Saturday, May 12, 2012

Junk food craze

Last week, as I was channel hopping in search of something decent to watch, I saw bits and pieces of several American talk shows which, funny enough, took the time to comment on the same topic: junk food abominations created by fast food outlets in the Middle East.

I sincerely could not believe the culinary atrocities mentioned and I seriously thought it was all a joke, so I went online to check out the region’s Pizza Hut website.

Boy was I wrong. It is all really up there! The featured items are the Crown Crust pizzas. You can have the pizza-cheeseburger hybrid or the pizza-chicken fillet balls hybrid.

No. I am not kidding. See it for yourself...




Argh!

No wonder obesity is a major health problem in the UAE and that almost 20% of the local population suffers from diabetes! And the worst part is that these metabolic diseases are now affecting many young people in the country, since most children and teenagers are not engaged in physical activities, spend hours in front of the TV and – guess what – eat lots and lots of junk food.

Any good strategy to confront this 'epidemic'? Perhaps staying away from these calorie-packed pizzas might be a good start… Just saying.

Monday, May 7, 2012

AIM HIGH: going the extra mile for education

When Captain John Downey retired from British Airways, after 34 years and many hours onboard various aircraft types, he suddenly realized that it was far too early to relax completely. So, he decided to accept an offer to join Etihad Airways, the National Airline of the United Arab Emirates, and embark with his wife Pauline on a true ‘Arabian adventure’.

Little did they know that the move to Abu Dhabi, back in 2005, was simply the beginning of a much bigger journey; one that would give them the opportunity to help children of a remote village in Trishuli, Nepal.

Soon after their arrival in Abu Dhabi, they met and established a relationship with Ram Kumar Khadka, a qualified teacher from Nepal who was working as a waiter in one of their favorite restaurants.

As the couple’s understanding of Nepal grew, they became more and more interested and decided to hop into a plane to Kathmandu, endure a five hour drive to Trishuli and visit the local school, Ajingare.

Once they learned that the local government did not support schooling after the age of ten and that many children were denied that basic building block in their lives, an education, John and Pauline discussed how they could help. Immediately, they decided to support ten children themselves. After all, as Pauline rapidly figured out, she “could pay more for a full shopping trolley at the supermarket than the cost of putting one child through school for a year!”

Since the sky was never the limit to this couple, John and Pauline quickly started to think of ways to expand the idea and get others involved.

And just like that, the AIM HIGH project was born to achieve two main goals: “Firstly, we desire as sponsors to provide that fundamental basic block of life, an education, to as many children in Ajingare as possible. Secondly, we want to challenge the children to use their educational opportunities to the best of their ability,” explains the Downey couple.



It’s been almost three years now and AIM HIGH has been able to secure support for 66 children and to ensure improvements all around Ajingare grounds. So far, contributions made it possible to build an IT classroom, with PCs, desks and chairs, and a library, with locally made bookcases, tables and chairs, which is now filled with over 200 books, mp3 players, CDs and a media projector.

People interested to join the project and contribute to AIM HIGH have two options:

Support an individual child
Sponsors who choose to do so must commit to continue with this support until this child graduates from school. The cost per child, per year, ranges from AED 175 to AED 360 (approximately USD 48 to 98). This covers school fees, one uniform and the basic workbooks.

One-off contributions
Sponsors can simply donate to a General Education Fund. Part of this is used to provide for 15 children. The remainder is used for improvements around the school.

Sponsors are also welcome to come up with ideas to actively participate and generate resources for AIM HIGH, by involving other people, entities and businesses.

To know more about AIM HIGH or to get involved, you can email jrdowney@hotmail.comor join the AIM HIGH page on Facebook.