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Note from the Editor: This is a guest post written by Steve Schwartz, Director of Strategy & Operations for one of Jolkona’s newest partners, Upaya Social Ventures.

Meet Upaya Social Ventures from Steve Schwartz on Vimeo.

From the U.S., it is easy to see images of households in far away countries living in a way that looks different than our own and to assume that the differences — a tin roof, a barefoot schoolboy, a pot cooking over an open fire — fit neatly within a universal definition of “poverty.” But scratch the surface and you’ll find some families never worrying about where their next meal will come from, while 100 yards away others search endlessly to find enough work to eat again tomorrow. Not all poverty is created equal, and that relative difference is what Upaya Social Ventures was founded this year to address. An estimated 1.4 billion people worldwide are classified as “ultra poor,” living on less than $1.25 a day and struggling to find work that will pay them enough to afford stable shelter, clean water and three meals a day. The ultra poor often speak of feeling trapped in miserable conditions, with such meager earnings that any progress they make satisfying one need comes at the expense of meeting another. At the very heart of the problem are informal livelihoods — a cluster of irregular activities like shoe-shining, begging, day labor, hawking of second-hand items and trash picking that generate highly unpredictable incomes for those working in them.

Day laborers breaking rocks in a dry riverbed for an average ~$.50 per day

Day laborers breaking rocks in a dry riverbed for an average ~$.50 per day

The Upaya Approach

That’s where Upaya comes in. Taking its name from the Sanskrit word that means “skilled means” and connotes a creative solution to a challenging problem, Upaya is working with local social entrepreneurs to build businesses that will create jobs and improve the quality of life for the ultra poor. It’s a deceptively simple solution — increase a family’s earning potential through steady employment, and pair those jobs with access to affordable healthcare, education, housing and financial services so that the family makes sustained progress out of poverty.

But it is not always that simple, as the ultra poor are marginalized even within their own communities and skeptical of outsiders with “too good to be true” opportunities. For the entrepreneurs, too, there is a struggle to balance social responsibility with running a profitable business, and to attract funding to test their ideas.

Mothers reliant on begging to provide for their families

Mothers reliant on begging to provide for their families

This is why Upaya has created the Life-changing Interventions for the Ultra Poor (LiftUP) Project, a 24–36 month social business accelerator program that provides management support and financial resources to entrepreneurs who create jobs or improve access to basic services for the ultra poor. As a nonprofit organization, Upaya is able to make modest, longer-term equity investments — between $25,000 and $75,000 — in local entrepreneurs with early-stage ideas (any financial returns generated by investments are re-invested in future LiftUP Project partners). In addition to providing business development support, we also help these entrepreneurs create a “social accounting” system for tracking and analyzing the impact their activities are having on the lives of their employees or customers.

An Ideal Partner

And that is what brought Upaya to Jolkona. As Upaya works with businesses to monitor their social impact, we also have a unique opportunity to give donors a forum to track the progress of the causes and businesses they support. Through the Jolkona platform, donors will be able to see quarterly updates on employees’ quality of housing, improvements in the number and nutritional value of meals, status of children’s education and access to affordable healthcare. Upaya is taking a comprehensive approach to tackling the problems of extreme poverty, and Jolkona allows supporters to be active participants in that process.

www.upayasv.com

In part two of this series, we will profile Samridhi, a community dairy initiative in one of the poorest states in India that is creating jobs and providing regular salaries to women in households without any other form of steady income. Upaya has already raised $45,000 for Samridhi since the beginning of August and is looking to double that amount by the end of September.

About the author: Steve is the Director of Strategy & Operations for Upaya Social Ventures, and is one of the organization’s co-founders.  In a career that has run from Wall St. to the footpaths of smuggling routes in West Africa, Steve has long held the belief that all people deserve the opportunity to live their lives with dignity and means.

 

This post was written by Nancy Xu, a member of the Jolkona team. A few months ago, she traveled to Costa Rica and with Astha Gupta, another Jolkona volunteer. They visited a school that benefits from the water conservation program and this is what they learned.

It’s middle of the winter back home, but it sure is hot and humid here in San Jose, Costa Rica. Astha, Maryam and I are on our walk back from the market, and we see Aitor Llodio from Aliarse, already waiting promptly with a cab. We give each other a warm greeting and are on our way. Today, Aitor is taking us to visit a school that has benefited from the water conservation program. Since the school is located in a low-income community, Aitor asked us to pack minimally to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. We chat along as storefronts become less and less dense, as we pass by mountains that are ex-volcano craters, and through coffee farms where groups of young men are catching a break on the sidewalk.

