A project in rural India shows the life-saving power of something we use every day.
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CARE & Windows 10

There's nothing like the simple joy of a cellphone upgrade.

That exciting moment when you trade in your old model and realize what a brick it is compared to the latest mobile technology.


How did we survive before these? Photo by Rico Shen/Wikimedia Commons.

In some parts of the world, cellphone upgrades are about so much more than coolness or mere convenience.

Take places like Bihar — one of India's poorest states, with almost 70% of its residents living in poverty — where they're solving matters of life and death.

Bihar has some of India's highest mortality rates for mothers and babies, and outmoded practices have made that hard to overcome.

Health care workers making home visits in Bihar carry unruly stacks of ledgers to record and track medical information for hundreds of thousands of households.

Image via CARE/YouTube.

Having to lug all that extra weight from home to home wasn't the only problem; the system was also incredibly time-consuming and fraught with inaccuracies.

Cellphones are proving to be an effective tool for improving health outcomes for women and children.

Despite Bihar's poverty and extreme inequality, cellphones have become common among even the poorest workers. Many low-income Biharis, who are more likely to migrate in search of jobs, rely on them to stay connected to their families.

"Technology, tools, and training lead to transformation."

Now, humanitarians have found another vital use for cellphones in Bihar. International aid group CARE has made it possible for hundreds of Bihari health workers to trade armfuls of paper for cellphones. Through a partnership with Windows as part of its Upgrade Your World initiative, CARE will continue to support these health workers and women like them all over the world.


GIF from "The Big Bang Theory."

The phones have apps that allow health care workers to quickly set up appointments and gather information.


Image via CARE/YouTube.

The results have been astounding. In just three years, the mobile-equipped workers made over 600,000 home visits. 20% more pregnant women are getting home visits, and 13% more mothers and newborns are getting a follow-up visit within the first week after birth. This means more women and their babies are getting professional care when it’s most critical.

Improved health care access is just the start of what cellphones are making possible.

All of that data is being stashed in the cloud, where it can be analyzed for trends so the government can design and deploy bigger picture health strategies.

That means happier and healthier mothers and children...

Image via CARE/YouTube.

...and health care workers who are confident in their ability to make a difference.

Image via CARE/YouTube.

This initiative offers a hopeful lesson for humanitarians everywhere: The challenges may be great, but we may already have what we need to address them.

It's just a matter of connecting those resources with the right people because, says CARE's Ram Krishna, "technology, tools, and training lead to transformation."

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.