Friday, 29 January 2016

104-year-old 'Turbaned Tornado' spins a storm every time he runs! #BeLikeFauja

Fauja Singh, Image Courtesy: ESPN

While most of us have fallen into the trap of life’s daily drudgery – the monotonous routine of a job, housework and children, leaves us with little respite; it’s hard not to cling onto miraculous little inspirations that come our way from time to time.

One such wonder comes in the form of Fauja Singh - a centenarian marathon runner who is living proof that anything can be achieved if you only put your mind to it. All you need to do is throw in some commitment, dedication and self-belief. An unassuming, deceptively frail man, whose face is lined with fine wrinkles and a long billowing beard that cascades down to his chest.

One can’t help but marvel at this 104-year-old British Sikh runner of Indian descent, who also goes by the names ‘Turbaned Tornado’, ‘Running Baba’ and ‘Sikh Superman’. Singh, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Professor Albus Dumbledore, a fictional character in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, is the proud record holder of being the world’s oldest centenarian endurance marathon runner.

When Singh was asked how he managed to finish the grueling 26-mile (42.195 km) marathon he said very matter -of-factly, “The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for the last 6 miles, I run while talking to God.” 

Born in Punjab on April 1911, Fauja Singh’s childhood was not an easy one. As a child, he was often bullied by children for being too thin and was referred to as danda. Ironically, he also failed to develop the ability to walk until he was 5 years old. However, by the time he was a young adult he grew a fervent love for running. This was short-lived as he gave it up post the 1947India-Pakistan partition, only to revive his love for it at the age of 89.

Singh’s heart-wrenching story is that of personal loss and his relentless pursuit to recover from the debilitating grief that accompanies it. In the year 1992, Singh’s wife passed away. While he was in the process of coming to terms with this loss, tragedy struck again in 1994, when his son Kuldip was killed in a construction accident. Refusing to succumb to the crushing grief that comes with the loss of a loved one, , Singh sought solace in running by rediscovering his love for it, and thus, started the healing process. 

This miracle man is living proof that life only begins when you wish it to. For Singh it began at 89 years of age - and it is still going strong as ever. Fauja is known to have replaced David Beckham as the poster boy of the popular sports brand Adidas, as no one epitomizes the fact that age is just a number, better than the ‘Turbaned Tornado’. To conclude, as Adidas aptly put it in their popular slogan – Impossible is Nothing

Tweet to @HelpAgeIndia_ with hashtag #BeLikeFauja what you find most inspirational about his story! 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Let's Furnish the Needs of an Old Age Home! #81Smiles

Krishna’s voice, each morning, resonates at a local temple in Cuddalore with her melodious prayers, drawing people towards the temple. But not many know about the pain she hides behind these prayers. She lost both her children early in life. At their old age, Krishna and her husband lost all support, with no roof over their heads.

Today, Krishna is a resident of Tamaraikulam Elders Village or TEV, the first Home for the Aged constructed by HelpAge India and her life has change three sixty degrees.

“There was nobody to look after us. Thus we came to this HelpAge Home. It has been 6 years now,” says Krishna.

 Watch TEV's beautiful stories by clicking on the above video.

Krishna is not just another resident of the home, but also the main store manager and accountant, managing the home’s finances. It keeps her happy, active and gives her a sense of self-worth. But like any home, Tamaraikulam needs constant care and supplies for its upkeep, so that its elder residents live with the much needed care and comfort, to spend their later years in dignity. 

HelpAge has partnered with Snapdeal so that with your help these necessities can directly be handed over for 81 elderly residents in the Tamarikulam Elders Village (TEV) Old Age Home. 

Click on: and contribute a simple household item in kind. Each bit counts!


Situated at Cuddalore, about 20 km from Puducherry, TEV provides an end-to-end solution for elders with multiple age friendly facilities. The home is self-sufficient in terms of energy and food, and has adequate medical facilities. The most unique aspect of the home - it encourages active ageing to keep them physically active and mentally alert as well as financially secure through  livelihood - building schemes like farming and making handicrafts. Built by HelpAge, through the donations made by the viewers of NDTV, the village is recognized as a model old-age residential project by the Government of Tamil Nadu. This free stay facility for the rural poor can accommodate 100 residents’ and serves as a safe haven for many others like Lakshmi who have found the warmth of a home again.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Extraordinary Octogenarian: Does this 81-year-old hold the key to teaching kids how to understand math?

