Posted by Ana Manzur-Allan
Please find up to date blog entries at our new blog address: http://embraceblog.org/
We’ll see you over there!
To empower the disadvantaged to improve their lives through disruptive technologies.
Posted by Ana Manzur-Allan
Please find up to date blog entries at our new blog address: http://embraceblog.org/
We’ll see you over there!
Posted by christina
We are always honored when we get enthusiastic emails of support. One volunteer’s story touched many of us at Embrace. He wanted to help other babies that faced similar circumstances as himself, and threw an amazing fundraiser for Embrace in Mission Viejo, CA. We are proud that he will be attending the University of California, Berkeley (my alma mater!) this fall. Congrats Paras!!
Paras shares his story below.
It began with an idea. A simple desire to effect a change, to forge an impact, to embrace the problem and create a solution. As I sat in front of the television, the first fragments came to me—and over the course of six months—those fragments materialized into an event larger than anything I could have dreamed up. The program was an ABC 20/20 special “Be the Change Save a Life” and it spoke of the plethora of problems faced by millions of people on every continent and every nation, then presented innovative solutions to these problems. The story that truly hit home for me was a tale of hope via Embrace for thousands of premature babies born every year across the globe. They often die within their first few months of life simply because they are too small to keep themselves warm.
I had an instant connection to the vital work that the Embrace team is doing. You see, I was born three months premature, weighing one pound, six ounces. I remained in the hospital for 110 days and am now legally blind as a result. I cannot imagine the plethora of emotions my parents felt at my birth. In Sanskrit, Paras means “Remover of Obstacles.” Unsure if I would live or die, they had faith that I could overcome. Time and time again, I have proven doctors wrong and accomplished what they said would be impossible. The doctors told my parents I had little to no chance at a “normal’ life. They told my father when I was a kid that I would never ride a bike. My father, determined that his son could do anything in life, bought me an apple-red bicycle. Three months later, I rode that bike around my neighborhood.
I contacted Embrace and reached out to my local city community and school, and within three months, we knew we had something special. I assembled a team and together we began to brainstorm ideas for an event, “Embrace the Talent”. The event would be a comedy night and talent show, which would highlight acts from the local area. Throughout the successive three months we gathered numerous acts, and gained sponsorships from various companies. On Monday June 27th 2011, the fruits of our labor were visible as over 150 people, including the mayor, gathered in the local Community Center to enjoy the event. In total, “Embrace the Talent” raised $3,029.10 all of which will go directly to saving the lives of premature infants.
As I look forward to the next four years at the UC Berkeley, I am reminded of what Robert Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” That is advice I will certainly embrace, as I continue to live my life in the spirit of service.
Posted by Ana Manzur-Allan
You may not know us, and let’s be honest, you probably don’t, but we’re raising money for Embrace in what is arguably the LEAST conventional way possible: Three intrepid, or possibly very foolish, adventurers, Travis Senor, Justin Pendergrass, and Adam O’Sullivan, are undertaking a rally across the width of Northern India and Nepal: approximately 2,300 miles over 16 days…in a tuk-tuk.
If you’re not familiar with a tuk-tuk, it’s a 3-wheeled, 7 (yes seven!), horsepower beast of locomotion with a top speed of 35mph and is usually reserved for taxiing people around crowded cities in Southeast Asia. But us? We’re taking this lovely little motorized tricycle off-road; through the jungles, mountains, and deserts of the Indian subcontinent.
And we’re doing this for charity. Yes, we love the thrill of adventure and the idea of testing ourselves against supremely harsh conditions, (which we expect in this case will have a lot to do with traffic and trying not to get run over…oh yeah, and the water), but to undertake a journey such as this for those reasons alone might sound needlessly foolhardy.
So we’ve set our sights on helping Embrace. To be perfectly honest, prior to last Christmas none of us were familiar with the organization. One of our friends tipped us off to it during a cold night on the DC metro (after seeing a special on ABC News’ "Be the Change: Save a Life" initiative http://abc.go.com/watch/2020-/SH559026/VD55102823/2020-1217-world-health) and after doing some quick research we quickly realized that this was a project warranting substantial support; something we could really get behind.
