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A new thought for zakat

Every Ramadan most people put away a sum for charity. Unfortunately though, they are often unsure of how to put it to proper use. We see long lines of people congregating in front of houses to collect clothes, which leads us to ask whether this is the most effective way to utilise charity money.

In Bangladesh, we don't have an obvious place to donate, like the Salvation Army abroad. Our money is spent on short term solutions which don't really amount to anything substantial in the future.

Here at Lifestyle, we believe that charity should be something substantial and beneficial in the long run. Quite a large sum of money is put away for Zakat every year -- enough to transform a few lives. As the old Chinese proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Instead of spending money to buy a hundred saris, you could sponsor a child with it, and instead of giving food to orphanages, you could make a donation to improve its condition.

For the month of Ramadan, we will run a column suggesting different ways to donate to a charity officially, to an institution where you need not be afraid that your contributions will disappear along the way. Any amount of money contributed is worthwhile if used properly. From vocational schools to old homes, each week of Ramadan, we will focus on separate institutions and how to donate to them. Stick with us and make your Zakat a little outside the box this year.

Make a change through UCEP
Moinuddin thought the slum would be his home forever. He was the youngest in a family of five and had to earn a meager sum of 50 taka by working day and night. He had no education just like the rest of his family. But his fate took a turn when he was sponsored into a vocational school by a kind, charitable man.

Underprivileged Children's Education Programs (UCEP) took him under their wing and today he owns a small electronics shop. He earns more than the rest of his family members combined.

UCEP was founded in 1972 by Lindsay Cheyne, a social worker from New Zealand. What started with only 60 students is now a school for more than 45 thousand underprivileged boys and girls.

The NGO aims to end child labour and poverty by promoting human rights and producing skilled labour. UCEP provides vocational training, general education as well as employment support services for its students. They were featured twice in the UN ESCAP's “Compendium of Centres of Excellence in HRD Research and Training.”

UCEP runs 53 Integrated General and Vocation (IGV) schools and 10 Technical Schools all over the country in both rural and urban areas. Other than this they have programmes like UCEP Credit for Self Employment (CSE) and Child and Woman Rights Advocacy (CWRA).

Underprivileged children between the ages of 11 and 13 are admitted. The IGV schools offer a four-year-long general education course up to grade VIII and pre-technical education including 4 months' ICT training to prepare them for technical school.

After completing the general courses, students join the technical school to hone their skills. There are several courses that teach the different trades of the job market. These include automobile, printing, aide to nurses, mechanical, electronics, garments and textiles. The students are given professional equipment to work with. Each of these courses is at least 6 months long.

Once their courses are complete the Employment Support Service provides the students with jobs based on their area of expertise. There are also Self Employment programmes that help students like Moinuddin set up their own businesses. UCEP helps tackle social issues like child trafficking, child labour, forced marriage, gender issues, violence against women and drug use by promoting education through CWRA. Some students even seek higher education from prestigious universities.

Unlike most schools aimed at unfortunate children, UCEP is different; they ensure a good and honest future for their students. They have a professional approach and you can actually see the progress they are making for a better Bangladesh.

By Daneesha Khan and Anashua Madhubanti
E-mail: ucep@citechco.net,


Blush and bronze

Some of us are still planning what to buy for Eid while others are already heading towards the malls. We are all eager to buy clothes and accessories that will set us apart from the rest of the crowd, but do we think about what makeup will go with our outfit?

Our makeup should be just as eye-catching as the outfit because the right makeup can make a simple outfit look spectacular. Wondering what to wear on your cheeks? Should it be blush or bronzer? Well, how about both? Yes, you can use both at the same time for a bold look and to bring attention to your cheeks.

First you have to contour your cheeks with bronzer. You have to apply the bronzer beneath your cheekbones. Cringe your cheeks -- you will notice a gap being formed in your cheeks. Apply the bronzer on the gap, all the way until you reach next to your ears. For the blush, apply it on the apples of you cheeks, again until you reach next to your ears. The blush will be applied right above where you applied your bronzer. For easier application of the blush, smile as you apply it. In this way the apples of your cheeks will be more visible. To make sure the makeup stays on for longer, use primer. But if you don't have primer, you can use nude-coloured lip gloss and apply it on the area where you will be applying the bronzer and blush. For the rest of the makeup, it's best to keep it simple because in this look too much is going on already on your cheeks. You can apply a little black eyeliner on your waterline and a little pink lip gloss on your lips and then that's it! You are done!

By Eshrak Tasfia


Oh sweet sugar!

By Nahid Ameen

There is only one opinion about sugar and I know we all agree: no matter how good it tastes, it is not good for your health. But why is sugar so bad for you? Is all sugar bad for you? Can you replace “bad” sugar with “good” sugar?

During the month of Ramadan it is important to maintain our blood sugar balance and choose the right sugars to eat. If you eat refined sugar and processed food, it will cause health havoc such as cravings, over eating, excess thirst, binging on certain foods, etc. Sugar takes away the body's essential vitamins and minerals, which causes lowered immunity.

Sugar strips minerals from your bones, especially if you consume refined/white sugar (and even the so-called “brown” sugar, which is white sugar coated with molasses). There is also the issue of “high fructose corn syrup” that is added in so many conventional packaged foods. If you are interested to learn about this particular topic watch the movie “King corn.”

