I am a volunteer, are you?

“Only a life lived for others is worth living” (Albert Einstein)

There are so many prominent volunteers name all around me but let me share my own story. I remember that I was quite active in volunteer work since my childhood as I took part in construction of Masjid, laid the foundation of library in my village, planted trees etc. All these activities used to give me immense pleasure and motivation. When I came to university (2002), I joined a volunteer network of young scientists in 2004 (Sciforum) and elected as president in 2006 on the basis of my active volunteer work. I also laid the foundation of Asia’s first National Young Academy entitled “National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS), Pakistan” in 2009 and presently there are more than 500 volunteer team members who are working day and night to promote education, health, science and technology in the country. Beside national, I became part of Islamic World Young Scientists Academy (IYSA), Global Young Academy (GYA) and many others and serving in these organizations on volunteer basis.

On the basis of my volunteer services for society and outstanding contribution in sciences, I became young scientist member of World Economic Forum (WEF), IAP and recently, World Science Forum. All these are very prestigious forums in the world and I am very delighted that I am part of these forums in young age. I was invited in more than 20 countries to give scientific and innovation related talks. This success is mainly due to volunteer work and services.

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(As a volunteer in a medical camp, near Hafizabad)

Volunteer services help you to learn, network and experience unique things which other people cannot experience.

“I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another” (Thomas Jefferson)

Volunteers can get better chance of both learning and earning, and they also earn lot of respect in the society. In addition, they also get peace of mind, motivation and satisfaction, which is the biggest reward of volunteer work. I can openly say that success of any country also largely depends on the active volunteers they have. From the last year, I am thinking to write a book on volunteers and their role in the uplift of society. I do hope to start work on it soon.

It was always in my mind that Pakistan is a leading country regarding volunteer work and volunteers but it is not the case as we are far behind compared to many other countries. According to recent “Global Giving Index” report (2015) which was prepared by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), Pakistan was ranked at 94th position among a total of 140 countries, while Myanmar, US and New Zealand topped the list. The global giving index is based on your participation in last few months in

  • Helping a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
  • Donating money to a charity?
  • Volunteering your time to an organization

Pakistan was ranked at 107th position on the basis of volunteering time to an organization and Myanmar topped it followed by Sri-Lanka and Liberia. So, over 100 countries are ahead of us in volunteer work.  As about 60% population of Pakistan is under the age of 30 so we have to develop a culture of volunteerism among our youth, so they can play an active role to bring peace and prosperity in the country.

Please promise to yourself that you will volunteer your time at least once a year. By doing so, you will see a positive change in your life and in the life of people around you.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands-one for helping yourself, the other for helping others” (Audrey Hepburn)

 

Aftab Ahmad

President NAYS Pakistan

www.nays.com.pk

aftab.nays@gmail.com

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25 Amazing Health Benefits of Watermelon

Watermelon is a great gift of summer and luckily it is heavily grown in Pakistan and is available in plenty during the season.  Watermelon need warm and long growing season to grow. It is an ancient fruits and its history date back more than 5000 years. Recently (1992) a seedless variety of watermelon was also created.

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(Image copied from The Nation)

Watermelon is very rich in nutrients including carbohydrates, many important vitamins (folates, niacin, panthothenic acid, pyridoxine, thiamin, Vitamin A, C and E), Electrolytes (sodium and potassium), Minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc) and phyto-nutrients (carotene, crypto-xanthin-beta, lutein-zeaxanthin and lycopene)

Health Benefits of Watermelon

There are numerous health benefits of watermelon; I am going to list some of them

