School on Wheels Brings Classes to Indian Slums

Children write letters from the Telugu alphabet as a teacher conducts lessons inside a bus converted into a school at a slum in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

Children write letters from the Telugu alphabet as a teacher conducts lessons inside a bus converted into a school at a slum in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

On a hot afternoon, a bright orange bus drives into a slum area of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, parking amidst shelters made of tarpaulins and bits of wood. Barefoot children come running, eyes shining, and troop inside.  It’s a school on wheels that brings education to the doorstep of disadvantaged children such as these every day, halting for several hours at a time in different parts of the sprawling city.

The children, whose parents are day laborers on construction sites, or work as rag pickers and maids, either never go to school or drop out once enrolled. Many have to work as hard as their parents to pay off family debts. “These children have no time to go to school, unless the school comes to them,” said T.L. Reddy, founder of the CLAP Foundation, a non-governmental organization that runs the mobile school. “At first we prepared a temporary tent in their slum to give basic education for the children. Then slowly we developed the concept of a school inside a vehicle to attract more.”

Reddy, a teacher for 25 years, first thought of doing something for the children when they caught his attention a decade ago. After gathering donations and setting up the tent first, they began operating the bus three years ago. The inside of the bus is bright and clean, its walls festooned with the alphabet, numbers and pictures of fruit and animals. Children perch on seats around the inside of the bus, writing on slates they hold on their laps. Some days, the bus is so full that children sit cross-legged on the floor as a sari-clad teacher talks to them.

Manjula, a 10-year-old girl, bubbles with excitement about her studies and wants to be a doctor to bring medical care to slum children such as herself. “Now I can read and write from 1 to 200 numbers,” she said. The goal, Reddy said, is to teach the children enough for them to be mainstreamed into government schools. “This is the only chance they get to be kids, even if it is for only two hours.”



Stanford’s Free Online Education Experiment is Booming

This fall, Stanford decided to experiment by offering its three most popular computer science classes to the public—for free. Within weeks, 200,000 people from around the globe signed up, with Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, taught by renowned Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun (pictured above).

Norvig’s tracking found that more than 3 million users have come to the page since the university announced the artificial intelligence class. And more than 35,000 of the people who signed up have stuck with Intro to A.I., turning in assignments and taking midterm exams right along with the 175 students paying to take the class in person.

Because of the interest, Stanford plans to offer seven more computer science classes beginning in January, and will expand its offerings to two entrepreneurship courses. Next semester, students will be able to take Technology Entrepreneurship—a class on how to launch a successful startup, and The Lean Launchpad, which will teach how to turn “a great idea into a great company.”

The unique aspect of Stanford’s effort compared to MIT’s decade-old Open CourseWare and other first-generation online learning projects is that Stanford’s professors aren’t just posting a syllabus and hoping people follow along. Norvig and Thrun have worked to give their virtual lectures the same feel as the in-person Stanford experience. They even take questions from their virtual students and respond to them in live office hours via Google Hangouts.

Of course, the online students don’t get credit for the classes—Stanford verifies a “badge of completion” instead. But that hasn’t cut down on demand, and a growing number of professors are invested in making knowledge available to the masses, regardless of their ability to pay.


Ethiopian Child Mortality Rates Drop

Some things DO change. Ethiopia has more than halved its child mortality rates since 1990 through campaigns to increase the number of health workers and clinics throughout the country, government and aid officials reported. The Horn of Africa nation has long suffered from one of the world’s highest death rates of children due to recurring droughts. Twenty years ago the mortality rate for those aged under five was about 20 percent. “Today, according to the 2011 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey, that figure has been slashed by more than half to 8.8 per cent,” said Keseteberhan Admassu, Ethiopia’s State Minister of Health. “Reducing malnutrition, which is an underlying factor in at least half of all under-five deaths, has had a profound impact on the survival rates of children,” he told a gathering of representatives of United Nations agencies.