Aitor has been intensely involved in the water conservation initiatives for the last couple of years. The concept of water conservation is not quite on the radar of its citizens, as reflected by the nation’s increasing consumption for water. Since the government is not steering the ship to make any improvements in this area, a number of grassroots efforts like Aliarse’s began in hope of making positive change. They have multiple approaches to address this issue. Today, Aitor is going to show us the education and the infrastructure improvement programs.

The School

We arrive at the school and it seems to be lunch break. The children walk past in their school uniforms, and stare with curious eyes. A few schoolboys are playing a game of foosball by the principal’s office. Some parents are sitting on the curb outside of the school, waiting. Since this school supports a lot of low income families, most of the parents are unemployed. The ones that are registered as employed tend to be street vendors selling scarves and bootlegged movies to tourists.

The principle gives us a tour around the school, and we are all amazed to learn that the school contains many age groups of children. To fit such a variety (and volume) of students into the school, each age group gets 3 hours of the day. This essentially turns the school into a “shift” system.

The Water Conservation Education Program

Now, onto the water conservation education program. This program is architected quite brilliantly. Each school year, Aliarse selects a few schools in the San Jose area to target. From each school, they choose 25 kids between the ages of 10 and 12. Since it is not possible to give an informative course to the entire school, they developed a system where children with the most influence were chosen, and it is up to them to spread the idea to the rest of the school. The 25 children will consist mostly of the smartest kids in school, but a few will be the trouble-makers. It is important to throw the trouble-makers into the mix because if the program can turn their attitude around, the sphere of influence grows further. And the selection of only 25 children gives the program prestige, and helps create excitement.

Classes are over at noon for the elementary school section

Classes are over at noon for the elementary school section

The program consists of 4 modules and runs once a week for 3 months. The first part is an interactive classroom session. The children are taught the value of water, and how our delicate ecosystem and its life forms are dependent upon it. The second part is a class field trip (and kids love this one!) where they visit a local water purifying plant. The plant manager takes them around the facility and explains each of the steps needed to treat the water before it comes out of the tap. The 3rd part of the module is very hands on. The children are taught plumbing basics, and are empowered to help the school report or solve problems such as leaky and rusty pipes. The last module is about ways to reduce unnecessary water usage. The reduction of black water is also one of importance, only 4% of the nation’s black water is treated today.

Overall, this education program has proven to be extremely effective and reduces 20% (and sometimes up to 50%!) of the target school’s water usage after program completion.

Fundamental Infrastructure Improvement

Self-timed tap installed in school to optimize consumption of water

Self-timed tap installed in school to optimize consumption of water

Aitor is also working on another initiative that has even greater impact to water conservation, but comes with a higher investment. This involves a complete upgrade of the school’s water distribution system to make it inherently non-wasteful. For example, the boys’ urinal is an entire wall where a curtain of water pours down constantly from top to drain. This is inherently wasteful. The upgrade consists of tearing down this setup, and to add standard urinals in its place. In their vision of future upgrades, they would like to install waterless urinals instead. Another installation is a self-timed tap. This is common in our public bathroom in North America, but not yet widespread in schoolyards of Costa Rica. Old leaky pipes are also torn out and replaced with the new. These infrastructure improvements achieve 70% reduction of water usage immediately after installation. This is huge.

The government does not have the ability to fund these activities today, which is why Aitor’s organization steps in again. This is a much larger under taking. For this particular school, it has taken 3 months, a crew of 5, and approx. $8K USD to complete, and every school is different.

Luckily, they have one big sponsor backing them up – Coca Cola. Coca Cola consumes 2L of water for each can of Coca Cola. As resources become scarce, trend setting companies are operating in a more socially conscious way. Coca Cola for example, strives to be water neutral. They invest in water conservation efforts across Costa Rica to balance their consumption of water. This is all great, but the funding is still limited and Aitorâ’s organization can only hit 3 to 4 schools each year.

As we drive off after our enlightening visit, Aitor points to the fields behind us.

“That’s where the drug lords from Columbia reside. We do not go there. We lose a lot of kids to that zone. They do not come back.”

Hmm, foreshadowing for the next problem to tackle in Costa Rica perhaps?