  1. Anti-oxidents-Watermelon is rich in anti-oxidents and hence reduces the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS).
  2. Lower blood pressure-Watermelon contains citrrullin which is converted into arginine and both citrulline and arginine dilate the blood vessels and lower blood pressure and hence save us from many diseases like stroke, cardiovascular diseases etc.
  3. Diabetes-Watermelon helps the diabetic patients by reducing the insulin resistance which is main problem during diabetes. As there will be less insulin resistance, glucose will be readily taken up by the cells.
  4. Muscle Soreness-Watermelon is a natural way to reduce muscle soreness and makes your body fresh and active after workouts.
  5. Kidney disorders-Watermelon helps in number of ways to reduce kidney disorders especially due to presence of high concentration of calcium and potassium. Calcium also helps to lower the concentration of uric acid in the blood.
  6. Cancer-Watermelon has the components which play an important role in cancer prevention and treatment, especially the anti-oxidents.
  7. Heart Health-Watermelon helps in lowering LDL level in the blood and hence improves the heart health and reduces the chances of heart attack.
  8. Macular Degeneration-Watermelon is very good for eye health as they contain carotenoids and vitamin A.
  9. Sexual Health-Watermelon is good for sexual health as it contains arginine which is converted into nitric oxide (NO) by NO synthase. NO improves sexual health.
  10. Asthma Prevention-Asthma effect around 9% children and 7% adults worldwide. It is observed that vitamin C improves asthma condition and watermelon is rich in vitamin C.
  11. Digestion-Gastrointestinal problems are also very common world-over. One of the digestion problems is constipation which is due to many factors and especially due to less water and fiber intake. As watermelon is rich in fluid and fiber, so it greatly improves the digestive health.
  12. Muscular Dystrophy-As watermelon contains arginine, it inhibit the signaling pathway that lead to inflammation that in turn not only reduce inflammation in muscular dystrophy patients but also help the muscles to regenerate.
  13. Skincare-In order to have smooth skin, there is need to produce collagen and as watermelon has vitamin C and E which induce the production of collagen so consumption of watermelon improves skin.
  14. Hair growth-Watermelon contains important vitamins which promote hair growth and this is equally good for both men and women.
  15. Weight Loss-Obesity is growing problem in the world and watermelon is one of the solutions as consumption of watermelon help you to burn fat and lose weight.
  16. Bone Health-Normally we think of calcium or milk when we talk about bone health but for your surprise, watermelon is also good for bone health as it contain minerals and lycopene which improve both health.
  17. Nerve Health-Watermelon contains large amount of potassium which is good for nerve health. In addition, it also contains other important vitamins and minerals which further nerve and muscle health.
  18. Inflammation-Watermelon helps to reduce acute as well as chronic inflammation in the body and hence improves health.
  19. Aging-Watermelon slows down the aging process being an alkaline fruit, which reduces the acids in the body. In addition as it contains anti-oxidents so further slows down the wear and tear of the body.
  20. Wound Health-As watermelon contain huge amount of vitamin C so it speed up the wound healing process.
  21. Cellular Health-Watermelon contains essential vitamins and minerals which improve cells health and prevent oxidative damage in the cells.
  22. Heat stroke-Heat stroke is big health problem in Pakistan and as watermelon contain almost 92% water so it helps to reduce the heat stroke. In addition, watermelon also lower the blood pressure and reduce body temperature which further help to protect from heat stroke. So prevent the heat stroke by eating watermelon and drinking watermelon juice.
  23. Immune Support-Watermelon being rich in important vitamins and phyto-nutrients helps the immune system to better fight acute as well as chronic illnesses.
  24. Gum Health-Watermelon also improve gum health and prevent gum related diseases.
  25. Scurvy-Scurvy was a big health problem in 15th and 16th century and later it was prevented by use of vitamin C and as we mentioned above that watermelon is also rich in vitamin C so it help you to protect from scurvy and you feel fresh and energetic.

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I do hope after reading all these advantages of watermelon, you will surely consume watermelon and enjoy good health.

 

Dr. Aftab Ahmad

President NAYS

Aftab.nays@gmail.com

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Global Road Safety Week-2017

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In order to promote awareness about road safety UN is celebrating fourth Global Road Safety Week from 8-14 May 2017. The focus of this week is “Speed” as speed is key risk factor for road accidents. Speed contributes to around one-third of all fatal road traffic crashes in high-income countries, and up to half in low- and middle-income countries.