Some of us have seen firsthand the effects of premature or underweight births, and it’s not a stretch to imagine how those effects are compounded due to conditions in the developing world, particularly where incubators are scarce. It’s not pleasant, and certainly isn’t a condition a Westerner would still believe exists in the 21st century, but it is still there. And it’s heartbreaking. The preservation of human life, especially in its most fragile state, is something worth going to great lengths to achieve.
The people at Embrace are trying to give lives a chance, lives whose impact on the world would never be known if they were not given the help to survive through the delicate period of infancy. No child should ever be resigned to a life of disability or disadvantage when the resources and the skills are available to prevent it. It is our duty to help those who are most in need of it, and this is what the team at Embrace is trying to do. And while we on the tuk-tuk don’t know a damn thing about human physiology, or how to build an incubator, we can help those who do. And that is why we’re raising money for Embrace, why we’re taking the great risks to do our part in helping save the world.
So by now though, you’re probably wondering how the lot of us even found out about such a crazy adventure in the first place. Well, we’ll tell you!
Roughly five years ago, the three of us were sitting around in a gym, ostensibly exercising (but mostly talking about video games), when Justin mentioned this crazy adventure he heard about online. It was called the Rickshaw Run.
After a brief explanation of the rudiments of the enterprise, any question of us having to do this was answered. It was supremely crazy, highly adventurous, and quite dangerous, everything we possibly wanted in a jaunt overseas. We immediately made an agreement to tackle this thing before we all turned 30. All of us being close in age, we had a pretty good time-window to work with. After a few years of graduate school, moving around, and finding jobs, conditions finally came together that made the Rickshaw Run possible.
We started seriously making plans in late 2009 to sign up for the next available Run. After some discussion of logistics, it was decided that the autumn 2011 event was our best possible shot. And so we took it.
But why? Why take the risk? Why absorb the expense? Why take on all of the stress associated with even the logistics of the thing?
For us, adventuring is still about discovery. Yes, while the blank spots on the map have long since been filled in and strange and exotic locations are vicariously accessible via the Internet, there is still no substitute for being there yourself, in a completely alien environment, and seeing if you can hack it. These undertakings are about personal discovery. While these parts of the world are ‘known’ writ large, they are unknown to us, and we have no idea how we will react to them. That is the challenge and the beauty inherent in efforts like these. It’s about finding something deep within yourself that you may have never known was there. Sometimes it may be rewarding and great, and sometimes you might not like what you find, but for us we would rather face that chance than live without knowing.
And so here we are, three young men strapping themselves to a glorified lawnmower for the love of wild adventure, and doing our bit to try and save the world. With enough people like us and the folks at Embrace out there, we think we can do it.
Or better yet, follow the live play-by-play on our website (we have a live blog)! www.3men1tuk.com
And just in case you’re the type that likes to get down to business, feel free to donate at: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/3men1tuk/rickshawrun
Posted by christina
When buying baby shower gifts, or for any holiday for that matter, I always ask sales associates if they know of any products that give back or donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. Surprisingly, the answer is always ‘No’. We’ve decided to put together a list of baby products that give back…to different organizations including Embrace! So here are some of Embrace’s favorite products –
Our exciting and first corporate partner, Million Dollar Baby (MDB) has committed to helping Embrace because children are their priority. But many children around the world are less fortunate. Some precious babies might never have a proper place to sleep, much less a safe and stylish nursery. This is why MDB has committed to giving back – back to the children of the Embrace. Partnering with Embrace allows MDB to support an organization that touches infant’s lives but also families and communities around the world.
One of the many ways Million Dollar Baby has shown its support for Embrace is through the development of their Snuggle Wrap. A modern day swaddle blanket that was inspired by the actual Embrace warmer. Even more exciting is that for the entire month of July, MDB has offered an exciting promotion for Embrace readers only that provides 20% off the Snuggle Wrap. Just use promotion code EMBRACEBABY at check out.