But sugar is in almost everything! From sodas, fruits juices and condiments to gums, cookies and even in Chinese food! On top of it the artificial “sweetener” market are selling the “toxic” sugar substitute by focusing the consumers' minds on weight control and blood sugar issues like diabetes. There are many researches going on now to prove the adverse reaction of artificial sweeteners.

Sweet taste is important
The first taste that is mentioned in Ayurveda (Indian Healing System) is the Sweet! According to Ayurveda, the sweet helps to build tissue and calm nerves. Ayurveda also mentions five other tastes -- salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent, and believes that the balancing the six tastes is the way to prepare your body for optimal digestion.

However, it is important to choose the right kind of sugar. White sugar is refined and processed. This simple sugar will spike your blood sugar level and raise insulin in your body.

Nowadays, we have a new kind of sugar in the market, called “high fructose corn syrup” and it is found in almost all man-made processed foods. It is readily found in colas or equivalent soda drinks. Both white sugar and high fructose corn syrup go through a refining process and stripped of all nutrients. Now these “empty caloric” foods are hard on the body as you need nutrients from the body to digest and detoxify from them.

10 reasons to avoid (eliminate) refined sugar while fasting:
Sugar is the number one reason for weight gain as adding white sugar in your diet will cause craving, thirst and hunger.

Excess sugar can cause Candida (yeast infection), diabetes, eczema, adrenal fatigue, arthritis, etc.

Sugar feeds cancer cells.
Excess sugar weakens your vision.
Just like drugs, sugar is addictive.

Contributes towards heart problems, ulcer and can cause gallstones.

Suppresses your immune system.

Causes aging (if you want to look young and beautiful eliminate the sugar).

Makes your blood acidic.
Affects the health of your teeth and bone.

How to include the right sugars
Fruits - Fruits are naturally sweet and will satisfy your craving. However, eat your fruits separately from other foods so that it is easy to digest. This year, we can enjoy the sweet summer fruits like mangoes, lichees, jackfruits, etc. Dates are used traditionally to break our fast. They can even be used in desserts instead of sugar. I usually put dates in my morning smoothie as a sugar alternative.

Fruits are natural and whole foods that contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre. The sugar in fruit contains fructose, which then needs to be converted into glucose. The time that is needed to convert the fructose into glucose is enough to keep blood sugar levels in correct balance.

Honey - It has earned a reputation for being nature's nutritive sweetener and hands down is the most delicious alternative to sugar. The Russians realised in the 20th century that the longest-living people in their nation were beekeepers and, in particular, honey eaters. The Egyptians wrote about it in 5,500 B.C., the Indians used it in Ayurveda and the Babylonians have been noted to use it in their medicinal practices as well.

Raw unpasteurised honey that is locally grown has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects. Do not cook with honey because heat destroys the active enzymes of honey. When you add it in your tea, do so at the end.

Stevia - This is a sweetener that comes from a leaf of stevia plant and is completely natural. Stevia, an extraordinarily sweet herb, is 200 - 300 times sweeter than sugar but has no calories and does not cause a spike in your blood sugar.

Ways to break your sugar addiction
Consume sugar mostly during iftar rather than sehri to keep the cravings and tiredness at bay. Utilise the sugar alternatives mentioned above. Cut down on sugar in your tea and coffee by drinking sugar-less beverages. Keep a little bottle of honey or stevia to add to your beverage when you are at a coffee shop or tea stall. If you can help it, do not drink tea or coffee during the fasting season. Substitute with herbal or spice tea.

Eat fermented foods such as yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, tempeh (fermented tofu), kimchi, etc. with your meals. These foods are packed with beneficial bacteria that assist in maintaining our good health and immunity. They also drive out disease-causing bugs that increase our desire for sugar. These foods are great during fasting as they keep our digestive tract functional.

Sour foods will naturally curb your craving for sugar. Have three big meals a day and see if you can go without the sugar. Usually when you have three proper balanced meals with the right amount of vegetarian or non-vegetarian proteins you will not crave sugar.

If you have yeast infection, you will definitely binge on sugar. Make it a priority to get rid of the Candida (Yeast infection) by refraining from all forms of sugar including fruits, honey, grains (bread, rice, wheat, bread), etc. and start eating meals with plenty of greens, beans, lentils and fish.

If you LOVE sugar treats than learn the recipes and make them at home using the sugar substitutes. Instead of breaking your fast with lemon juice (with white sugar) drink coconut water. This will immediately provide the electrolytes needed for the body after a long day's fast.

Sugar is a part of our food habit and social gatherings. As Bengalis, we are sweet lovers and bring sweet for any communal gathering. Health should always come first and sweet in moderation is all good. For regular eating, choose sugar substitutes. If you have either yeast infection or cancer avoid all forms of sugar and sugar substitutes.

A delicious recipe:
Tropical fruit bowl
2 oranges, sectioned
½ cup of pineapple, cubed
1 cup of cubed sweet mango
¼ tsp of thinly sliced ginger
1 lime
Pinch of sea salt
Add all the fruits in a bowl. Add the ginger, honey and salt. Squeeze a little lime at the end.
Blog: http://conscioushealthblog.com/
facebook: Conscious Health with Nahid


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