“The Red Cross went in there once after a stress call, and the gangsters shot at the rescue van. They do not go there anymore.”

…so we may not be ready to tackle this one just yet. For now, we are loving the water conservation program here in Costa Rica, the Aliarse group and the Amigos of Costa Rica, and really glad that Jolkona gets to be a part of these amazing initiatives.

About the author: Nancy Xu is a multimedia storyteller for Jolkona. She works on video games and gaming gadgets by day, and aspires to make postive social change by night. Nancy is also actively involved with the independent film community in Seattle. She screens and introduces films for local film festivals, and makes documentaries and feature films in the summer. Feel free to check out her personal website, here.

We are excited to welcome 2010 with a lot of new projects. Here are the newest projects you will find on our website:

We are excited to welcome Ashoka to the Jolkona community. You can now support an Ashoka Youth Venture project right here in Seattle to encourage youth led journalism.

Jolkona Foundation believes that we can not only feature projects around the world, but also feature local projects right here in USA. Action Against Hunger has created the Race Against Hunger program to raise awareness amongst American youth about hunger. You can now show your support by sponsoring a class in the Race Against Hunger

Madre was one of our first partners with few popular projects. Their newest projects will continue that trend. You can support midwives in the troubled West Bank and allows them to provide much needed aid to pregnant mothers who can not get to hospitals. You can also provide assistance to farmers in Nicaragua through affordable donation options.

Last but not the least, we are working with TRIFC to allow our donors to support the blind children of Nepal.

We encourage you to checkout these new projects and give generously to these worthy causes.

 This guest post was written by Yifat, on behalf of Madre, a Jolkona Foundation partner.

Fatima Ahmed, the president of the Sudanese women’s organization Zenab for Women in Development, recently stopped by the MADRE office with exciting news.  The ground-breaking women farmers union led by her organization had harvested a successful crop-and the results are changing people’s lives.
Founded by Zenab in 2006 and supported by MADRE, this project has brought together women who make up the majority of farmers working on small-scale organic farms in Sudan.  Amplifying their voices, they have been able to demand access to seeds, better tools, and assistance in farming.

Women have been able to share knowledge on how to better prepare their land for cultivation and how to manage weeds that destroy the crops. Fatima was excited to share that these women have not only been successful in providing food for their own families but have also been able to provide crops for other regions in Sudan.

Fatima shared with us a story about one village where the women had been denied access to education. With her help and with the resources generated by their successful farming projects, they organized a much-needed adult education program. The women built a center where they could host their school and opened the space for community meetings.

Their improved farming has increased production and has enabled them to generate an income, in some areas even allowing them the chance to bring in electricity.  In yet another village, three women farmers were able to raise enough funds to send their daughters to university, a victory that would have been otherwise impossible.

Together, women farmers are creating new possibilities for themselves, their families and their communities.

This guest post was written by Derya Rose, on behalf of Yachana Foundation, a Jolkona Foundation partner.

Evenings in rural Ecuador are often filled with the familiar whirring of diesel generators, providing a little bit of power to communities off the country’s main electricity grid. When these machines are off, the soft glow of candles fills the night. Families cooking, students studying and children playing – all by candlelight.

Although this environment may seem charming (after all, candlelight often inspires romantic thoughts), it presents a real burden to the rural poor. Families not only pay up to $270 per year for candles, they also encounter frequent burns as well as accidentally set fire to their houses on occasion. Add strained eyes from reading in dim light to the equation, and one can see that this situation isn’t quite as charming.

Founded by Douglas McMeekin, the Yachana Foundation has been operating in the Ecuadorian Amazon since 1991.  Recently, Douglas found out about an innovative, flexible mini solar panel that was designed specifically for use by the rural poor, or who Douglas calls, the people that live at the base of the economic pyramid.  This solar panel, which contains no glass and is virtually unbreakable, provides clean power to four useful accessories. The first is an LED lamp, which can be recharged over 500 times and can last between six and thirty hours per charge, depending on the intensity selected. This product alone can easily solve many of the economic, health and environmental problems posed by candle use. Other accessories include rechargeable radio batteries, a mobile phone charger and a spare battery pack, each with its own set of economic, social and environmental benefits.

We at Yachana found in these products an opportunity to operate a triple bottom line distribution business. First, the end user would enjoy the benefits described above (and more), allowing them to invest more money on their kids’ educations, health, clothes, businesses and so on.  Next, the environment would benefit from tons less spent on the disposal of wax as well as millions of used batteries being discarded.  Lastly, 100% of the business’ profits would go to support the Yachana Technical High School.