MDB has contributed a generous $10,000 donation and are also donating a portion of the proceeds from their Babyletto line to Embrace. MDB has two new stylish products – The Nara and Kyoto Gliders. Both are modern versions of a rocking chair, sleek and simple. Both are made of a water-repellent and stain-resistant microsuede, perfect around babies, and are detailed with a hand-sewn piping accent with a solid wood base. Beautiful furniture that gives back.
Price : $60 - $600
Shop here: http://shop.babyletto.com/
Saffron Press has debuted their next book, Dreams of Hope. Inspired by global mantras of peace, the book takes a father and his daughter on a dream journey that explores the beauty of the world. The book teaches children the importance of acceptance through teaching the word ‘goodnight’ in multiple languages, showcasing a travel guide of world peace monuments, and also includes a keepsake feature page to record dreams of hope for children. A portion of its proceeds benefits Embrace.
Shop here: http://www.saffronpress.com/doh.html
Skip Hop’s products are ridiculously adorable. They have matching animal toys, and bathtime and mealtime friends that are great for children’s gifts. Check out the backpacks that are BPA and PVC free, particularly the cutest Bee, Penguin, and Owl designs. A portion of its sales benefits charities that give back to parents and children including the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Baby Buggy, and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
Lastly, Toms shoes. A pioneer in the buy one, give one space, Toms shoes are super comfortable, come in practically any color, are affordable, AND for every pair you purchase, Toms will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Since 2006, Toms has given over 150,000 pairs of shoes to children around the world. Its new faux lace up and nautical inspired shoes are cute enough to buy on their own, but I can also help buy shoes for a child too. Similar to Saffron’s Dreams of Hope book, Toms aims to inspire a generation that will grow up with the idea of giving and philanthropy as a standard in their livelihood.
Price: $34 - 70
Shop here: www.TOMSshoes.com
Posted by Ana Manzur-Allan
Embrace was recently selected as a finalist for the world’s most prestigious design award, INDEX: 2011. This September, a total sum of 500,000 Euros will be awarded to five winners of the five categories: Body, Work, Home, Play and Community during the Copenhagen Design Week. Embrace is proud to have been selected as a 2011 Body finalist and our team is thrilled to be competing with some amazing designers. This is a great opportunity to unveil our talented designers. I’ve asked them each a pointed question about design thinking and what it means to be selected as a finalist for the world’s most coveted design prize.
Business Development Manager @ Embrace.
Ana: Somebody said that to be an effective designer for social impact, we need to be humble listeners and fearless leaders, all at the same time, which is no easy feat. What are your thoughts on this?
Eu-wen: The person who said this was Emily Pilloton, founder of Project H Design and she is absolutely right. One of the key difficulties we face in our work is that the vision we have of the future, the vision that inspires and drives us in our work, is a fiction that many of our users and external stakeholders find difficult to be able to share with us. Our users grow up under severe resource constraints, and tightly circumscribed sociocultural norms. Opportunity to dream of something better is a luxury that we take for granted, but is often not even a rewarding exercise for people like our users because more often than not, that is exactly what it turns out to be for them - a dream.
Thus it is rare for us to be able to effectively co-create with our users, especially under the kind of pressing timelines that we put on ourselves (change should have happened yesterday, and I am impatient). The only viable strategy to create effective design for social impact, is then to carefully understand our users as best we can, in ways that they might not even be able to imagine themselves because we are imagining them interacting in a future with a new product that does not really exist yet. It then becomes our terrifying responsibility to take this understanding, and boldly make design decisions on behalf of our user. I guess I actually would tweak Pilloton’s statement to say "bold" rather than "fearless" because especially where Embrace is concerned, developing medical devices for social impact, failures in our design’s usability can lead to exposing infants to more harm than good, and so it is with no small amount of both boldness and trepidation that I craft my design.
