Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Hopes for the Future at HEEALS, and How We Can Make a Difference in the Present

Here at HEEALS we like to keep supporters – family members, friends, and social media followers – in the loop about what’s going on. That’s why we keep a regular blog and social media presence. A lot of the time we tell you about what we are doing or have done, and that type of communication is important! In this blog post, however, we’d like to expand a bit and tell you about what we would like to do in the future. All of these plans were drafted by the director here at HEEALS: Gaurav Kashyap, so if you’re reading through and notice any that speak strongly to you which you would like to get involved in, shoot him an email at communications@heeals.org. Keep in mind that none of these projects are happening currently- they are things that HEEALS would like to implement, but as of right now the NGO does not have the funds or the manpower. We’re always looking for more volunteers or even interns if you’re able to commit to working full time for a few months! So keep reading, and see if one of these projects is something you would like to help us work towards.

Let’s start by introducing the first project: toilet installation. India is the open defecation capital of the world, and this leads to a ton of health risks. Not only are people exposed to more diseases, but a lack of toilet facilities in schools can lead students (especially girls) to drop out early. This project calls for 107 toilets to be installed in locations across all of India. While this is a big project, it’s nice because it can be taken one toilet at a time, so it’s not necessary to raise a huge lump sum to fund the entire project right from the get-go. This plan was what inspired our current project- ‘Water Filters for Haryana and U.P.!’

On to the next project: Pads4Girls. Have you ever watched the movie PadMan? It came out in February 2018 and is based off of the true story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who, after watching his wife struggle and use unsanitary materials because store-bought sanitary pads were too expensive, designed and built a low-cost pad making machine. The project Pads4Girls involves purchasing one of these pad machines, opening a factory and employing local women to make the pads. This can allow women without a job to grab hold of their own livelihood while at the same time making pads available in the market at a lower retail price. The pads would be sold at different prices depending on the financial ability of the buyer- anyone who is very destitute would be sold pads for next-to-nothing, while people who could afford it a bit more would be able to purchase at a price still below but closer to regular retail cost.
The last project that HEEALS aims to one day put in place needs to be a bit of a secret. This is because, just like the others, it is a brainchild of Gaurav. It is also, however, different from the others in the sense that no project of this sort has ever been done before. It is a project focused on education about sanitary hygiene that will travel all over India and will be funded by corporate sponsors. Not only will sponsors be getting to help with a great cause, but there is also a huge marketing and advertizing potential for them. If you are a business owner and are interested in learning more about what this opportunity to help the community and your business might look like in a few years, send Gaurav an email for more information on this exciting and innovative project!