Right now, with the help of various government agencies, we are rolling out this product regionally and aim to offer it in all regions of Ecuador within the next year. 

If you would like more information about how you can support Yachana and it’s various community development initiatives, please contact Hugh Yarbrough at hugh.yarbrough@yachana.org.ec

Submitted by Jorji Knickrehm, Grants Manager at Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help (or Washington CASH).

Figuring out how to foster new small businesses in low income communities is an ongoing passion here at Washington CASH. Yesterday, all twelve of our program staffers packed themselves into a small conference room, and tinkered for 4 hours with the curriculum of our core business development class. Maybe if we add a weekly lab to each of our classes, it will help more of our clients build businesses that will be around five years from now — businesses that will provide them with a living wage income and the happiness that comes from being self-determined. We’ve helped a lot of people, but we know there’s more out there with unfulfilled hopes.

Many times it is people who are new to the U.S. who encounter barriers as they try to get their feet under themselves financially. Tri Nguyen, for example, moved to Washington as a refugee from Southern Vietnam when he was 22 years old with his parents and two older brothers. “Before coming to America, we went overseas from Vietnam to Malaysia where we lived in a refugee camp for 7 years. We were then sent back to Vietnam for two more years, where we continued to await acceptance into the United States as political refugees. Finally, the United States government opened its doors and welcomed us to America, a free country we had been seeking for almost half of our lives.”

After spending two years learning English, he attended Highline Community College where he received his Associates degree before transferring to Washington State University and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in education. While an undergraduate, Tri worked for two years with a cleaning company where 99% of employees were Vietnamese. His fluency in English allowed Tri to take on a management role within the company, which ultimately provided him the experience and knowledge necessary to start his own venture. “I started my own business to help fellow Vietnamese people by providing job opportunities here in America.”

Tri completed Business Development Training with Washington CASH in June 2009 and has since entered Business Groups, a program providing business support and access to capital in the form of peer loans. His new business, Tri Mountain Cleaning Services, Inc., offers both commercial and residential cleaning services, using only non-toxic products to create a safe environment for pets and children.

The name of his business, Tri Mountain Cleaning Services, Inc., stems not only from his first name, but for the three mountains he says complete his business: himself, family & friends, and Washington CASH. “My company cannot stand by itself. Before CASH, I didn’t know how to do the things necessary to open a business. Now I’m ready to go.”

While he currently has about ten regular customers and employees as needed, Tri envisions expanding to include about five new customers every month, opening more commercial accounts, and hiring more employees. “I was so excited when I got my first customer with Tri Mountain. In that moment, I knew I was going to be successful. Even though it was a small contract, it was a big moment. Owning my own business has given me confidence I never knew I had.” Figuring out how to help more people get that great feeling of empowerment; that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning at Washington CASH.

This post was contributed by Ian Anderson, Machik Intern and Summer Enrichment Program Coordinator

A mixture of excitement and uncertainty hung in the air as the volunteers for the Machik Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) met in Chengdu for the first time before students arrived and classes began. We were volunteer teachers and facilitators from diverse backgrounds: Tibetans, Chinese, Canadians, and Americans. We were high school, university, and graduate students as well as working professionals. Students came not only from the Chungba Schools and Litang County, as in the past, but from all over the Tibetan plateau. This was the first summer for the scaling up of the SEP, and this time the program incorporated almost a hundred volunteers and students in total.

With such a large number of volunteers, our programming opportunities were virtually limitless. Each of the volunteers had a unique background and skill-set. While some volunteers taught English and Chinese classes, some turned out to be expert seamstresses who taught students how to fabricate pillows and clothing in a North American style. Others shared their knowledge of yoga, painting or dramatic improvisation. I was lucky enough to be one of the leaders of a music section, where the students learned how to perform basic songs on the recorder. To teach this class was a joy. The students were excited and engaged, absorbing the notes and melodies with ease. By the time the end of the week came and our small group was ready to perform, all the students had obtained the fundamental skill of reading music and were able to transform the notation they saw on the page into something beautiful.

Teaching is not a one-way street. The students who arrived from various communities on the Tibetan Plateau brought with them different backgrounds and experiences that they were eager to share. Through day-to-day interactions and chats, visits to local museums, and Tibetan sites, the students took great pride in instructing us, the volunteers, in multiple aspects of their cultural heritage.