The nutshell is this: Designers and engineers generally do not come from poor villages. They thus need the humility and tremendous empathy to understand their users who come from completely different backgrounds and often utilize very different mental models to understand and frame their world. Bold leadership is thus especially necessary when you consider how audacious and presumptuous one must be to create a design for people so unlike yourself.
Ana: How does design thinking co-exist with emerging innovation paradigms such as working directly with the end user? How important is it for humanitarian and/or social design?
Rajan: Working directly with the end user is important in all design but especially so for social design. It is obvious that good products are ones that have features, functionality, aesthetics, and usability that please the end user – it’s what influences them to adopt and use those products.
However, this is usually a bit easier for most designers because the designers are often end users themselves. For example, when designers and engineers make a new phone, they inherently understand what the users look for because they use their cell phones everyday and have vast experience and understanding on what the needs are and what would make a good design. I can only imagine if someone like my grandmother, who is not an avid user of a cell phone by any means, were to be in charge of designing a cell phone. For example, I have noticed the need to easily dial a phone number when someone texts it to me (rather than having to memorize it and then type it in to dial), but there is no way my grandmother would think of this need or feature herself (and even if I explained it to her, I’m not sure if she’d really understand it). She would likely end up designing a super simple phone with very little functionality and with large, tactile buttons that are easy for her to press. If I were forced to use this cell phone, which was designed by someone else and for someone else, I would be pretty unhappy because it does not meet my needs or desires. Unfortunately, that is what we often see in our work – medical devices designed for the needs and requirements in the western, developed world are being marketed and sold in the developing world. Embrace aims to fill this gap by making appropriately designed solutions for our end users by better understanding their environment, context, and needs.
When I think of the ludicrous idea of putting my grandmother in charge of designing a cell phone for me, I often feel like that is very analogous to what my job actually is. We are trying to understand our users and design a product for them even though we can hardly pretend to relate to their lives, struggles, or desires. It is a challenge but also a pleasure. As a designer at Embrace, you are forced to learn so much about people so different from you, which is an eye-opening and inspiring experience. It also challenges us in our work to make the right product so that our users are satisfied. In order to do this, we have to throw away our own assumptions of what might make a good design and instead be all ears and listen to the users and what they want. This itself can be challenging due to language barriers, cultural differences, and the users’ often hesitance to be open with us (due to shyness, intimidation, fear, and the taboos and stigmas that surround the issues we are addressing). However, our passion to understand and ultimately help improve the lives of our users is what fuels us to overcome these challenges, which can only be done through close interactions directly with them.
Ana: When you’re designing for health and survival, the stakes are higher, and the design has to be that much more effective. What’s your take on this?
Rajan: As I’ve mentioned above, we have some large challenges that can only be overcome through close interaction with the end users. And as with all products, this involves constant user feedback and iteration. Herein lies another challenge – when working on a medical product, you cannot simply make rough prototypes, have users test them, and gain what would be valuable feedback. We have an ethical obligation to ensure that any prototype or product that we put out for testing and feedback has been developed and tested to ensure safety and minimize risk. While it may tempting and beneficial to gather this feedback (especially since we are operating in a market without regulatory and legal constraints that allow us to do this, which many other companies take advantage of), we believe that it is not only our moral obligation to be patient, but that this approach will also lead to a more successful product in the long term.
This also pushes us as designers to think of creative ways to gather this valuable feedback without introducing any medical risk. We make “looks like” and “feels like” prototypes to get feedback on aesthetics and usability from our users without having to test the products on actual patients. We’ve taken our fair share of baby dolls to villages to have mothers, nurses, and doctors get as close to using the product as they can without introducing any risk.
Before making any claims on the efficacy of our product and before releasing it to the market, we thoroughly test our product through bench tests and formal, controlled clinical studies. We understand that to achieve our mission, it is more important to be completely honest than to push our product and ensure it is widely adopted. Through these studies, we learn of the true efficacy of our product, how well it performs, and in which scenarios. Our mission is to help our users and ensure their health, so if we were to not do these studies and instead push our product to be widely adopted, we might be preventing our users from using other products or practices that may be more beneficial to them, thereby going against our mission. These studies also offer us objective feedback on the performance of our products, so we can make informed decisions to design more effective solutions for our users. So although it does take a lot of time, money, and patience, the approach we take to ensure performance and quality is essential for us to achieve our end goal.