Keseteberhan said the nation-wide malnutrition rate has been slashed by 32 percent, with prevalence to being underweight dropping to 28.7 percent in 2010 from 42.1 percent in 2000. The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) attributed the reductions to increased access to health posts in remote and drought-stricken areas, and a growing number of health workers. The number of health posts has surged to more than 9,000 in 2011 from a handful in 2004 with priority shifted towards food-insecure areas, UNICEF said. “The vigorous training of health extension workers who are on the frontline in the work to provide integrated health, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene services to rural communities … has paid off,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s representative to Ethiopia.

To find out more about UNICEF and how to help support these continued efforts, visit


Low-Income Families Offered Cheap Broadband & PCs

Cable companies and an e-recycler offer low-cost ways for U.S. families to get online. Many U.S. cable providers will offer broadband service for $9.95 a month and an e-recycler will offer $150 PCs and laptops to low-income families in an effort to bring the benefits of broadband to more people across the country. Members of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), including Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, will offer the discounted broadband service, without installation fees or modem rental fees, the organization announced. E-recycler Redemtech will offer refurbished PCs and laptops for $150, plus sales tax.

Families that are eligible for free lunches in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program will be eligible for the discounted broadband service and computers. This year, a family of four with income of less than $29,055 is eligible for free meals in the USDA program.

Many U.S. residents are struggling because of a continued soft economy, Michael Powell, NCTA’s president and CEO, said at a launch event in Washington, D.C. “As every parent and teacher knows, a strong education and technical skills are essential ingredients for any child hoping to realize the promise of the American dream,” he said. “Increasingly, as we all know, the path to opportunity and prosperity must travel, in some way, along the information superhighway.”

Cable companies are “proud” to answer a call from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to provide low-cost broadband to low-income families, Powell said.The discounted broadband service and computers are part of a new program, called Connect to Compete initiative, launched in October by a coalition of IT vendors, online companies and nonprofit organizations, with support from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

About 100 million U.S. residents don’t subscribe to broadband service, according to the FCC. More than 10 million students eligible for USDA free lunches, in approximately 5.5 million homes, do not have home broadband, the NCTA estimated. The reduced-cost broadband program will start in the 2012 school year. The new program could bring broadband to up to 25 million U.S. residents, the FCC said. The $150 computers will have duo-core processors and 4GB of RAM, and will include the Windows 7 operating system and Microsoft’s Office suite.

In addition to the reduced-cost broadband and PCs, Morgan Stanley will offer affordable financing options for families that cannot afford to pay $150 up front for a computer. Genachowski praised the new program, saying it will help close the digital divide in the U.S. The program, offering broadband at a discount of about 70%, will be a “game changer,” he said. “It used to be that being disconnected was an inconvenience,” he added. “Not any more. Whether we’re talking about jobs, education, or health care, in this day and age, getting online is a necessity, not a convenience.”



Dan Dewey of Detroit; A Coffee Angel for Cancer Patients

It started with one cup of coffee. Dan Dewey’s dad, Edgar Dewey, sat in a chair with tubes pumping chemotherapy into his veins in the cancer treatment center of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital in Pontiac. His son was with him, as always.

But one Thursday morning in 2007, he told his son he’d like a cup of coffee. Before Dan Dewey left for the Starbucks down the street, they asked other patients in the room whether they’d like a cup, too. “He’s treating. I’ve got his wallet, and the nurse is holding him down,” Dewey recalled saying at the time. One cup became several. And now, Dewey’s weekly order consists of 20 or more drinks, depending on how many patients are at the cancer center when he arrives. He is there every Thursday morning, even though his dad died in 2008.

“We love Dan,” said oncology nurse and unit manager Kathy Courtney. “He’s here rain or shine; blizzard or tornado. No matter what’s going on out there, we know at 10 o’clock, he’s going to be here. We have some patients who schedule their treatments when they know he’s going to be here.” And it’s not just the java that has the staff and patients looking forward to his visits. It’s Dewey, the Orion Township man who jokes with the patients and their caregivers and teases the staff. “He just lights up the room,” Courtney said. “He’s an inspiration to all of us.”