The students, who came from very dissimilar and often remote parts of the Tibetan plateau, would also often compare notes about differences among each other’s experiences, underlining the richness and variety of Tibetan culture. I think the magic of the SEP came from the sharing of these unique experiences. Volunteers and students alike forged friendships and new connections that not only enriched and changed how we perceive the world, but also created new channels to engage in the important task of talking and thinking together about how to create a better future.

What Machik does–and does well–is to open the door to a new and hopeful future by helping to build the capacity of communities on the Tibetan plateau. The Summer Enrichment Program is an important part of Machik’s efforts to help improve education in rural Tibetan communities, and will touch the lives of an even greater number of students as it continues to grow in the future. I’m so proud to have been a part of this amazing and important work.

This post was contributed by Yifat Susskind, MADRE’s Policy & Communications Director. MADRE is one of Jolkona Foundation’s partner organizations. 

Yesterday I had coffee and a good long talk with Yanar Mohommad, MADRE’s partner and the director of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). It was Yanar who first launched the OWFI women’s shelters that MADRE has supported since 2004.
 
She showed me pictures of some of the women and girls at the Baghdad shelter. Two teenaged girls looking up and smiling from a computer. A middle-aged woman in jeans showing off a meal she had prepared for all the other women. I wish I could post the photos here, but it would be too dangerous for the women. The shelter’s exact location and the identities of the women who are there have to be kept secret. These women are still at risk for “honor killing.” For now, the shelter keeps them safe and while they are there, some of them will learn skills to help them relocate, get jobs, and begin to rebuild their lives.
 
Talking with Yanar, I was reminded that the OWFI shelters provide more than just temporary refuge to women threatened by war and violence in Baghdad. OWFI gives the women “a sense of home,” as Yanar said,  “a close network of sisters who are risking their own lives to stand up for other women in Iraq.”
 
Yanar told me the story of Fatin, a young woman who escaped from a Baghdad brothel with the help of an OWFI activist. At 16, Fatin was barely literate. She was physically and emotionally scarred from years of rape and beatings. The code of “family honor” meant she could never go home again. But thanks to Hind, an older OWFI activist who had infiltrated the brothel to reach out to women trapped there, Fatin is free. For now, she is living in the OWFI shelter that this site helps support. She is finishing her studies and working on OWFI’s newspapper, Al-Mousawat, which means Equality. “Fatin is no longer a victim,” Yanar said with a grin. “In fact, I think one day she may be a great journalist.”

Health is a pivotal step towards the economic development and sustainability of communities. For children in many villages in India, health care, particularly preventative care, is almost unheard of and limited to either poorly staffed government health centers or private clinics, usually run by con artists or unqualified apprentices. While there are many ways to prevent and treat malaria, the developing world often has limited access to these technologies. Without bringing these solutions to the people in rural tropical climates, scientific progress completes only half the battle.

Malaria cuts economic growth rates in countries with high prevalence rates and countries ravaged by malaria suffer from a compromised, unhealthy workforce. An increase in malaria prevalence is statistically correlated with a decrease in literacy and school attendance, which limits the potential of each new generation. This health crisis threatens long-run prosperity at the individual, family, community, and national levels.

Bed nets, specifically Long-Lasting Insecticide-treated Nets (LLINs), are one of the most effective daily deterrents to mosquitoes. A LLIN is a ready-to-use insecticide treated mosquito net created in response to low re-treatment rates of traditional insecticide-treated nets.  These nets require no additional insecticide treatment and remain effective for years, even after multiple washes. They are recommended by the World Health Organization and are the preferred choice of mosquito nets for many groups, including UNICEF. A treated bed net can reduce the overall number of mosquitoes that enter the home and can reduce transmission as much as 90% in areas with high coverage rates. LLINs are rarely used in rural areas because of their cost, limited availability, and a lack of knowledge of their importance and existence.

Thus, there are two interrelated problems: lack of knowledge and lack of access. This project aims to address both these problems.

The Barakat Initiative Against Malaria will distribute LLINs to students enrolled in the Barakat schools in Uttar Pradesh, India. Nets will be distributed prior to the next monsoon season, when the mosquito count peaks. Prior to receiving their nets, students and their parents will attend classes on malaria transmission, community prevention, proper use and care of bed nets, identification of early symptoms, and the importance of preventative medicine. Learning about malaria is a key step in order to ensure that the nets are used diligently, and that steps are taken in the community to reduce overall mosquito breeding levels. For example, currently, basic, effective knowledge such as reducing stagnant water and covering water tanks to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds is unheard of in this area.

