of their gender. He begins his TedTalk by describing the solemnity of the day Malala was born, as all the family and neighbors visited to give their condolences that they had given birth to a daughter. Yet, from the second Malala was born, he could only rejoice and love her. Throughout the talk you can hear of his full support and pride in his female daughter, but the most touching and insightful lines come at the end of his speech, when he says, “People ask me, what special is in my mentorship which has made Malala so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised? I tell them, don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.”

Finally, there’s Dustin Hoffman, a successful actor who came to an epiphany of how damaging an influence a society that devalues women has on an individual. In a recent interview, when describing his role in the movie Tootsie, Hoffman becomes emotional when he realizes how he’s been brainwashed in society by valuing women’s physical beauty over their character. He realized that there were many interesting yet unattractive (by his standards) women whom he never got the opportunity to know because he ignored them due to their lack of beauty. When posing the question, “How would you be different if you had been born a woman?” he was able to understand the pressure that women feel in society first hand.

These are the men that I consider to be “a man” for they are human. They ask questions like, “How would you be different if you had been born a woman?”, they dare to “think like women”, and they dare not clip any person’s wings.

20 Day Stranger

One of the greatest things of recent technologies (especially the internet) is its power to bring people together. Some people might argue for the contrary, but if created for the right purposes, technology can be used to serve the people; not the other way around.

From cell phones to computers, tablets to smart TVs, these mediums continue to evolve and connectivity increases with them. Because of such, a great deal of our lives is also present online. Now, imagine if you could digitally share your days with a complete stranger? That’s precisely the idea behind the application 20 Day Stranger.

This iPhone app reveals intimate, shared connections between two anonymous individuals. It’s a mobile experience that exchanges one person’s experience of the world with another’s, while preserving anonymity on both sides.

For 20 days, two previously unrelated people will experience the world together. Neither one will ever know who it is or exactly where they are, but the creators hope that the experience will reveal enough about someone to build an imagination of their life… and more broadly, the imagination of strangers everywhere.

The app, created by the MIT Media Lab in partnership with The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, is open for anyone to apply. I guess the only prerequisite is to have an iPhone.

BizeeBox

Have you ever experienced that moment when you hear of such a genius yet simple idea that you think to yourself, “Gee, how did I not think of that myself?” Well that happened to me just recently while reading If We’re Sharing Everything Else, Why Not Our Coffee Cups?

The idea behind this initiative, while simple, has a great impact in cutting back waste from coffee cups. Let’s face it, coffee is a large part of many people’s everyday routine. But, let’s take a step back to see what that daily habit consists of: a paper cup, a plastic lid, a sleeve to not burn your hands, and of course, if you add sugar, then there’s the sugar packet, the creamer packet and the plastic coffee stirrers. Multiply that by all the people getting their morning coffee…

A partnership is trying to change that. The DO School and Brooklyn Roasting Company are producing 500 ceramic share mugs. Now, you don’t throw away your coffee cup after finishing up your coffee. Instead, you take the mug back to the coffee shop in order for it to be washed and sanitized and used for the next day.

That discovery then led me to BizeeBox, another genius idea where you have a reusable takeout container that allows you to get food to go without feeling guilty about the waste you’re generating. How could such a simple solution seem so far away?

Imagine a world in which this would be the norm. No, I retract, let’s not imagine; let’s make it happen.