From Any Corner Of The World, Help A Blind Person Cook A Recipe Or Switch On The Lights

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A few years ago, Godwin from Accra, Ghana was affected by retina problems which eventually left him visually-impaired. An engineer by profession, he struggled a lot to cope up with life during the initial days. Soon, assistive technology came to his rescue. However, no human being enjoys the constant company of Artificial Intelligence, be it in his professional or personal life.

Be My Eyes
Godwin

Godwin too felt disconnected from the human touch at times. That is why, when he learnt about Be My Eyes app in 2015, he was immediately interested. It enabled him to connect with sighted volunteers from any part of the world through video calls. They assist him in a wide range of tasks – be it checking if his lights are on, to check his blood pressure reading or to connect his WiFi. In fact, Godwin recently took help through the app for some demonstration during a lecture at a university, which left the audience amazed.

“Applications like Be My Eyes are excellent – very easy to use. And I tell you, the people are so wonderful, so willing to assist,” says Godwin, now a regular user of Be My Eyes.

The blind furniture-maker who founded Be My Eyes

“Imagine you are blind. You’re cooking in your kitchen, listening to the recipe through a screen reader. The next step instructs you to add coconut milk. You open your cupboard and feel two cans. Now, you wonder, which one of it is coconut milk? While hesitation and inhibition cross your mind, you still have no choice but to grab your cane and walk over to your neighbour’s house, maybe for the second time that day,” narrates Hans Jorgen Wilberg, the visually-impaired founder of Be My Eyes, illustrating a very common situation in a blind person’s everyday life.

Hans Jorgen Wiberg, founder of Be My Eyes

This is where Be Me Eyes can be the saviour. While most of the innovations for visually-impaired people continue to centre around technology, Wilberg harnessed a basic technology and added the human touch to it, making it one of the most favoured assistive apps around the world. Launched in January 2015, Be My Eyes has 19,63,530 registered volunteers who aid 1,17,251 blind users across over 150 countries and in more than 180 native languages.

Wilberg, who is a craftsman from Denmark, was suggested by a friend to use video calling feature to approach his acquaintances for any help. The idea struck him, and soon he got connected with a tech team who stepped forward to build his dream app and pool volunteers from everywhere. The rest is history.

Sarah’s morning sorting ritual

Every morning, Sarah from Dublin, Ireland faced a lot of struggle to choose among her toiletries. Be it the hair conditioner or the moisturiser or the foundation, sorting her collection of cosmetics was a regular hassle until volunteers from different parts of the world came to her rescue. Sarah is blind from birth. One morning, through a radio podcast, she came to know about Be My Eyes. Now every day, she meets a new volunteer from any part of the world, who gladly helps her out in the daily sorting routine. It’s simple. Sarah shows her bottles to the volunteer who easily informs her of what it is.

“I never realised how important it would be to just have a pair of eyes when you need them. You don’t have to ask the same people all the time,” shares Sarah, who finds it exciting to bond with strangers who make her mornings easier and happier.

All over the globe

The beneficiaries of the app are spread across the globe. Take the example of 55-year-old construction worker Jose Ranola from the Philippines, whose critical medicines are carefully identified by volunteers through a simple video call, reports The Guardian. Australian mother Brenda Smith manages her chores smoothly with Be My Eyes, be it distinguishing the white and the brown bread or checking expiry dates on stored items.

Be My Eyes
Connie, a blind transcriber, gets a lot of help through Be My Eyes

In 2018, Be My Eyes partnered with Microsoft to launch the Specialised Help feature, which allows blind and partially-blind individuals to connect with official representatives from companies or access customer support.

A visually challenged person using BeMyEyes app

Efforts For Good take

In developed countries, Braille has almost been completely replaced by screen readers, audiobooks and other AI-based technology which had made lives a lot easier for the visually-impaired. However, the situation is not so hopeful in developing countries, including India, where such technology is expensive and inaccessible in remote interiors. However, the internet is something widely available everywhere nowadays. Be My Eyes app requires nothing but a basic internet connection and a working phone camera. Thus, it has the potential to be the perfect companion for blind people in villages, whose daily struggles know no bounds, often accentuated by apathy and discrimination from insensitive people. Efforts For Good hopes more Indians learn to use Be My Eyes and get all the necessary assistance in no time. Willing do-gooders can also sign up as volunteers to be the eyes for your fellow citizens whose eyesight is compromised.

Also Read: Move Over ‘Siri’ & ‘Alexa’, This Futuristic Glove Will Help Millions To Communicate With Anyone

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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