Ana: What does the process of design thinking look like? How would you guide someone through the process?
Nag: Design is not art, but is inherently purposeful and practical – Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the hands of the user.
I do not believe designers create a product like artists create art. I rather see designers akin to one of the several agents who nudge and coax variations on a core idea along its evolutionary pathway to perfect adaptation.
I fundamentally subscribe to the idea of design happening in an analogous way as biological evolution. Order emerges out of chaos through a process of evolution by natural selection (performed by all the key stakeholders that contact the product as it evolves – the designer being just one of the stakeholders).
The key to good design would therefore not lie in any design philosophy or design methodology, but in a sincere commitment on the designers’ part to adapt their designs as quickly and efficiently as possible to the needs of their key stakeholders.
In this sense, the good design process is about building non-distorting, objective and fast feedback loops that are very sensitive to the needs of all key stakeholders in the space of delivering a new product – the user, the prescriber, the distributor, the funder etc.
The designer’s role in this process is -
Ana: What does it mean to be selected as a finalist for the world’s most coveted design prize, INDEX: 2011?
Honey: It is a true honor and extremely humbling! INDEX:2011 demonstrates how design has the power to be part of the solution of major global challenges, for Embrace, this translates to reducing neonatal mortality and morbidity in our world. We cannot wait to hear whether we have been selected, making it this far, for me personally is so rewarding. I am so proud of our team and of our organization.
Posted by Rajan Patel
Sujatha is a young mother from the village of Krishnamylur, about three hours outside of Bangalore.
Sujatha’s story is a typical one in India: she has endured the death of all three of her children (hear her story here).
When we met with Sujatha, she talked to us about her dream to raise a healthy child, one that would achieve great things in life. However, Sujatha’s first two children died within two days of birth. One child was born at a government hospital which we saw firsthand. Small, dark, and dirty, the local government clinic even placed babies on the floor due to lack of chairs or beds.
Sujatha’s second child was born at home, two months premature. She described watching her baby turn blue from being cold. In efforts to warm the baby, her husband built a glass box to place him in and hung a lightbulb on top to keep him warm. But it was simply not enough.
Though the village doctors and her family urged her not to try for another child, she got pregnant with a third baby, having faith that things would be different. After she gave birth to her third child, Vishal, the doctor told her that he would survive no more than two weeks, as he was in extremely poor health. Her family told her that even if he were to survive, he would be disabled and thus be a burden to the family.
Her response was steadfast: "Then I will work hard and move to the city. I will put him in a school that accepts him and he will grow up to be strong and successful. I will do whatever it takes." After 8 months, Sujatha’s hopes were once again crushed.
Even after the loss of three children Sujatha was not stripped of her hope and courage. She adopted a healthy daughter, who is now 4 years old. And after we spoke to Sujatha, seven other mothers from the village came forward to tell us their stories. We learned that all of them had lost at least one child. Amazingly they also exemplified the same enduring hope.
We showed all these mothers our product and explained Embrace’s mission. After listening and observing one mother spoke.
"If this had been here a few years ago, I could have been a mother. I could have saved my baby. We want make sure this doesn’t have to happen to the future mothers of our village."
While incredibly saddened by these stories, we were also uplifted to see how hopeful, courageous and capable these women were, and how they are desperate to lift themselves out of their current conditions. All they need is the opportunity, and access to basic health care, so they can fulfill their deepest desires to be mothers and to raise children.
As we left the village we asked these women one last question. We asked them if there was anything they wanted us to bring back the next time we came.
Sujatha simply replied, "better healthcare."
We hope our product will fulfill this wish.