The Barakat Initiative Against Malaria is now able to purchase LLINs to be shipped to India at a subsidized rate of approximately $5.00 a net. For less than the price of lunch, one can tangibly improve the health of one student. No gift is too small, as just $5 can save a life.

A few weeks ago, my Nana (maternal grandfather) and I ventured out to Mohammadpur, Dhaka visit BRAC Limb and Brace Fitting Centre (BLBC)- which in case you didn’t know, is a partnering project of Jolkona. Adnan and Nadia were kind enough to extend the offer-so I took on the chance to check it out! We reached the center at about 10 am, a bright, beautiful morning. The center was right across the street form the National Cardiac Institute and surrounded by various orthopedic centers-seemed like the ideal location. Upon arrival, Nana and I were warmly greeted by Dr. Ripon, the director of the center. He lead us to a large outdoor lobby, with seats on the left side, a few handrail structures in the middle, and entrances to smaller rooms and offices on the front and right-side walls. I made awkward eye contact with a few of the beneficiaries, who (understandably) didn’t know how to quite greet the newcomers. After a few nervous smiles and rushed assalamwalaikums,  we were in Dr. Ripon’s office.

Over a cup of tea and biscuits, Dr. Ripon expressed some of the reasons why he started his work at BLBC. To him, there was nothing greaterthan providing individuals the chance to reclaim their lives after a devastating accident or illness. In his own words, Dr. Ripon views his work as a nesha (addiction)-he can’t stop. Many of Dr. Ripon’s patients are financially poor with little hope of regaining the simple chance to walk. Without this ability, there’s no opportunity for self-sufficiency and work-which only asks for poverty. BLBC single handedly provides these very people the right to earn an income through the gift of walking.

We took a tour of the center right after. First, we visited the rooms in which the artificial limbs are constructed. There was an array of tools, plastics, and machines-each being carefully operated by the trained technicians. According to Dr. Ripon, all the technicians at BLBC are trained outside of the country (Thailand) to build quality prosthetics for their patients. Next, Dr. Ripon took us out to the front lobby where patients were practicing how to walk with their newly acquired limbs. At the BLBC, each patient is required to complete a two-week training session to become accustomed to walking. This way, each patient leaves the center fully moving and recovered.

But this is all rather…obvious. I’m not here to blog about what you and I can easily read from a brochure or website. I’m here speak of what I saw next.

Minutes later Dr. Ripon ushered me to the front gate of the building-there was something everyone wanted me to see. First, I an empty rikshaw.  Then I saw a man, presumably the riksha-wallah (the one operates the rikshaw)-a tall man, in his 40’s, wearing the usual shada genji (white t-shirt) and lungi (a cloth worn around the legs-commonly worn by south Asian men). Dr. Ripon pointed at his leg and asked the man to pull up his lungi a few inches, and underneath I saw a beautiful tan plastic leg.

I climbed up on the rikshaw, and minutes later I was outside of the building, the wind blowing gently on my face and hair. The rikshaw-wallah was flawless with his movements, not a grunt, limp, or abnormal maneuvering of his body. He just rode, rode the bicycle with every swift turn of his legs. Of course, I was on the rikshaw for fun…to confirm with my own eyes whether he could actually ride it. But for this man, each push of his leg was food for his family, clothing for his boys, jewelery for his girls, and a sari for his daughters wedding. Each push was a reason to see over the horizon, to hope for possibilities, to climb out of poverty. Each push, each push, both with his real and artificial leg.

“Amra amader Ripon Bhai amader jonno oneg korse”-“our friend Dr. Ripon has done a lot for us,” said the Riksha-wallah as we were heading back to the center. I agree, I can see that Dr. Ripon has done plenty for these people.

I think what I take home from the BLBC visit is it’s 100% successful. The treatment is simple and virtually free of medical complications. I’ve seen hotel sex workers, injecting drug users, HIV/AIDS patients at health clinics where full recovery isn’t this certain. Of course, these centers are no less, but after viewing the trauma, the negative stigma, and the neglect for so many marginalized communities in Bangladesh….the BLBC stories rang music in my ears. There was not a fragment of hopelessness in these patients, not a tear, not a utter of complaint.

But then again, why would they be hopeless?

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