John Bradshaw - Conversation with John Casillas
He has been nominated for prestigious awards. Was included in the list of the 100 most influential people in finance in the world. He was a fellow at the World Bank, but now has given his life to mission and ministry, pouring his energies into lifting up those who need a helping hand. His name is John Casillas and this is our conversation.
John Bradshaw: John Casillas, thanks very much for joining me. Great to have you here.
John Casillas: Thanks you so much, John. It's a pleasure to be here, It Is Written.
John Bradshaw: We've got a lot to talk about. We'll talk about some of what you have done and some of what you are doing. You lead an organization called GlobalRise, and you're focusing your work where? We'll get to the details, but just gimme the brief outline now.
John Casillas: GlobalRise, our vision is a world of healthy kids. And as you can imagine, that's a lot of work we're starting in Africa, and we have our sites on India and Guatemala primarily because those are the largest stunting zones in the entire world.
— Okay. So a world of healthy kids. You're helping people today. I wanna talk with you about that in depth, but this go back just a little bit. We'll start right at the beginning. Where'd you spring from, where were you raised?
— Plum Stateville, Pennsylvania. I know everybody has heard of that.
— Absolutely. It's the center of something. I'm sure.
— The center of the universe, as we used to say, but quaint old town in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and we were eight children and 10 strong in our family. My mom was the spiritual rock. Always brought us to church. She finally brought dad in through her example.
— Oh, I mean.
— We used to travel 45 minutes every Sabbath to go to the Bucks County Seventh-day Ministries.
— And I've been to the Bucks County Church. Great church.
— Yes, I think you met my uncle there too who was.
— I did, I did, fantastic. So what's this these award nominations and the 100 most influential people in the world in finance? That sounds like some pretty heady stuff. So walk me through your journey to that. What were you doing?
— Well, when I found out about the award, the magazine, "Treasury & Risk Magazine," they didn't tell us about it. So I was just walking inside the house and I got this in text and this congratulatory message and I sort of looked at it and laughed. I didn't understand it. Later I picked up on the meaning of it and it was pretty remarkable. So wow. To get to that point, we have to go back probably 12 years.
— Or longer now, probably 22 years to 2000. And maybe even a little bit before that, when I was working in healthcare administrative management, we were developing a company, my brother and I, Paul, that dealt with revenue cycle management in the healthcare industry. And after we did that, we sold that company to a banking firm and it seems a little bit strange selling a healthcare revenue cycle management company to a banking firm. But they were working with over 1000 community banks trying to finance healthcare receivables. And if you know anything about a healthcare receivable, it's a very complex, it doesn't act like many other receivables. So you have to be able to understand the value of that receivable in order to lend against it.
— And that's what the banks wanted to do.
— So we were creating the engine to make that happen. And it was through that journey that I discovered the power that banks have, really the technology, in many ways, the ATM is 40 years above or advance more than what we see in healthcare in terms of access to our healthcare data. So I started to put these pieces together and develop a framework called medical banking. Eventually leaving that company and starting the medical banking project.
— Okay. So explain medical banking to me briefly and in a way that I will understand.
— Medical banking is taking technology in the banking industry, merging it, or integrating it with the healthcare IT space to reduce transaction processing in healthcare. In fact, we found potentially $35 billion in savings annually by doing just that. It does however involve issues of privacy. And when we started to proclaim the medical banking message, we had to deal with that issue in the industry. So I was asked to testify a couple times or a few times to a subcommittee of Congress actually, they're appointed by Congress, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics to describe the potential access that banks might have to health information. And this was important because HIPAA was a societal mandate to keep our records private. So there was a lot of our discussion in the privacy world at that time. And it still remained its ongoing about how we keep our health records private. So we had to wrestle through those issues and it was through that, that news organizations started calling. And before you knew it, we were all over the place, being interviewed on TV and other places to try to sort through when banks have access to health information, and it became a hot political table.
— A potato in Washington, DC.
— And how did they get worked through? Was there any resolution to that question?