Posted by Ana Manzur-Allan
At this time of year, holiday gift guides are not in short supply. At Embrace we are very excited to put out our first ever Embrace
Our team of experts recommend:
Posted by christina
To finish up Premature Infant Awareness Month, we have a special guest blog post by Dr. Saudamini Nesargi who is helping us with our clinical trials at St. John’s Hospital in Bangalore, India.
Temperatures in Bangalore have dropped in the last few days and most of us enjoy it. We drink something warm, wear woolen clothes and keep the doors and windows closed. If not, we shiver hope the sun starts shining again soon. But what if you a were little premature baby who could do none of these things…not even shiver to keep yourself warm?What if you had to rely completely on others and often inadequate resources just to keep warm?
Posted by christina
The first five months of my pregnancy were smooth and without incident. At a routine check up at 22 weeks, my physicians and the ambulatory technicians conducting my exam discovered that I was a few hours away from being dilated and going into pre-term labor. If delivered, it would have been extremely unlikely that our daughter would have survived. I was immediately admitted into the hospital. The next morning, I had surgery conducted by one of New York City’s leading maternal-fetal medicine specialists to promote the duration of my pregnancy.
Afterward, the obstetricians guiding my care advised me to take it easy to ensure my pregnancy would last as long as possible. With optimism, positive energy, and a team of clinicians monitoring my pregnancy, we made it to nearly 36 weeks. My daughter was born exactly one month before her due date, weighing 6 pounds and measuring nearly 20 inches. My husband and I were thrilled and relieved that she was in good enough health and weight to avoid admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. We all went home together two days after she was born.
Without dedicated obstetricians, maternal-fetal medicine specialists, ambulatory technicians, and nurses skilled in high-risk pregnancies and deliveries, my daughter probably would not have had the smooth entry into the world that she did. My husband and I are immensely grateful for the high quality care, attention and nurture she received from a team of people trained to promote the survival of newborns. Now 20 months old, our daughter is a reminder of the incredible medical care we were lucky enough to be afforded and drives our commitment to ensure all mothers, fathers and newborns around the world have the same access.
–Kalpana, Embrace volunteer
Posted by christina
We’ve asked a few Embrace supporters to share stories of their child’s birth to help highlight the fact that prematurity is still a major issue in America, and around the world. Most of us in America are lucky enough to have world-class neonatal care, but as March of Dimes notes, more newborns die from premature birth than from any other cause. Embrace hopes to reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity, please help is spread the word!
On November 01, 2008, for no apparent reason and with no time to prepare our son was born three and half months early, Toby, was born at 25 weeks at a U.K. hospital. He weighed 1 pound and 14 oz or 860g. He was transferred to a specialist hospital where he was cared for in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the first three months of his life. When we arrived at the ICU unit, it was very daunting, but the presence of medical specialists and modern medical equipment was very reassuring for us.
The hours passed and we started to comprehend the implications of his early arrival. As he lay in his incubator for treatment and warmth, there was a constant stream of various doctors and nurses tending to his needs. Toby was tiny, but he often had something attached to every limb for all the different drugs. He needed to receive multiple medical interventions, including, bagging for when his oxygen saturation became too low, they also used medication to close an open duct in his heart, medication for several infections and he needed photo therapy and eight blood transfusions
Our little baby boy was on a ventilator for 6 weeks. The treatment used to get him off the ventilator was complicated, but he gradually progressed to only needing nasal prongs. When Toby moved to the high dependency unit, he no longer needed an incubator, but still needed to be kept warm; he slept on a heated mattress.
As he got stronger, he was transferred back to the special care unit at the hospital where he was born, during his time there he was transferred back and forth to specialist hospitals for laser treatment in both eyes and a hernia operation, Eventually he was able to do normal things, like have a bath, wear clothes, feed with out a tube and have lots of cuddles. With support from specialists, it took Toby another three months of slow weaning off the oxygen, Toby Finally came home on March 24, 2009!
Toby is now 2 years old. He is a very happy, healthy, beautiful bouncy boy with a good appetite for food and cuddles. We are very proud of him and immensely grateful for the many medical staff that looked after him.
–Proud mother and Embrace supporter, Hannah