Those countries that have reduced road traffic deaths have mainly done by managing speed. More than 90% road deaths are in low and middle income countries although they have less than half of world vehicle and main contributing factor for these deaths is over speeding.

Following is list of strategies which can be adopted to reduce speed

  • Building or modifying roads to include features that calm traffic
  • Establishing speed limits to the function of each road
  • Enforcing speed limits
  • Installing in-vehicle technologies
  • Raising awareness about the dangers of speeding.

The Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week seeks to increase understanding of the dangers of speed and generate action on measures to address speed, thereby saving lives on the roads.

The situation in Pakistan is not good as around 15 people die each day in traffic accidents and more than 5,000 die each year, while thousands of people get injuries. One of the leading causes of road accidents in Pakistan is over speeding which you can easily observe on roads. There is great need to educate people about road safety so they could follow traffic rules and abstain from over speeding. This is how we can save thousands of precious lives and also greatly reduce accident related injuries in the country.

Please join hands with National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS), Pakistan to raise awareness about road safety during 4th Global Road Safety Awareness Week and promise with yourself that you will follow traffic rules and will not over speed on roads.

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References

http://www.who.int/roadsafety/week/2017/en/

http://www.jpma.org.pk/full_article_text.php?article_id=3987

 

Article: Dr. Aftab Ahmad

President NAYS Pakistan (aftab.nays@gmail.com)

Banner: Iqra Yousaf (NAYS IT team head)

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Pain can be relieved through right exercise/movement

Pain is a common problem and especially in the old age. Pain in the hip, shoulder, ankle, and knee limit our movement and even we cannot do our routine work, which result in anxiety and depression. It seem if we go for exercise/movement, it will worsen the situation and we will have more pain, it is not the case as exercise help us in number of ways (listed below) to reduce the joint pain.

  1. Exercise improves the flexibility and strength of the muscles as well as connective tissues around the joints. Stronger muscles support the joints and hence relive the pressure.
  2. Exercise help to relive stiffness, which is itself painful and make the body hard to move. When we do not exercise the muscles, tendons and ligaments quickly shorten and tense up and make our routine life difficult.
  3. Exercise help in the production of specific fluid inside the joints (synovial fluid) which lubricate inside the joint. It also brings oxygen and nutrients into joints which help them repair the injury/inflammation.
  4. Exercise help to relive pain as it naturally help and protect you from pain.
  5. One of the biggest advantages of exercise is that it helps you to keep your weight under control which relieves pressure on joints, bones and muscles and this way help you to better cope with stress and pain.

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At the end I would like to say

جب تک ممکن ہو چلتے رہا کریں

 

Dr. Aftab Ahmad

President NAYS Pakistan

aftab.nays@gmail.com

 

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Earth Day 2017- Environmental and Climate Literacy

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Earth Day is being celebrated all over the world on 22nd April, 2017. The theme for this year Earth Day is “Environmental and Climate Literacy”. The theme is very important as if people around the world will have better knowledge about environment and climate, they will make collective actions to preserve the environment which is directly linked to our lives. If somebody is damaging environment in one part of the world, it will affect the whole world as we have a collective environment.

Let me share two scenarios so we will get better idea that how we are affecting environment.

1- CO2 Emission and Ocean Acidification

All the fuel which we use are rich in carbon and hydrogen, which is locked and we break the bond and release CO2 in the environment. After the industrial revolution, the amount of CO2 has greatly increased in the environment. On the other hands, we do not have enough trees to lock the carbon again and release O2 in the environment. As the CO2 is increasing in the environment, it is readily taken up by the water and hence water after reaction with CO2becomes acidic (carbonic acid). This carbonic acid is lowering the pH of the oceans and hence drastically affecting the ocean ecosystem which will have severe consequences.