At 10 a.m. every Thursday Dan heads out for his weekly stop. By about 10:30 a.m., he’s at the Starbucks down the street. Everyone knows to expect him: the staff and patients at the hospital, as well as the folks at Starbucks, where workers have come to fill Dewey’s orders so efficiently, they rarely get complaints from customers anymore. But every now and then, someone wonders why that guy in white shorts and a gray sweatshirt is holding up the line buying so many cups of lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, strawberry smoothies, and, oh yeah, somebody wanted hot chocolate. But the regulars know. And when the complainers find out, well, they fall silent. And some of them put money down to help cover the costs.

Dewey buys the coffee for cancer patients every Thursday because his dad, Edgar Dewey, told him to. His dad had cancer, but the cancer didn’t kill him. He conquered cancer twice. Dewey swears he died of a broken heart, just a few months after the passing of his wife of 62 years, Mary Jane Dandison Dewey. He simply lost the will to fight a third bout with cancer after his high school sweetheart died. But the sweet essence of his heart lives on in Dan’s Coffee Run.

Dan Dewey, 65, a retired educational broadcasting operator for Birmingham Public Schools, used to pay for the drinks, averaging about $50 a trip, out of his own pocket before a Starbucks staffer stepped in. One of the baristas, Valerie Edgington, 46, of Waterford, decided last year to create a special debit-like card through which people can donate money for coffee runs. People can put money on the card in person at the Starbucks on Woodward at Square Lake Road in Bloomfield Hills or via or a Facebook page she set up. She also made T-shirts that sell for $20 and stickers ($5) to help spread the word and encourage contributions. “He never asked for anything special,” Edgington said. “He just came in every Thursday ordering all these different drinks. Finally, I asked him what he was doing, and I wanted to help.”

Oncologist Rajan Krishnan, the doctor who treated Dewey’s dad, said the visits remind him of times gone by in his native India, when people stopped by simply to share a cup of tea or coffee. Doing so showed people they mattered. Krishnan’s mom in India misses those days; she recently lamented their loss in a telephone conversation with her doctor-son. “She said no one just stops by to drink tea. They stop by to get my blood pressure, to check the electricity meter. But no one just stops by to share a cup of tea or coffee,” he recalled her saying. “Sharing a beverage is a way to say I care about you. And that’s what Dan’s visit reminds me of.”

Sharon Donley, 68, of Port Huron was at the center getting treatment for a recurrence of ovarian cancer. She remembers Dewey from when she was treated in the past and was pleased to see he’s still making his weekly rounds at the unit. “He just brings a smile to your face,” Donley said. “It’s such a wonderful thing to do for the patients. He brings you coffee, and he makes you laugh. It’s such a wonderful thing to know that there’s someone who doesn’t even know you who cares. It makes a difference because when you’re here, you’re always a little nervous. And then you have this pleasant familiar experience.” Patients such as Mechelle Burdette, 45, of Eastpointe appreciate that. “It’s so special it brings tears to your eyes,” Burdette said of the coffee visits. “This is so sweet. It really picks you up. It gives you to the strength to make it through, just knowing the kind of people who are out there. It warms your heart.”


The Plea that Opened Hearts: Vancouver Inner-City School Teacher Takes Action

Teacher Carrie Gelson gets a hug from student Deandra at Vancouver's Seymour Elementary. Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

Teacher Carrie Gelson gets a hug from student Deandra at Vancouver's Seymour Elementary. Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

Admiral Seymour elementary teacher, Carrie Gelson, never dreamed her letter would have such an effect… The school year had barely begun at Admiral Seymour elementary when teacher Carrie Gelson, frustrated after a difficult day at work, wrote an impassioned open letter to Vancouver residents asking if anyone cared about her inner-city students who were coming to school with empty tummies and holes in their shoes.

