Real Life Super Heroes

City Express brings you some change-makers who are changing the city’s landscape by championing social causes that impact thousands of lives

Published: 01st January 2014 08:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st January 2014 08:38 AM   |  A+A-

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On a mission to improve the housing situation

Carelessly discarded plastic bottles can transform into valuable bricks. Hyderabad-based entrepreneurs Prashant Lingam and his wife Aruna Kappagantula, founders of Bamboo House of India, are making treasure out of trash by recycling used plastic bottles into beautiful, sustainable, houses. They are on a mission to improve the housing situation for the poor in the country by using plastic bottles - the only material he can find in abundance-to build surprisingly sturdy houses. “Housing shortfall in India stands today at 148 lakhs dwelling units and both these ends can be connected,” he feels.

“When we think about the mantra reduce, reuse, recycle, the “reuse” part is often overlooked. The walls are made of waste plastic bottles. We tried an experiment by building a house with bamboo and bottles, basic skeleton was built with bamboo, and entire walling was done with vertical and horizontal placement of bottles with mud for thermal insulation and strength and plastering was done with mud and cow dung with final coat of cement plaster,” says Prashant. “The roof is constructed using bamboo attached to wooden batons,” he adds.

They also established Bamboo House India in 2008, a social enterprise that promotes the use of bamboo. Since then they have been going across the country and working very closely with the tribal communities and artisans across rural India from Tirupati to Tripura.

It’s never too late to fall in love

There are many single seniors, as they are referred, who are widowed or divorced, who have dealt with their loss and want to move on with their lives. To respond to the needs of these seniors, Thodu Needa was started in December 2010. The purpose of the organisation is to build lasting friendship, share ideas, encourage participation and enjoy life with like-minded people.

P Rajeshwari, founder Thodu Needa, personally met senior citizens around her and discovered that many were ready to welcome a service that facilitated companionship for them at an older age. “I realised that there were several other single senior citizens out there who were dealing with the same loneliness. That is when I decided to set up Thodu Needa,” she says.

‘Dirty’ business

Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Namita Banka has discovered the benefits that composting system can bring to the environment. Banka Bioloo uses bio-digester technology patented and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), a government agency, to dispose of human waste in a low-cost, and low-maintenance manner. “We use a set of non pathogenic bacteria that “eat away” human waste, leaving biogas that can be made into for fuel and effluent water that can be reused for gardening,” says Namita Banka, who recently won the prestigious Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.

She has already supplied 55 bio-tanks to the Integral Coach Factory, a train carriage manufacturer, which fits them under its carriages. Minimum capacity for the tank to function is 450 litres. In addition to its work with railways, Banka Bioloo is installing bio-toilets and 750-litre bio-tanks in public schools and individual households in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, funded by an NGO.

A crusader against child exploitation

Sunitha, whose organisation have so far rescued more than 7,000 children and women, gives an account of the kind of cruelty inflicted on young children to break them into the flesh trade. Today, apart from Astha Nivas, the children’s shelter, Prajwala has five day schools for the children of prostitutes in Hyderabad and a residential facility in the city called Asha Niketan, for rescued adult women. It has also helped other NGOs set up and run 17 day care centres for prostituted women’s children across Andhra Pradesh.

While the children at Astha Nivas and the day schools are educated up to the seventh standard and then transferred to private high schools, the older victims are trained in a number of useful skills ranging from bookbinding to masonry and welding. They are then placed with private companies or given a job at Prajwala Enterprises, a small-scale unit that mostly makes and sells stationery and furniture.

Dignity to the dying

A group of philanthropists in the city have sowed the seeds of change in the form of a 12-bedded Sparsh Hospice.

The charity institution, set up by Rotary Club of Banjara Hills has so far catered to more that 100 end-stage cancer patients. Located in a calm residential area in the plush Banjara Hills Road No 12, it gives dignity to the dying. “When a cancer patient’s medical team determines that the cancer can no longer be controlled, medical testing and cancer treatment stops. But the patient’s care continues. This care focuses on making the patient comfortable.

The patient receives medications and treatments to control pain and other symptoms, such as constipation, nausea, and shortness of breath,” says Dr Rohini, a volunteer.

Teams that provide palliative care focus on talking to patients, trying to understand people’s values and tailor care to the patients’ goals. These teams - which often include psychologists, social workers, pharmacists, nutritionists and chaplains - also coordinate treatment, which can be especially important if people are being seen at more than one center, she adds.

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