— It took a long time time. The Department of Health and Human Services held a few meetings and it continues to roll through. But essentially as we move towards a digital environment, healthcare organizations are moving our health information now into the digital space here so that we can have access to them. Ideally we'd have access to them through our phone, right? Just like we do with banking. There's a lot of systems that are developed in banking that move data from the banking world into our phone.
— Now we have to repeat that in the healthcare side, okay? The idea of medical banking was to unify that so that we don't have to spend twice as a society on all the billions and billions dollar costs to make that happen.
— Sure, you've already got the framework. You already have the pipeline it's working for banking. Why do we just make it work for health?
— Yeah. Bring in the healthcare system.
— So what you've got is you've got an archaic system. The idea of privacy is pretty archaic as well. Privacy is very diminished in the digital world. You're trying to bring that world with this world, retain the old safeguards, keep everybody happy.
— Good luck with that.
— Yeah, and banks are actually starting to move in those directions, we've seen some major acquisitions of banks of healthcare firms. So it's happening, it's happening slow. And the policy of course area is trying to catch up with it and make sure that everything's safe for the consumer.
— Now, how'd you get involved with the World Bank?
— So when I sold the medical banking project, I sold it to an information, health information technology society called HIMSS. They convened the largest gathering of health information technology groups in the world. And they like the idea of bringing the banks into the healthcare IT tent, okay? Because they're all things healthcare IT. So they acquired the medical banking project. And when they did that, they asked me to form a relationship with the World Bank, which they had been trying to form for a period of time. The World Bank had a number of health IT implementations all over the world. There was at that time, I think we counted around 53 worth about a billion and a half dollars. And we think that was just the tip of the iceberg. But they asked me to come in to look at those health IT implementations. I actually sent the thesis of medical banking to the lead economist at the World Bank. And he was impressed with it. And he asked me to come in. And when he interviewed me, he went to his higher ups and they formed a new, the first fellowship, global health IT fellowship at the World Bank. And I became that fellow.
— It's pretty heady stuff, isn't it? Moving around with these heavyweights of World Bank?
— You know, it's interesting. It was amazing. Okay, what happened? But none of it was planned. None of this was planned being nominated for the award for the one of the most influential in finance that wasn't planned. I was just working every day trying to get the job done. And I just, I feel like God's hand was moving, just opening the doors, opening. The next thing you know. I feel a little bit like Daniel, I'm just praying, they made me the, this figure. But I just stay on my knees and try to keep the process going forward.
— Yeah, that's the right approach I can tell you. About this award, let me just a moment here. who like, who gets nominated for this? What sort of company were you involved with there?
— There's 100 people and there were mostly CFOs 'cause they aren't our CFOs a lot in "Treasury and Risk Magazine". And because they use a lot of treasury services of course. The innovation that I was trying to bring to the marketplace was considered in the treasury management area of the bank. And that's how ended up in treasury risk. A lot of the larger banks like NY Mellon, PNC Bank, Wells Fargo, former Wachovia, Wells Fargo, was involved in the medical banking project. So there were some nominations coming from the larger banks that brought me there. Warren Buffet was on the list. And just because my name starts the C, I was right after him. And we were in, there was different sections of the list, we were in the heavy hitters.
— Oh you can, oh, that's good.
— So there you were listed right beside Warren Buffet.
— Well, what happened was, we drove HIPAA into the banking world in a very profound way. And it wasn't that we were trying to do it. We were trying to craft a society innovation to save $35 billion annually. What actually was happening from the banking perspective was we were driving a set of regulations that they didn't wanna have anything to do with. So it became a little bit of a tussle, in the political world, in Washington.