2- Melting of Ice

If ice will be there on earth surface, it reflects the sunlight back into the space, but if that is melted and earth surface is exposed, the sunlight is not reflected and hence absorbed, which increases the temperature locally and accelerate the ice melting process. In addition, it will lead the overall increase in earth temperature, which further accelerates the melting of ice on poles, cloud formation and lead to other changes. This will ultimately result in more hurricanes, rain, drift in seasons and other natural disasters. These changes we are observing in great number recently.

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By sharing these two scenarios, the idea was to educate you that how we are affecting the environment and how environment can hit us back. In order to protect our environment we can take number of steps and especially work on following areas.

  1. Cut down the use of fossil fuels, we should go for alternative energy sources (wind, solar, hydro etc.) which are more environmental friendly and reduce CO2 emission into environment.
  2. Plant more trees, trees not only produce oxygen for us but also lower the temperature.Pakistan has much less the number of trees compared to area so we should go for more tree plantations.
  3. Conserve water, recently we are destroying our water reservoirs by pouring toxins and chemicals into them; we need to protect these reservoirs as water is essential for all forms of life.
  4. Recycling, we have to focus on recycling of wood, paper, plastic and metals as by doing this we can not only keep our environment clean but also healthy.
  5. Education, environmental education is very important as it is matter of our survival. We should start educating our children from their early education about environment and protection of environment so they are more aware about environmental issues and could solve them.

I hope we all will make collective efforts to protect our environment so we could lead a happy and healthy life.

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Please join hands with National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS), Pakistan to raise awareness about environment and climate with reference to World Earth Day-2017.

(The banner were designed by Iqra Yousaf, NAYS Graphic Designer)

Dr. Aftab Ahmad

President NAYS Pakistan

http://www.nays.com.pk

aftab.nays@gmail.com

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Is there a creativity and innovation crisis in Pakistan?

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Creativity and Innovation are very important for any nation to develop, progress and lead. Those nations and countries that are innovative are the leading countries in the world. According to Global Innovation Index 2016, Pakistan was ranked at 119th position among 128 countries. They ranked 83 different parameters for innovation in all the countries and ranked the countries on the basis of score obtained. This indicates Pakistan is far behind in Innovation and this is one of the reasons that we are facing and trying to solve the same problems which we were facing many decades ago. If we really have to make Pakistan a leading country in the world, we have to promote creativity, social and scientific innovation. According to above mentioned statistics, Pakistan is in Innovation crisis and we can move out of the crisis easily by managing and channelizing our resources. Pakistan is blessed with both human and natural resources; the only need is to manage them in a way that we can use them effectively and in more sustained way.

How we can promote creativity and Innovation in Pakistan? We can focus on following five major areas

  1. Education

Pakistan not only have low literacy rate in the world, but the quality of education is also not good. This includes both primary and higher education. In order to make Pakistani people innovation, we have to make changes specifically in our primary education as currently our curriculum and teaching methods are outdated. We have to promote inquiry based learning, learning through problem solving and learning by doing. Our current education is based on rote system which can only give us good grades but not innovation so there is great need to change our education system. In higher education, we are standing at 124th position among 145 countries, which is also alarming. Although, recently there is good investment in higher education from government side, but still there is much more to do. We have to provide our students more resources and freedom of work as this is how we can bring more innovation and creativity.

  1. Discussion Forums

Interdisciplinary discussion forums always lead to innovative ideas. This is what I have learned after joining more than 50 international forums. In developed countries, they bring together people from different background and ask them to think and solve current and future problems, they work together, brainstorm and bring many innovative ideas, experts mentor their work and they start many innovative enterprises and bring social change. There is dire need to have such thinkers and discussion forums in Pakistan.

  1. Academia-Industry linkage

Academia industry linkage is very important to fuel innovation. The academic developments should be translated into industry and industry problem should come to academia. If there is good linkage, there will be a win-win situation. We lacked this culture in Pakistan but recently through ORIC offices in universities, technology development fund of HEC and efforts of IRP, the inertia has broken and linkages are being established. At this stage, we should set some model;portray success stories so we could develop more interest for academia industry linkage.

