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Waltham man’s foundation offers education in India

Framingham artist Carol Blackwell’s “Pipe Dreams” (top) and “Down East Broadway” by Brookline artist Katrina Majkut will be among the works featured in a “pop-up” show Sunday afternoon in Cambridge.Katrina Majkut

MINDS OVER MATTER: Over winter break in his sophomore year at Wesleyan University, while volunteering at an eye clinic in India with the nonprofit organization Unite for Sight, Waltham resident Raghu Kiran Appasani (inset) gained first-hand understanding of the need for increased access to health care in the country’s rural sections.

At the same time, he became aware of an Indian cousin’s struggles against the social stigma resulting from seizures. According to Appasani, the eventual diagnosis of epilepsy is commonly misunderstood as a psychological, rather than neurological, condition in his extended family’s homeland.

“People thought he was possessed,” Appasani said of his cousin, whose lifelong disorder was hidden even from relatives to the largest extent possible. “The perception is that the parents did something wrong, or the person is weak.”


Appasani joined forces with peers at Wesleyan to establish the MINDS Foundation, with their goal to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness in rural India, where 80 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion residents live. The organization has a three-phase grass-roots program involving education through workshops and street plays, free transportation to medical care, and reintegration of patients within their communities through social and vocational training.

The MINDS Foundation has treated 125 patients and educated 2,500 residents in 19 villages surrounding Vadodara in Gujarat state since its launch in 2010. Appasani said he plans to expand outreach efforts to an additional 20 villages within the next year, and eventually replicate the model in other emerging countries.

He is one step closer to his goal as a result of three recent grants: $10,000 from Newman’s Own Foundation, $6,000 from the International Monetary Fund, and $5,000 from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Wesleyan University. According to Appasani, all grants and private donations directly benefit patient services, with operating costs covered by the nonprofit organization’s board of directors.


“Ultimately, I want everyone in these rural villages to know the symptoms of mental health, and that it is a medical condition for which there is treatment,” said Appasani, who earned his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience last year, and is planning to apply to medical school. “That’s the hope for the organization, and for me personally,” he said.

For more information, visit www.mindsfoundation.org.

GENDER BIAS IN MUSIC: Kristin Lieb (inset) of Arlington was in the music industry for nearly a decade before she returned to Syracuse University to work on her dissertation in 2004. She considered a variety of topics, but kept coming back to issues that had long nagged at her.

Despite her feminist views, most of Lieb’s favorite recording artists were male — and the female acts she admired did not have the same widespread appeal or success that was attained by their male counterparts. Perhaps, Lieb reasoned, the women who achieved the greatest fame had to look and perform in a way that did not resonate with her ideals.

Lieb, an assistant professor of marketing communication at Emerson College, recently published her findings in the book “Gender, Branding, and the Modern Music Industry: The Social Construction of Female Popular Music Stars.” Using high-profile female stars as examples, her book says that sex appeal has influenced popularity over vocal and musical ability ever since the debut of MTV in 1981.

With stars like Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera capitalizing on their sexuality to attain crossover success in television, film, signature perfumes, and clothing lines, Lieb contends other performers are forced to conform or risk being left behind.


In addition, she says, the focus on the female pop star’s body as her core asset contributes to typically shorter careers than those of male performers, such as for the musicians in Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones.

“Many students feel that women are viewed and treated as full equals in US society,” she said. “In reality, gender discrimination is alive and well in popular culture.”

For more information, visit www.kristinjlieb.com.

MONEY SMARTS: In her role as senior vice president of community relations and community reinvestment act officer for Cambridge Savings Bank, Belmont resident Susan Lapierre says, she continually looks for ways to ensure that the bank’s customers are smart consumers.

Through the bank’s CSBsmart program, introduced in 2010, more than 8,000 students and adults have benefited from interactive financial literacy sessions within the bank’s 17-town coverage area, which includes Acton, Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Brookline, Concord, Lincoln, Newton, Waltham, and Watertown.

At Belmont High School this spring, for example, the curriculum included budgeting and saving; managing a checking account; role-play borrowing and repaying to demonstrate the concept of creditworthiness; and “Red Flag Alert,” in which students learn to recognize fraudulent behavior during demonstrations of common scams.

Lapierre (inset below) was also one of the driving forces behind the creation of “Money Matters,” an award-winning play in which teen performers deliver lessons to peer audiences about managing money. The play has been performed at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge and numerous other locations since January 2012. Its topics include need versus want, forming a savings habit, conquering temptations, avoiding unmanageable debt, and protecting against fraud.


The bank’s effort to impart money-management skills to all ages and backgrounds is “about education, not the bottom line,” Lapierre said.

“These are critical lessons, especially in our era of instant gratification.It’s important to have this knowledge, because knowledge is power.”

For more information, visit www.cambridgesavings.com.

ART BY NUMBERS TODAY: Local artists Carol Blackwell of Framingham, Viktor Genel of Natick, and Brookline residents Tilla Rodemann, Katrina Majkut, and cocurator Lola Baltzell are participating in the “50-100-150 Pop-Up Summer Show” Sunday, 4 to 6:30 p.m., in the Cambridge Community Center’s Riverside Gallery, 5 Callender St. in Cambridge.

The juried show will feature 50 pieces of original art for the flat price of $100, in a sale lasting 150 minutes. The media represented will include monoprint, drawing, oil and acrylic painting, pen and ink, paper-cutting, mixed media, and photography.

For more information, visit www,facebook.com/riversidegallery.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.