— So this is an opportunity given you by God, God opened these doors, place a burden in your heart, gave you knowledge and wisdom and a passion and the wherewithal and the right people to work around and so forth. And your achievements were stellar. Many people would think, it's time to press my foot all the way to the floor and get as much out of this thing as I can and drive as fast, and as hard. You might have said, I've an extremely exciting career ahead of me. There may be no limits here. You gave it all away. You stepped out of it altogether, to dedicate your life to missions. Walk me through that process of how you a, came to realize there might be something else for your life. B, the process of wrestling with, I think I'll just let this go and walk away. Let's do INB first. The dawning that must have occurred to you. I think there's something additional for me. And it's not that to maintain your position in that world would've been a bad thing at all. It's be fantastic idea, but somehow a dawned on you, there might be another thing for me, maybe missions. And then you had to actually physically and intellectually extricate yourself from that world and embrace something with far fewer guarantees, let's put it that way.
— Yeah. And I attribute that of course to the Lord's leading in my life always, but what was happening were doors were being opened in my mind in the World Bank. So the World Bank, people think of a bank as lenders. The World Bank has that aspect, of course, but they deal with countries that are developing countries.
— They have weak infrastructure. They're the poorest of the poor. How do we take these people groups and move them into the 21st century? And it's it, of course it's a very difficult problem. There's many, many aspects about it. So when I was working around the world, my eyes were starting to open. I saw these people the way they lived and it affected me profoundly. I think the fellowship of the World Bank completely changed my thinking about what values, what's valuable in life for me. Should I continue on a career path that leads to a lot of money, right? Or impacted in that way? Or should I try to develop approach that sort of calm some of the things that I was in my mind, I was starting to think, is there something I can do? Is there something I can do here? When I joined local NGO. And we were looking at orphanages in India, and I flew over there and we were having a strategy meeting. And one of the things that really impacted me at that meeting was that we were gonna fly in a nutritionist to look at the kids but we couldn't afford it. And I thought I had just spent some time with the kids. There's 200 wonderful kids there and I was thinking, oh my goodness, I would like to see a nutritionist there. So I went and started talking to other orphanage owners about that issue. And it became apparent that orphanage owners usually start with a heart 'cause they wanna start an orphanage. Some of them get larger that many of them have one orphanage. Some of them have more orphanages. But they have multiple priorities, competing priorities. They can't afford everything. Education, food, clothing, medical and it goes on and on, shelter. So bringing in a professional nutritionist to evaluate the kids is not something that's usually on the list. So I decided to create an NGO that did just that. That's where the idea sprung from. And just focused on that. What we did is we convened a multidisciplinary team in East Tennessee, and we decided to focus our efforts on two sites in Tanzania and Uganda. Now I wanted to go to India because I loved India. I'd been there five times and I wanted, I really just, I just love the people and the environment in India.
— Fantastic place.
— But we decided to go with Africa. So we went to those two sides and eventually decided on Kasese Uganda. One of the big things that determined that, was the strength of the relationship that we have with the board of Christalis Home. Christalis Home is one of our local partners there. And they take care of 42 children, orphans. They also take care of about 300 families in the community through a family development program. So we started our first Farm to Plate Protocol there.
— Okay. So now farm to plate. We got about a minute. Before we go to the break, talk to me about how you zeroed in on what your focus was gonna be. Brought in a nutritionist, but you identified a certain problem that you've now dedicated your life to addressing.
— That took experience on the field. I mean, you go in there with your preconceived ideas, mostly Western ideas. About how to bring solutions to problems. And then you realize that that really is not a solution at all. And you have to contextualize. So we were guided in a contextualization. It's like, we'll call it contextualization thinking through the Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation initiated a new 2050 food systems vision prize. And it was part of their effort to bring the best ideas in the world to developing areas. And we submitted an idea that became a semi-finalist. So there was 1,319 global submissions, and we became one of the semi-finalists. And one of four that was featured in the Rockefeller Vision, Rockefeller website. Still is drone enabled transport to mountain dwellers. And so it's a multi thematic approach. It's very contextualized to the environment that we're trying to impact, but it took a lot of research. A lot of visioning, a lot of signaling, they call it signals different things that are happening and anywhere in the world that could improve the impact that you have in the area. We created system vision, a systems vision, using systems thinking called drone food systems.