This article was originally published in Washington post here. Original author credits: Perry Stein.

Mary Johnson is not a person you’d typically associate with the future. She is 81 and talks about teaching math in the District during the 1960's as if little time has passed.
But week after week, Johnson still drives from her Clinton home to the after-school program at the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation campus in Southeast and, according to officials at the program, consistently lifts underperforming math students to grade level and beyond. This month, she received a copyright for a diagnostic test that she says can assess specific gaps in students’ math knowledge in minutes.
She’s now working with the foundation to raise money to digitize the test, which includes eight to 10 math problems for each grade level, so that it can be used in schools throughout the country.
I believe all students can learn math if they understand the laws,” Johnson said. “If a student masters a problem on my test, I don’t care what test they take, they master it.”
Johnson, who has a doctorate in math education from the University of Maryland, looks far younger than her 81 years. She’s petite, but she can still move around the classroom, from the white board to the students and back with ease, making eye contact with each student along the way.
“Why?” she repeatedly asks 10-year-old Ange Sery as she sits with him and another student reviewing how to add fractions.
Johnson’s methods rely on drilling in the basic concepts of math — or, as she puts it, “the laws of math” — and ensuring that students understand why each step of solving a problem is necessary.
If a student doesn’t conceptually understand that they can’t add apples and oranges together, for example, how will they know what to do a few years later when they see different variables in an addition equation in algebra class.
When, after a few tries, Ange says the word “factors” to explain what he needs to do before he adds the two fractions, Johnson’s soft voice goes higher and her words spew out faster as she praises the boy’s correct answer. She keeps stuffed folders documenting the progress of each student, and after 60 years of teaching, still delights in a student figuring out a math problem.
“Her teaching is more unique,” said Ange, who has worked with Johnson for more than two years and says he now receives mostly A’s in his fifth-grade math class at Watkins Elementary School. “If you don’t know anything about math, she takes her time and teaches you.”
Johnson was raised in Norfolk and says her mom declared that Johnson would be a teacher even before she was born. In high school, she would finish her entire math textbook halfway through the year and then teach her classmates the work. They liked the way she clearly explained the concepts, and they requested that the teachers allow Johnson to lead the class instead.
I always dreamed I would be a teacher, but I never dreamed I would teach thousands of children all over the world,” she said.
After graduating as valedictorian, she went on to attend Virginia State University, where she earned her degree in less than three years.
Her résumé in the decades since then hits on most facets of education: She has taught at traditional schools and colleges, participated in research projects, developed curriculums, and co-founded the Washington Math Science Technology Public Charter in the District in 1998, where she served as principal for a few years. Her husband, Eugene Williams — also a prominent educator in the area who previously served as an assistant principal at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School — works with students in the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation after-school program in reading.
Throughout her career, Johnson has encountered educators who have adopted her methods, which include flowcharts that students use to break down every step of the problem so that teachers can see where students are struggling.
“She’s non-threatening and builds students’ confidence,” said Arlene Maclin, a professor at Morgan State University who has worked with Johnson for decades. In 2003, Maclin had recruited a class of low-income African American students for an optical engineering program at Norfolk State University, but the students’ math skills weren’t up to college standards. She brought in Johnson to lead an intensive two-week math workshop and, according to Maclin, nearly all of the students were ready for calculus by the end.
She doesn’t teach tests; she teaches them how to think logically,” Maclin said.
For now, Johnson is focused on teaching children at the after-school program and expanding her Success in Learning Math Approach, which she’s dubbed Silma. She has trained hundreds of teachers across the country in her methods, instructing them on how to employ her diagnostic tests and quickly compose a student profile from them.
The diagnostic tests are brief, she says, but students are required to show their work, and Johnson says each question is carefully designed to test a student’s grasp of multiple concepts.
The turnaround she’s done with these students is stunning,” said Eleni A. Rossides, executive director of the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation, which serves low-income students throughout the District. “She understands how to deliver the information, how to teach it. People come away from working with her, like, ‘Wow, I get it.’ ”

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Caring for Elders - A Matter of Duty, not an Obligation

The process and consciousness of ageing can be overwhelming, bringing with it the inevitabilities of loneliness, death and irreversibility. Despite this, it may be deemed a positive experience for many. However, its success does not merely depend on longevity of life but the quality of life of an individual.

