When someone on the street asks you for money, what's your answer? This app can help.
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Verizon

Marcellus watches people walk right by him every day.

He has been homeless, living on the streets of Philadelphia, for about four-five years.

Screenshot via Verizon.


"Being homeless is not easy," he says. "It’s, like, waking up hungry. Going to sleep hungry." And people are often hesitant to give money or to help.

Like many of us, Andrew Siegel walks past homeless individuals like Marcellus every day. When people would ask Seigel for money, he admits he felt uncomfortable. He wanted to help but felt apprehensive about just handing over cash, which didn’t feel like it was enough to really bring about any lasting change. But when he didn’t give anything, that decision bothered him. A lot.

So, he starting thinking of how else to help — and came up with StreetChange.

StreetChange is an app that allows people to make targeted donations to homeless individuals — whether it be food, clothing, toothbrushes, or even haircut vouchers.

A view of the StreetChange app. Screenshot via Verizon.

Siegel partnered with Dan Treglia, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, and Michael Brody, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP) to make it happen.

MHASP outreach teams signed up homeless individuals who wanted to take part and gathered a list of 10-15 items they needed. Each homeless participant was then given a key fob that emits a signal when they are within a 150-foot radius of someone with the app. When StreetChange users are within that range, they receive a notification and can see what items the homeless person has requested. Then they can donate any amount of money (even just $1) toward their wish list.  

Food, clothing and a place to shower. This app helps get those who are homeless the basics they lack and the support they need to get off the streets.

Posted by Upworthy on Monday, February 20, 2017

Besides supplying necessities, StreetChange empowers people who are homeless because it lets them drive the conversation about what they need and their future.

"Being brought into the community makes a big difference," says Jason Moriber, reputation and influence design chief at Verizon — which has done a lot of work around a number of social issues, including education equality, but is not directly involved with StreetChange. "If some small technology gives someone access to a world that they didn’t have access to before … immediately they are empowered."

Targeted donations made via StreetChange go toward buying items such as food, clothing, or haircut vouchers. Screenshot via Verizon.

When someone feels empowered, it can bring about real change.

In the United Kingdom, a charity called Broadway did a small-scale pilot program where they reached out to homeless people and asked them what they needed to change their lives. Their answers ranged from sneakers to cash for paying off a loan to a camper van. Then, the charity simply gave them the money to buy these things — under the condition that they worked with a personal "broker" to help them come up with a working budget.

13 homeless people agreed to the deal, and by the end, 11 had gotten off the streets, suggesting that a combination of money and direction can help homeless individuals get back on their feet.

Programs such as StreetChange offer the first step toward change by not only addressing immediate needs, but also by giving access to support and services.  

Marcellus meets with a MHASP caseworker. He has been meeting with them since May 2016, when he first connected with StreetChange. Screenshot via Verizon.

StreetChange starts a conversation. "The goal is to have this individual not only pick up their socks today, but to also come back tomorrow. And maybe when they come back tomorrow, maybe we can develop a recovery goal plan with this individual," said Evan Figueroa-Vargas, another MHASP employee.

This builds confidence because a lot of homeless individuals don’t always trust the organizations created to help them, Brody told NewsWorks.

"Sometimes by entering the system, they’ve been forced to do things against their will that they didn’t want to do," he continued. "This is another way to build a relationship with them, to bridge a reason to be talking with each other and spending some time with each other."

Technology, like apps, can be a very powerful vehicle for good.

Moriber says that he thinks many of the technologies needed to give back already exist. For example, he says, if more companies, such as food subscription services or ride-share apps, used their business models and technologies for good, there would be lots of ways to give back and address problems such as food deserts, child hunger, or homelessness.

Screenshot via Verizon.

"Technology has the scale — [or it] enables the scale — to solve many problems if we are willing to implement it that way," says Moriber. "If all these technologies could do just a little bit of that, I think we could make a major change in the world. It would enrich everyone's lives."

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

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This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."