Not only did we want to tell you today about the projects that HEEALS hopes to one day work on, we also wanted to take some time to expand on the values HEEALS holds. Our name is an acronym, and the letters stand for Health, Education, Environment, And Livelihood Society. As a society (or organization), HEEALS has done many workshops about health and education, and our water filters project which is ongoing right now also has a focus on this direction. The Pads4Girls project which will hopefully be undertaken once HEEALS gets a bit bigger is an example of how this NGO values supporting peoples’ livelihood. But what about the ‘E’ for Environment? While HEEALS doesn’t currently have any ongoing projects about environment, keeping our earth healthy is certainly something that we value strongly. On June 5, 2018 (International Environment Day), the HEEALS team planted ten saplings and put out two blog posts about keeping our earth clean- one about plastic pollution and another about open defecation in India. If you haven’t read them yet, we certainly encourage you to do so! HEEALS also has a catalogue you can browse through which is full of handmade and eco-friendly products. Any funds from items purchased from this catalogue go towards workshops in schools about healthy living. We are also a partner with BlueHorse Group, an organization which sells biodegradable products worldwide.
Are you looking for ways that you can do your part in keeping our environment clean? Is keeping good karma important to you? Are you just trying your best to leave a good mark on this world? If any of this rings true with you, this is a list you might be interested in. We’ve put together a few ways that you can do your part- without needing to dedicate hours every day. Using eco-friendly or biodegradable products in place of plastic (for more information on plastic pollution, follow this link) goes a long way- you’re not just making a better choice in the product you’re using, but you’re also setting a great example for everyone around you. Another amazing option is buying clothes second hand. By reusing clothes and buying second-hand or getting hand-me-downs from friends and family, you’re keeping these fabrics out of the landfill for even longer. If you outgrow a shirt and have no place to donate it, consider making it into a rag, rather than buying new cloth from a store! When one person makes choices like these, the impact (while very good) is minimal. But as more and more people start seeing the value in fixing rather than tossing and begin reusing in as many innovative ways as possible, the impact begins to grow even more.
If you live in the west, it’s possible that this next part applies less to you (but you should still read it). If you live in India, you probably pass second hand clothing shops on the side of the street all the time! These men carry their livelihood on a cart or in the trunk of their car, and then lay out these clothes every morning. Next time you need to purchase a new shirt, consider sifting through their pile to find one you like, rather than heading straight to the mall. Not only are you increasing the life cycle of these clothes before they go to the landfill, but you’re also helping a family to make sure that there’s food on the table every night. The man standing outside selling clothes off of the roof of his old beaten up car for twelve hours a day definitely appreciates the few rupees he makes off of every sale much more than the CEO of any name-brand store ever will. If we want to see a change in the world, if we want to see an end to child labour and help more individuals work their way out of poverty, it can’t be just talk. It needs to be personal choices and individual actions.
            So, bearing that in mind, HEEALS is calling you. We’re asking you personally, to make a commitment. If you’re reading this blog, we’re sure that you hold the same values as we do- the right to health, education, and livelihood, and the necessity of a clean earth. We’re asking you to consider what you can do today, this week, or this month, to make an impact. Don’t just read this blog, think about it for a few minutes and move on with your life. Actually begin making these changes! Choose reusable bags over plastic. Make your own coffee and skip the disposable cup. Ask for your drink without a plastic straw. Shop second hand! We’d love to hear about you doing these things. Send HEEALS a photo* of yourself doing any of them, or making another eco-friendly choice for a chance to be featured on the HEEALS social media sites! If you’re looking to volunteer, give us a call or send us an email! We’d be more than happy to have your help, or if you live too far away to work with HEEALS we can give you advice about other NGO’s or organizations which hold similar values as we do. If you’re looking to support HEEALS financially, send us a message and tell us whether you’d like to support workshops and the work HEEALS does in general, or if you’d like to commit to one of the projects that we’re hoping to initiate in the future.

            The point of this blog was twofold: to help you get to know HEEALS and our hopes and plans for the future a bit better, and also to encourage you to make those choices, changes, sacrifices even, that will help keep our planet cleaner and greener. We love to hear from you, so don’t forget to tell us about what YOU are doing for a chance to make an appearance on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Ciao for now!
~ Rachel

*Please send the photos to us by email at communications@heeals.org or send us a private message on Facebook!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Stepping into a dream: A week in Manali

Throughout this past week, my colleague and I had the opportunity to tour Manali, Himachal Pradesh, doing research for components of our work in environmental conservation. I have titled this piece “Stepping into a dream” as that is exactly what it felt like to get off of the bus in Manali; Throughout this article, I plan to describe what makes Manali so incredibly unique as a tourist destination, the challenges it faces, and ways in which we (as tourists) can minimize our personal impacts and ensure this beautiful location remains in tact for future generations.Manali is a resort town located in the Kullu district in the mountains of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. At an altitude of 2,050 m in the Beas River Valley, most of the commute from Delhi consisted of frightening bus rides up narrow, switchback trails into the mountains. Manali is quite the dreamland for any adventurer; Famous for a paragliders, farmers and mountaineers, Rachel and I decided to get a fix of exhilaration through a four-day trek we took through the Hampta Pass. Reaching a total altitude of 3,200 m, the trek was easily one of the most beautiful experiences we have ever had. Each morning, we would wake up to a cup of tea overlooking stunning, snow-capped mountain peaks, wild horses, flowing rivers and the soft singing of birds. In the mountains the air is fresher, the thunder is louder, and the stars are brighter. Having only visited New Delhi prior to this trip, it was difficult to believe that Manali was even a part of the same country. With World Environment Day having just past on June 5th, we thought it would be appropriate to explore some of the environmental marvels that India has to offer. To say the least, we were not disappointed.
         This point can be even more emphasized from an environmental perspective. Manali’s selling point is its natural environment, and therefore, it would not take long for one to note the lack of litter, smog, and traffic in Manali compared to India’s capital. A study of Air Quality in 175 cities across India, done by the National Ambient Air Quality Programme, shows the following differences between air quality in Delhi and Manali throughout 2015:[1]
Intrinsically tied to air quality is Himachal Pradesh’s forest area, classified into 16 different types and covering 22.20% of its geographical area.[1] These forests are occupied with a variety of biological communities and biomass, over 224 glaciers[1], and 1,746 species of medicinal plants. [2]The most astonishing part about our trek through Himachal Pradesh was that we only saw a fraction of the biodiversity that this beautiful state has to offer.