The joint family structure in India has gone through many structural and functional changes and has seen a gradual, yet steady decline. It has been replaced by the nuclear family set up, synonymous with independent living and fewer filial obligations. An undesirable effect of this has been the isolation of the elderly. This social change has led to the dissolution of traditional means of support for them.  An emerging crisis pertaining to the support for such isolated elders looms in its place, instead. Who takes on the mammoth task of responsibility for their care and support?

According to The Hindu, by 2050, India will be home to one out of every six of the world’s older persons, and only China will have a larger number of elderly people, according to estimates released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF).

The report released by UNPF and HelpAge India to mark the International Day of Older Persons — observed on October 1 — suggests that India had 90 million elderly persons in 2011, with the number expected to grow to 173 million by 2026. Of the 90 million seniors, 30 million are living alone, and 90 per cent work for livelihood.

The report says the number of elderly women is more than that of elderly men. Nearly three out of five single older women are very poor, and two out of three rural elderly women are fully dependents. There is also an increasing proportion of elderly at 80-plus ages, and this pattern is more pronounced among women.

The elderly are a vulnerable section of society, susceptible to abuse and neglect which leads to depression, health problems, cognitive decline and an overall low quality of life. In such a scenario, it is absolutely necessary to address the problem with mindfulness and compassion.  It is the moral responsibility of each person to contribute to eldercare – to provide financial assistance and emotional support for their ageing parents or relatives.

However, the responsibility of supporting and caring for elders lies not only on individuals but society as a whole. Corporates have played a significant role in the past to ensure a segment of their profit is efficiently contributed to the elderly cause. India has one of the oldest traditions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - the role of which has evolved over the last few decades.  It is the ethical duty of businesses – big and small - to give back to the community by supporting causes that better the lives of the less privileged.

As per the new amendments of the recently passed Companies Act-2013, setting up old age homes, day care centres and such other facilities for senior citizens will now come under the purview of CSR activities. As per the current provisions of Companies Law, certain profitable companies are required to shell out at least two per cent of their three-year annual average net profit towards CSR.                                                                                                                   

The Financial Express in a recent article reported, that according to the Crisil CSR Yearbook, in fiscal 2015, small listed firms spent relatively more on CSR than their bigger counterparts. While this is heartening, let us hope that, in future, small and big corporates continue to work in tandem to achieve a common vision – integrated social rehabilitation to enhance the lives of senior citizens across the country.     

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Social Impact Story from HelpAge's Grassroot Eye Care Camps

Madhu Saha, 75, started to lose his eyesight and it put a huge strain on him and his family. 

The loss of vision made him unbearably unhappy as he was unable to do his income earning work of cooking food and delivering it to the customers. He started to feel like a burden to his family members who were now also doing his share of work. 

Therefore, when he heard about an eye screening camp run by Bharati Sangha in association with HelpAge India and Acclaris through campaigning and leaflets, he visited the camp. At the screening center, Madhu was diagnosed with cataract in both eyes. He was brought to Susrut Eye Foundation & Research Centre at Salt Lake Base Hospital for operation in his right eye and after the operation he got his vision back.

Madhu is overwhelmed! He chuckled with extreme delight when the bandage was removed and he could see everyone clearly. 
smile emoticon
He is now back to work and is cooking and delivering food to his customers without trouble.

Your contributions to HelpAge go a long way in spreading light. Truly! :)

Monday, 18 January 2016

Dhanabakyam's Home Coming: Magnificent Impact Story of an NGO, CSR & Media working Together!

Unique positive story on the power of TV Channel, integrated working of multiple NGO’s and the backing of a Corporate that is CSR driven!  

