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Download goodness: Apps to help you make a difference

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Suveera Sharma talks to three DB residents who have married their will to help others with their passion for technology to birth apps that could change the world.

Since ancient times, the greatest thinkers have guided us: Lasting happiness lies in helping others. This is certainly backed up by the sunny dispositions of three DBers – Twone Moreland, Navin Arjun Soni and Leon Adeoye – whose ground-breaking apps are doing just that. The trio’s individual stories and achievements are truly inspiring, and perhaps never more so than at Christmas, traditionally the time of giving.

Leon has an infectious enthusiasm about him. His app, Enrich Others, provides a social sharing platform on which we can gift our once valued but now unwanted items to others for free. Enrich Others aims to solve the problem of excess waste generation, while lowering users’ carbon footprints and helping them give to those in need.

Navin’s altruistic passion shines through in his social-enterprise app Gift-a-Deed, which allows for direct person-to-person donation of life’s basic necessities. Aiming to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged, the idea is to connect available resources – food, water and clothes – with those who need them most.

Twone Moreland’s health-and-wellbeing app, Kairy, is designed to help people (primarily parents with special needs kids) improve the lives of those in their care. Users log detailed information, from school routines and activities to therapies and medical appointments, and benefit from daily notifications and medical reminders. The in-app algorithm uses all the data provided – about seizures, behaviours, mood changes, even possible triggers like moon phases – to create customised reports, that allow doctors to treat their patients more effectively.

The inspiration

Talking to Twone, Navin and Leon, it’s interesting to discover where the idea for each of these apps originated. What was the Eureka moment?

Twone, who left DB in the summer, is a dedicated mother of two, and Kairy is named after her son Kai, who has special needs. “In 2015, Kai had intense convulsions that lasted for 67 minutes,” she says. “He was diagnosed with epilepsy and after that my husband and I had to record a lot of information, constantly adjust medications, and note down behaviour patterns and triggers. Doctors always asked for detailed information so that they could prescribe the right medication. Finding it very difficult to log everything down, we decided to make an app that would help us and others like us.”

A near-fatal accident in 2011 was the trigger for Navin to go about creating Gift-a-Deed. “Lying in the hospital bed, looking at my own mortality up close, I wondered about the legacy I would leave behind if I were to die,” he says. “In my illness, I realised that I wanted to help others. I wanted to create something, not just donate money.”

Leon’s lightbulb moment came in 2016 when the idea for Enrich Others was born from something we have all experienced – an apartment clear out. “Just before my daughter was born, we gave away lots of stuff for free to friends and even strangers. Some decent stuff, I’m ashamed to say, got thrown out,” Leon explains. “That is when I realised that there was no platform where we could somehow reduce and recycle the waste that we produce as a community. This inspired me to make an app that would do just that.”

Apps for good

Download these apps and you’ll find they are all exceptionally good at what they set out to do, and jam packed with innovative userfriendly features. So how do they work exactly?  Gift-a-Deed enables those in need to tag and post a need, by using the camera icon of the app and writing a few words. Donors gift a need by using the app to find a need they want to give. “We use location-based technology on Google maps,” explains Navin. “The app allows pins to be dropped on Google maps with each pin denoting an unfulfilled need of food, water, clothes, shelter, medicine etc. Donors can find the needy easily by navigating the pins. This enables individuals to make personal donations and also allows charities to collaborate with each other.”

With Enrich Others, the basic premise is also deceptively simple. “App users maintain a category-based list of things they want, and when someone posts a gift they also have to select a category. The app’s algorithm then matches people up based on categories and GPS locations,” Leon explains. “When potential beneficiaries make their requests, they are required to provide a justification for their need. The benefactor is then free to review these justifications, along with the profile and gifting history of the potential beneficiaries before deciding who should be enriched – hopefully in favour of those individuals with the most generous gifting histories, or those who need this particular gift the most.”

As for Kairy, Twone explains that it works on two levels. “The back end is the database where people record every detail about medicines, appointments, symptoms, sensory arousal etc. There is even a wristband that constantly sends data about heart rate and other activity to the system. The front end, on the other hand, sends reminders and notifications, along with information about supplements and food provided by a qualified nutritionist.”

Shaping the future

The question is how far can these apps take us? What does the future hold?

Twone believes that widespread use of Kairy will vastly improve the quality and quantity of medical data collected, thereby helping in research and better management of medical conditions. The main aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of users and their families. “We hope that Kairy will change the lives of many,” Twone says.

Similarly, Navin looks forward to a time when his app, which has already been endorsed by the United Nations, reaches a wider audience, and emerges as a global tool for eradicating world poverty and hunger. Seeking to involve any corporation or household with excess food, water or clothes, he is in the process of expanding the Gift-a- Deed Ambassador programme, where young members are tasked to help in promoting and improving the app.

“Gift-a-Deed is a platform that enables everyone to do a good deed today, without depending on any one organisation or government,” Navin adds. “What we want to see is a shared economy, the democratisation of charity.”

Leon is also hoping to expand Enrich Others’ reach, and he is looking for volunteers to promote the app overseas. “I would like to increase the global footprint of the app – it already has multilingual support, and we are working on more languages,” he says. Going forward, Leon is also hoping to involve kids by going into schools and waking students up to their social responsibility, and he plans to partner-up with charities and NGOs. “I have lots of ideas on how this app could work during disaster relief and charity campaigns,” he says.

Ultimately, Leon envisions a scenario where he will be able to link with Google, so that a search to buy an item also comes up with the item listed on Enrich Others. “I want to create a parallel economy of sorts, where you are not forced to pay for something which might already be available near you, for free,” he says.

It is indeed inspiring to meet people who are this committed to helping others. If we truly want to lead a happy life, we cannot isolate ourselves from our environment and the people around us. There’s an ancient Sanskrit phrase, Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, ‘the world is a family.’ Maybe it’s high time we all started living that way – and not just over the Christmas break.

Photos by Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com, and courtesy of Leon Adeoye

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