— Okay, I wanna hear more about that. And we wanna hear about what you're focusing on now in terms of addressing the problem of stunting. I know there's 140 million people affected directly impacted by stunting. So we'll talk about that in a moment. He's John Casillas, I'm John Bradshaw. More of our conversation in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Welcome back to conversations brought to you by It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. My guest is John Casillas from the organization GlobalRise. John we spoke a few moments ago about your journey to mission. Your journey to humanitarian work. And you got there maybe the less direct route, but your eyes were open. You said, this is a massive problem. I gotta do something. God now has your doing something. And one of the things you're addressing is the issue of stunting. So explain that to me. What it is and why it is. And then why are you getting involved with that?
John Casillas: Well, our vision is a world of healthy kids, and our mission is to work with tribal leaders and villages that are passionate about transforming their communities from disease and poverty to health and normal livelihoods. The key area that that really impacted me was seeing kids that are short or are malnourished, chronically malnourished.
— Where we're working, 50% of the children are stunted.
— So define stunting for me.
— Stunting is just when children do not get the nutrients that they need and they do not grow at the same rate as other children.
— Okay. So the stunted growth, they're shorter rather than short.
— And also they have cognitive disabilities.
— Oh... So short being, instead of growing to five feet in, they're growing to what?
— Yeah, they might grow less than that.
— Yeah, okay.
— And they might have trouble in school. They're prone to infections more. So their lives are normally more diseased and they end up dying sooner.
— Oh, so it's not just that they're shorter. It's just that whatever's causing them to be shorter, and you'd want 'em to grow to their potential anyway. That causes a whole raft of other problems.
— It does. It leads to, as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that really looked at some of these issues about how to take the development monies and efforts and move them to the first 1000 days of life, because that can completely change the trajectory of the kids in the future.
— So stunting by the way can be reversed.
— But it has to be, as far as we know, now, there are some that don't agree, but many agree that the first 1000 days of life is when you need to act.
— So what I'm hearing is say, I'm listening between the lines. It's not that these kids don't have food or maybe it's not even that they don't have enough food. So what is it? If you have food and you're eating, aren't you going to grow?
— It is such a quagmire in that way. I was talking to the mayor of Kasese and he's like, "We have, John, we have plenty of food. We just don't know how to eat". During our survey, we talked to families, we walked up and down the mountains there. And one of the ladies says, "We just feel full. We know that we've eaten when we feel full. The problem is that what's on the plate is not balanced".
— They can eat a lot of carbohydrates and have very little greens or very little of fruit or other things that really they need in order to grow harmoniously.
— Yeah, I've seen that in Africa, like myself, is tons of food, but it's one kind of food.
— It's one kind, yeah.
— And it's traditional, it's cultural.
— Like in where we're at, there's a lot of, they call it matoke. So matoke is plantain and it's mashed. And when they give you a plate of it, it's huge, and there's very little of other things. So it's a training process for people to understand it, but you can't train them with foods and ingredients that they don't have.
— Or they don't have access to. And sometimes it is really, truly that they just don't have access to the foods that they want to eat. But many times it's just that they're eating the foods in the wrong way.
— So that's where a nutritionist and a nutrition based approach would be helpful. It isn't necessarily that there's not enough food, even though that may be the case. It's those deeply ingrained habits, got a breakout of those. It causes stunting. And I wanna reiterate a whole raft of health problems that accompany that. Okay, so you see that and you say, we wanna address that. How do you address it?
— Yeah, and that is also, I mean, if it was an easy problem, it would've been addressed by many others. And many others try and some succeed.
— I'm interested here because going back to your days in medical banking, you brought a very innovative approach to a very real problem. Now you've got another very real problem, kind of different. It's gonna take another very innovative approach.
