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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Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

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At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

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Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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