  1. Innovation Ecosystem

Why there are so many successful startups in USA but not as much in Pakistan? Why the success of startup is more in Europe and USA compared to developing countries, the difference is innovation ecosystem. The developed countries and especially USA has attracted talent across the world and utilized that talent in an innovation supportive environment which most of developing countries including Pakistan lack. In our educational institutes, research centers and business enterprises, we have to develop an innovation ecosystem so we could not only promote innovation but also set examples for others. Recently NAYS Pakistan has started a seminar series on “creating innovation ecosystem in universities” and hopefully it will help to develop such system in our academic and research institutes.

  1. Innovation Foundation

Just like Pakistan has Science Foundation (PSF), we should have an ”Innovation Foundation” to promote innovation in the country. The foundation should involve all the stakeholders (policy makers, academia, industry, ORICs and other related bodies) and make dedicated efforts to promote creativity and innovation in the country. If we will have a dedicated body with good resources to promote innovation, I am confident that soon Pakistan ranking will be improved and we will be able to solve our national problems in better way.

It will be great if we could work on above mentioned areas, if not, I think on individual level, we should make efforts to promote both social and scientific innovation in the country as we are facing so many issues (energy, environment, water, agriculture, etc.) and it will be us who have to solve these issues. If we will work by applying scientific and innovative approaches, we can manage and solve most of our problems.

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Dr. Aftab Ahmad

President NAYS Pakistan

http://www.nays.com.pk

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5 Years of Community Education and Awareness

National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS) was established in 2009 with the aim to provide a platform to young researchers so they could share ideas, expertise and resources and work together to promote education, awareness, science and technology in Pakistan. Soon, we realized that there is great need of awareness in our communities about health issues, environment, healthy life style; hygiene issues etc. So we laid the foundation of one of very important programs of NAYS entitled “Community Education and Awareness Program (CEAP)” on 21st April, 2012.

We carefully selected a team including content writers, articles writers, IT experts and graphic designers so they could write articles, produce banners and posters for public awareness. Tabinda Salman (program coordinator) led the team in such a way that soon it became leading program of NAYS Pakistan and we could also won grant from Emerging Nations Science Foundation (ENSF), Italy. The team decided that we should celebrate all the days related to education, health, science, innovation and technologies and beside articles, posters and banners, we should also go for events in schools, colleges, universities, institutes, hospitals and in public. After the decision and with financial support of ENSF we arranged series of events across the country and celebrated almost all the days as per UNO. Beside days, we also celebrate awareness weeks (space week, antibiotic awareness week etc.) and months (cancer month, blindness awareness month etc.) throughout the year. We have arranged 100s of events under CEAP NAYS across the country.

In addition to all the above mentioned activities, we also realized that we should produce literature on leading health issues of Pakistan in local language so all the people could read and understand. We have published 3 editions of Hepatitis B and C awareness books and a book on diabetes awareness. In addition, recently we published hepatitis B and C awareness book in English. We have published over 30,000 copies of these books and have distributed for free all over the country to raise awareness about hepatitis and diabetes. Few books are in pipeline and they will be published soon.

This year we have arranged several events across the country including cancer awareness seminars, TB awareness seminars and seminars on malaria and this list will go on. To conduct all these activities either we raise funds by our-self or write grants. We believe that we can solve many of our national problems related to education, health and environment by raising awareness. If people will be aware about different issues, they will make wise decision and will solve and tackle many problems. We can save billions of rupees by educating people about healthy life style, balanced diet, importance of sleep and exercise, clean drinking water, clean environment, communicable and non-communicable diseases etc. and this will also reduce burden on our fragile healthcare system.

At the end we request to please come forward and join hands with us (both morally and financially) so we could work together to make a better Pakistan. My salute to all the CEAP team members, who worked day and night on volunteer basis to raise awareness in Pakistan.

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Dr. Aftab Ahmad

President NAYS Pakistan

www.nays.com.pk

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