The response was astonishing. Just minutes after her plea was published in The Vancouver Sun, donations and offers of help began to arrive at the school, turning into a flood of generosity that continues to this day. For a little school on Keefer Street in Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside, the experience has been profound and inspiring.

“Magical” is the word head-teacher Andrea Wilks uses to describe the extraordinary events of the past six weeks, and the magic promises to keep coming. The school has received thousands of dollars in cash and gift cards, hundreds of pairs of shoes and socks, scores of warm coats, sweaters and pants in all sizes, and so much snack food for the hungry kids that the cupboards are full to overflowing. She uses file folders to keep track of all the emails and letters, but would need buckets to hold all the love. “It’s overwhelming,” she said as her eyes filled with tears. “So many people … It’s just amazing.”

Many donations have already been distributed to children mired in poverty in nearby housing projects and more pile up in the office every day. Gelson’s initial request was for socks, shoes and snacks, and while she got more than enough of those to satisfy the need this year and next, she was stunned by dozens of completely unexpected offers. For example, a woman with a home-based cupcake business now brings sweet treats to the school every month to celebrate students’ birthdays, another woman is outfitting the school’s art room with supplies and a four-foot-high dollhouse, and a North Shore group has offered to create gingerbread houses with the children before Christmas.

Two Surrey mothers drive into Vancouver once a week to spend a half-day helping in the classroom, a young woman who’s studying social work at the University of the Fraser Valley is on hand every Wednesday and two newly graduated teachers who have yet to land jobs are now regular volunteers. In total, the school has 25 new volunteers. Businesses, community organizations, school groups, churches and celebrities have joined individuals from around the Lower Mainland and beyond with offers that exceeded Gelson’s fondest hopes. The Salvation Army is now delivering food regularly for distribution to deserving families, Sport Chek donated more than 100 pairs of new shoes and boots, and more help is coming from the Better Business Bureau. CIBC Wood Gundy is continuing with the hot breakfast program it’s offered at the school for almost 20 years.

A newly graduated teacher, Christopher Lam, now affectionately known at the school as The Gecko Guy, brought exotic animals into classrooms for a biology lesson, the Zajac Foundation has invited two dozen students to spend a weekend on a ranch for children, and teenage star Brendan Meyer arranged to have 60 students watch the taping of his YTV hit show Mr. Young while munching pizza at the Burnaby studio last week. Later this month, a group of Calgary volunteers will visit the school as part of the celebrations leading up to the Grey Cup on Nov. 27. They’ve promised to bring a band, clowns and their mascot along with this year’s Stampede Queen and the Indian Princess to entertain students from Seymour and nearby Strathcona elementary. “It’s been like Christmas,” said Wilks as she laughingly demonstrated the “happy dance” that staff members do as the kindness rolls in.

Gelson, who has taught at Seymour for 16 years, said she expected some reaction when she penned her plea at the end of a rough day, but never imagined it would be so massive. On the day her letter was published, when she arrived at the school at 9 a.m., “People had already dropped off thousands of dollars in cash by that time. They literally drove into work that morning bringing donations.” One of her favorite responses is pinned to the bulletin board in her classroom. It’s a letter, decorated with brightly colored stamps of cars, that reads: “My name is Logan and I am in Grade 2 in Edmonton, I have socks for all of the kids in your class. I hope they like them.”

Gelson believes the community and her small school are developing bonds that will endure. “It’s all about relationships, and once you start to develop a relationship with these children, you feel compelled to come back and to keep supporting them.” Some have chided the teachers for begging for handouts rather than lobbying government for action to eradicate child poverty, but Parry shrugs off the criticism. Policy changes are needed, she said, but someone else will have to fight that battle. “My concern, my urgency is here every day and quite frankly, my students can’t wait. When you’re on the front lines … you take whatever people will give.” Through all of this, Seymour students may be learning the most valuable lesson of all — that their community cares. “When volunteers and donors show up, that means the world to these kids,” Gelson said. “It’s saying ‘you matter to me’ and that’s huge.”