         With a great environment comes a great responsibility. The Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board is the first of its kind in India; A board constituted specifically to mitigate pollution of all types, the HPPBC is “a nodal agency for planning, coordination, prevention, and control of pollution.”.[3] The Board website includes an environmental data bank, environmental standards, reports, publications, and public hearings. The Board has eleven regional offices, which all cater to the diverse requirements of environmental monitoring, surveillance and analysis.[4]
         Yet, the beauty of Manali and surrounding Himachal Pradesh must not disguise the environmental concerns that still plague this area, despite its seeming like a utopia. The biodiversity of H.P., and the impending endangerment of many species in the area can be mainly attributed to deforestation, which is caused by several factors included in an article published in the ICEDOL Journal by Ajay Kumar. The article calls attention to the expansion of tourism, increase in forest fires in the area, and the undertaking of development activities, among other factors contributing to deforestation, and therefore, a loss in biodiversity.[5] Furthermore, the high preference of medicinal plants grown in the Himalaya region leads to illegal extraction from the wild for trade; This practice is not only harmful to the species themselves, many of which are on the brink of distinction despite being notified as a protected area. Beyond this, the practice of illegally trading medicinal plants impacts the many tribal communities who reside in the Himalayan region, and depend on these plants for medicinal purposes.[6]
         Even still, clearer and more devastating impacts of climate change can be seen in the recession of glaciers in the H.P. region over the years. Deglaciation in the Beas basin between the periods of 1976-2006 resulted in approximately a 11.6% loss, with the number of glaciers increasing from 224-236 due to fragmentation.[7]
         So, as a tourist, adventure-seeker, hiker etc. wanting to visit Manali, how does one appreciate their surroundings without leaving a negative impact on them? Through connecting with locals and doing some secondary research, I’ve come up with a few tips:

1.       Admire from afar: While the views are beautiful in Manali, it is primarily because, for the most part, they are untouched. Appreciating and photographing wildlife, plants, flowers etc. is totally okay! Picking them or destroying them for photo-ops or campfires? Not so much.
Take only photographs, leave only footprints: This one is pretty self-evident, but considering the amount of litter (and even waster) I saw on some of the trails, it is worth noting. Leave 1.       packing space for garbage you create during your treks, and always dig your waste hole far away from water sources!
2.       Ask local, shop local, trek local: The villagers of Manali care more about their home than any traveller passing through. Put your questions, dollars and interest in the local economies, and sustain the very fabric that makes Manali such a magical place! Besides, the locals know the trails like the backs of their hands.
3.       Respect the mountain: Enough said.

While Manali is a paradise to those who love adventure and scenery, we often forget that paradise must be maintained by someone. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful place, and look forward to seeing how HPPBC continues to conserve it in the future!



Wednesday, 20 June 2018

4th International Yoga Day -2018

Happy Yoga Day !
Yoga is not only a form of exercise to improve out physical health but it is also becomes a genuine spiritual practice. Making us mentally & physically awake.Yoga helps us to understand one’s self, once we understand that, we are close to God & super natural powers.
Yoga is a dynamic participation in one’s life. It motivate & inform us to bring harmonious relationship between all other living beings and bring more closer to one’s self and super natural power.
Quote “Yoga not only bring healthy body & mind but also bring wisdom” –Gaurav Kashyap .