On 3rd June 2015, HelpAge India HelpLine 1800-180-1253 received a call from Krishnan who spotted an elderly woman near Albert Theatre, Egmore, Chennai.

The 82 year old lady been on the street, surviving only on food provided by the public that passed by. She had spent about five terrible nights on those very streets, scared of stray dogs and swarming dengue mosquitoes. On receiving Krishnan’s call, the rescue team reached the spot and rescued the elderly lady.  On enquiry, the team ascertained that she had lost her way and landed in Chennai. Her memory loss added to her woes; her whereabouts, family details were unknown. She was mentally and physically lost. After completion of the initial documentation formalities and police memo, the rescue team rehabilitated her on the same day, to Little Drops Old Age Home at Porur, a shelter for the deprived and deserted people.

Though the shelter was warm and loving, it was an alien place for Dhanabakyam who found coping up with a new environment difficult. Mary, the caretaker of the home spent time consoling, encouraging and caring for the old mother. Gradually Dhanabakyam started adapting to the shelter's environment and was beginning to be happy with her fellow-friends of this home. She started engaging herself in serving food for lunch, dinner to inmates and collecting milk in the evening, but with a deep grief of inexplicable memories of her loved ones back home. She was optimistic that one day her relatives would find her and used to share this with Mary during her evening tea time.

Back home, the whole family was in search of their mother, Dhanabakyam’s whereabouts for almost six months.

A TV Channel's Coverage came in as a messiah for Dhanabakyam!

On 6th December 2015, when the whole world was viewing the devastation and aftermath of Chennai floods over the Sun News TV with pain, one family found their reason to smile and rejoice. The news channel aired the plight and distress of Little Drop’s Old Age Home due to inundation and immense hardship due to flooding. It was here that Dhanabakyam’s family spotted her in the news footage!!

On 9th December 2015, the entire family with children, grandchildren reached Little Drops Home after initial glitches of locating the place. The 'desire-come-true’ moment had finally arrived for Dhanabakyam who was finally reunited with her family. Though she was feeling sad leaving her new friends and the Home, re-uniting with her family brought inexplicable happiness and smile on her face!

We have heard innumerable stories of pain, loss of lives and property due to flood havoc in Chennai. But this heart-rending story of family reunion and the happy ending has only been possible due to: the reach and power of Mass-Media, HelpAge India's  Help Line 1800 – 180 - 1253, effective responsibility of Police and people like Krishnan and the CSR support/backing by L&T Construction, that supports both HelpAge India and Little Drops, that had played major role in the life of Dhanabakyam and her family --- and thousands of such needy.

“Since the inception of Helpline project in September 2014, we have reached out to nearly 2000 such elderly people of which, 507 were rescue cases from streets; all were rehabilitated in old age homes or repatriated with families.” Says, HelpAge India Chennai representative. 

Such is the impact of working together of responsible individual citizens, committed NGO’s, Police machinery, Govt. Institutions, CSR-driven organizations and the reach/positive coverage of TV Channel.

Dhanabakyam now sits by her window as she sips her evening tea, and hums her favorite song. Yes, each evening!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Theater For Change!

Today, on National Youth Day, HelpAge India gives a special mention to all young volunteers and creative groups that have been partners on our journey to fight isolation, neglect and poverty of our elders. 

HelpAge India along with several young theater groups including Vayam and Toli groups of street theater has majorly focused on using 'Theatre for Development' to bring in advocacy of a different kind. Young people 's voices advocating for the Elder Cause are so strong and that has truly led to an inter generational impact. This kind of participatory theatre, also used further creativity and improvisation by involving and encouraging the audience to take roles in the performance. 

The recently released HelpAge report 'National Survey : A YOUTH PERSPECTIVE ON ELDER ABUSE' clearly states that the younger generation, by and large, are aware that the elders in India are not living a very satisfactory life. This act of volunteering by some to make a difference towards the cause in their own little ways, calls out for a big round of appreciation indeed.

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” ― Kurt VonnegutPalm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Actors from Vayam Theater group of Shaheed Sukhdev College, Delhi University, performing in partnership with HelpAge India across Delhi on issue of 'Elder Care'.