The Right Place at the Right Time: Stranded Motorist Aids Heart Attack Victim Moments after his Assist

Victor Giesbrecht helped Sara Berg fix a flat tire and, in turn, Berg helped save Giesbrecht’s life when he had a heart attack. Berg and her cousin Lisa Meier got a flat tire on the freeway, and before the women could try to change the tire, Giesbrecht and his wife, Ann, pulled over and offered to help. When 61-year-old Giesbrecht finished changing the tire, Berg thanked him, and he told her, “Someone put me in the right place at the right time,” she recalled Monday.

After being thanked again, the Giesbrechts, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, pulled their truck back onto eastbound freeway. Berg and Meier followed shortly thereafter, talking about how nice it was for the couple to stop and help them. Just down the road, the women saw that the Giesbrechts had pulled onto the shoulder. Initially, Berg thought maybe they were waiting to make sure she and her cousin were back on the road. She passed their truck, pulled over and saw Ann Giesbrecht waving her arms.

Berg got out of her vehicle and found Giesbrecht unconscious and not breathing.  She immediately jumped into his truck and began performing CPR. Fortunately, Berg is a Mayo Clinic Health System Home Health & Hospice employee trained in CPR. Less than two minutes later a sheriff and a reserve deputy arrived to the scene with an automated external defibrillator (AED). The portable electronic devices are used to try to restore normal heart rhythm to patients in cardiac arrest. Once Giesbrecht had been removed from the truck and the AED had been properly placed, the machine indicated a shock was necessary. After the device delivered three separate shocks, Sampson felt a pulse, and Giesbrecht began breathing. Giesbrecht was then airlifted to Mayo Clinic Health System.

“The key here is he got help right away,” said Newton, highlighting Berg’s quick action to perform CPR, the arrival of the deputies with the defibrillator and the Mayo One helicopter with its medical personnel. Ann Giesbrecht said she and her family will be forever in the debt of Meier and Berg, who she spoke to the following night, telling her “she actually saved his life.” Victor Giesbrecht “always wants to stop” and help when he sees stranded motorists, his wife said. “He’s the type of person who gives you 100 percent and worries about himself later.” Ann Giesbrecht thanked the staff at Mayo Clinic Health System, the Dunn County deputies and the Mayo One flight crew. “We’ve had such terrific care,” she said. “People are so nice.”

It was beneficial the Dunn County deputies had an AED with them. Dunn County Sheriff, Dennis Smith, couldn’t agree more. His personnel have had the devices – purchased with money raised through local fundraisers – in their cars for several years. State troopers don’t carry the devices with them, nor do Chippewa County sheriff’s deputies, officials said. Deputies in Eau Claire County do – thanks to grant awards and donations from the Masonic Temple, Sheriff Ron Cramer said.

Curious about AEDs and if  you should have one at home? Read more @


Holiday Mail for Heroes

The holiday season is just around the corner and it’s time again to start thinking about being part of the 2011 American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes. For a fifth year, American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes are partnering to ensure all Americans have an opportunity to send a touch of home this holiday season to members of our U.S. military, veterans and their families, many of whom will be far away from home this holiday season.

Starting this fall and throughout the holiday season, the Red Cross is working with Pitney Bowes, a mail stream technology company, to collect and distribute holiday cards to American service members, veterans and their families in the United States and around the world.

The process is very simple and takes no time at all – All you need is a pen and piece of paper to share your appreciation for the sacrifices members of the U.S. Armed Forces make to protect our freedoms The Holiday Mail for Heroes mail box is open and ready to receive for your cards. Please send all mail to:

Holiday Mail For Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

Sending a “touch of home” to American men and women who serve our country is the perfect way to express your appreciation and support during the holiday season. (

No Arms, No Legs, No Worries!

