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An entrepreneur turns cellphones into 'rewarding' opportunities for India's working poor.

Finally, a loyalty program that's truly worth the spending.

An entrepreneur turns cellphones into 'rewarding' opportunities for India's working poor.
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Hard work is the key to success ... right?

Well, that's what they say. But even some of the world's wildest successes would say it's not that simple.


Bey knows. GIF from "Life Is but a Dream."

Certainly the world's two billion working poor might disagree.

Take a country like India for example. Social entrepreneur Akanksha Hazari says most workers there do "literally back-breaking work" but don't earn enough to meet their families' needs.

Photo by paradiz/Pixabay.

Hazari comes from humble beginnings in India, too. Her parents worked hard and succeeded at giving her a better life. But she recognizes their ascendance, while partially the result of hard work, was also a matter of luck.

Images via Vital Voices Global Partnership/YouTube.

"For me, it’s very important that I contribute to the world that creates equal access to opportunity," Hazari told TakePart. "Anyone who works hard, the system should be set up in a way that they can be successful and see the rewards of that hard work."

After graduating from college in the U.S., Hazari put her career where her values were and went into the humanitarian field, which eventually brought her back to her home country. However, the more she learned, the more she realized it wasn't her truest calling.

She began to wonder:

"How do we live in a world where you have mobile phones and you have Coca-Cola, but we can't deliver electricity and education?"

Hazari was baffled by sights of people in extreme poverty carrying cellphones and sodas but lacking fundamental services like clean water, electricity, education, and health care.

But in that contrast, she saw a big opportunity to leverage both commercial tactics and India's massive cellphone ownership for good.

Cellphones are a powerful way to connect businesses with customers and families with what they need.

Hazari launched m.Paani, a loyalty program like those you might use through your cell provider or credit card. Users collect points by using their phones and shopping with the program's partner vendors.


What sets m.Paani apart from other rewards programs is that points can be used to buy food, household goods, water filters, tuition support, and other items that make important differences in their lives.

According to Hazari:

"It was taking loyalty and applying it in a completely different way — to give value to consumers who are usually unseen and underserved — and creating for them a second wallet of points they can actually use to improve their quality of life, to achieve their aspirations."

An added benefit is that m.Paani is helping India's mom 'n' pop shops grow their businesses by using data and analytics — information most owners have never seen or considered.


"They live in what we call a 'data dark world,'" said Hazari. "Because there's no information about you, you don't get access to fundamental services like insurance or loans."

We don't have to reinvent the wheel to solve critical issues like poverty.

If there's anything we can learn from Hazari's story, it's that the tools of enterprise can be used for so much more than profit. They're already here. We can use them where it matters most.

Watch a profile of Akanksha Hazari and m.Paani:

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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