Nick Vujicic is a 28 year old motivational speaker. Born with more challenges and obstacles than most of us will face in a lifetime, Nick found the strength to surmount what others might call impossible. Nick says: “Life Without Limbs is all about sharing this same hope and genuine love that I have personally experienced with people all over the globe.”

Couple Donate $150 Million to Fight Poverty in Developing Nations

	  The donors Robert E. King and his wife, Dorothy, also founded the Thrive Foundation for Youth.

The donors Robert E. King and his wife, Dorothy, also founded the Thrive Foundation for Youth.

Stanford University will open an institution aimed at alleviating poverty in developing nations, using $150 million donated by a Silicon Valley investor and his wife. “More than a billion people live on less than $1.25 a day,” said Robert E. King, who, together with his wife, Dorothy, made the gift. “That’s just not right.”

The new Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, which has been nicknamed SEED, will be housed in the Graduate School of Business but will draw students and faculty from around the university. The gift is one of the largest Stanford has received this year. The Kings said that was one reason they had decided to give the money to Stanford rather than starting a freestanding nonprofit like the Thrive Foundation for Youth, which they established to support research into programs helping young people and their parents. “The relationships the university has in Silicon Valley, the range of expertise it has among its professors — it can’t be replicated,” Mrs. King said. “The university can make our money more fruitful than we could on our own.”

Hau Lee, a supply chain expert at the Stanford business school will be the one to lead the new institute. “Many people are doing relief or aid operations, but at the institute, we will be asking how we can stimulate entrepreneurs and business ideas so that the people receiving aid today can become self-sufficient so they won’t need aid in the future,” Professor Lee said. The Kings demurred when Stanford offered to put their name on the new institute, and Mr. King was reluctant to talk much about the investments that had made him wealthy. “We’ve had success,” he said simply.


New App Aims to Reduce Stress with Slow Breathing

Want to reduce stress and improve mental focus? A new app that promotes slow breathing may help. Called MyCalmBeat, the app uses a heart rate monitor that attaches to the ear to detect a person’s optimal breathing rate, or resonant frequency, which is unique to each person. At this breathing rate, the company says the user can increase the variability of their heart rate to lower stress levels. “People don’t realize the profound impact that slow breathing can have until they actually sit down and do it for 10 minutes and then they feel completely different,” said Savannah DeVarney, vice president of product marketing for MyBrainSolutions, the creators of the app.

After finding their ideal breathing rate, animated exercises show users how to breathe at that rate, while the heart monitor provides feedback about the variability of their heart rate. “Normally people think of 65 beats per minute as a good resting heart rate. But we’re not necessarily looking at heart rate — we’re looking at the degree to which the space between consecutive heart beats varies,” DeVarney explained. When a person is stressed their heart rate becomes consistent and variability is minimized. But when relaxed, variability is maximized, slowing down as you breathe out and speeding up as you breathe in.

“We know that for most people their resonant frequency is between 7.5 and 4.5 breaths per minute. The software maps your heart rate variability through each of those rates to find the breathing rate where it becomes maximized,” said DeVarney. This frequency remains consistent throughout adult life, and usually only varies during childhood or pregnancy.

DeVarney said the company collaborated with Dr. Richard Gevirtz, a professor at the Alliant International University in San Diego, California, who conducts research in heart rate variability. She said in people who meditate for hours increased heart rate variability is one of the characteristics of being in a highly relaxed state. “Meditators will find their resonant frequency naturally through trial and error, so we know that there’s something in that.”

Other biofeedback-based heart rate monitor apps include Instant Heart Rate which uses the iPhone’s camera to detect a user’s heart rate, rather than an external ear clip. The company recommends training ten minutes a day, three times a week. The app is available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.


Carlsberg Beer Co. Tests Prejudices (Video)

The Carlsberg beer company tests the prejudice of movie goers at a Belgium theater. Some innocent couples want to take their seats, but then… surprise!