— That's right. It does. It takes a very different approach because otherwise we continue to just experience the same thing over and over again, and really the population that we're dealing with, there's over a million Bukonzo that live in the Rwenzori mountains. That's an estimate, but they're forgotten by the world. There's no one up there trying to help those people. They are on their own. The kids are running over dead bodies in the jungles from wars. They're coming in, they're orphaned. It's a rough go, okay? But what's much worse is, the poor people living in the towns are at least, they at least have roads, electricity, water. When you go up into the mountains, the government is at a standstill. They don't know what to do. When we were doing the survey and we were walking up those hills, I realized those women, they walk over those hills with a baby in their back, and a jackfruit that's weighing 20 pounds to go to the market or go somewhere to sell it for 80 cents, maybe 50 cents. And their average income is much less. We think it's like 50 cents a day, but the World Bank has figures of $25 a day for extreme poverty. So there's like an income divide between those, the poor in the towns and the poor living up the mountains, which have zero. They have nothing. They have Adobe huts, they sleep on the dirt and things like that. How do you change that? It's very difficult. Well, first of all, they do need nutrition training. That's first and foremost. And many of the women are very anxious to learn.
— Yeah, I wanted to ask about that. So you go to Mrs. Smith or the equivalent of Mrs. Smith in those mountains, and you say, hey, the kids aren't doing well. Yes, she understands that you're eating this and not that aha. I get the picture. How easy it is it to Institute change. You talk to a smoker, who bring your lung answer on. You're gonna die sooner or later, really hard to get a smoker change, understand addiction is involved there. Now you're talking to somebody, who's got a generational lifestyle habits that are counterproductive. There's an openness to addressing that?
— There is an openness. The women are very interested in how they feed their children. Most households are headed by women where we're working and they're farmers. They have about an acre and a half of land.
— Why are most households headed by women?
— Many times the men leave. There are men households there, but that's sort of in the minority. I would say 80% of the households are headed by women.
— Well, when you say leave, they've gone to the city to get a job, or they've just left?
— They've left.
— They've left. The women are struggling to try to make ends meet.
— They are to feed the kids, they're walking to town. Now, if I wasn't walking those mountains, I probably wouldn't have realized this. But the walks are just difficult, man. I was sweating every day when we were doing our survey, it took us a month. Every day I came home and I was sweating. I took a shower and I went to bed. It was tough, but they do this as, they do this every day. And so I was thinking about it and I said, why don't we get donkeys? I mean, they can only carry a certain amount of food on their hands or on their heads. Why can't we? And they have to walk from the tops and the mountains to get down to the roads, right?
— And then back up again.
— And then go out and then go all the way back up again.
— It takes all day. So I asked the mayor about it. He said, "Donkeys were already tried, but they were hunted for food".
— Oh, no kidding.
— So, our first thought was Uberized donkeys. See, we think it's time to take, it's high time to take high tech into the jungle. We have to do it. We're doing it in other areas of our lives, you know? We have Uber, which we can just call the taxi and we don't have to wait 45 minutes for the taxi anymore. We just, well, why can't we use their phone to call drones?
— Well, (laughs) we shouldn't rush through this. Why can't we use phones to call drones in the mountains of Uganda?
— Okay, well, if you were to ask me, I'll tell you two reasons. One, because they don't have phones, two, because they don't have drones. And three, if they had either, where are they gonna charge 'em? So can you answer those questions so that brings us into the good sense of all this, or is it all just pie in the sky?
— Well, it's a vision. It's a 30-year vision, but there's already a lot of work around putting mountain broadband into place in the area.
— Okay, sure. So you're gonna meet that when it's ready.
— There's three well known people. Facebook is one, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk with SpaceX, and he's trying to develop mountain broadband as well as Jeff Bezos is getting involved in it as well. So there's a big push to make that available right now. They also have phones by the way. It's funny, but they might not have other things, but they have phones. And many have phones. They use the phones for actually calling up electricity. They can use the phones to pay for electricity, automatically, the electricity comes on in the house.
— Well, that's, I mean, that's pretty high tech.
— Yeah, that's high tech.
— I don't mean that in a patronizing way to be able to use your phone. I don't think I can.
— I Think it's really cool too.
— Good, I think I could pay my phone bill on, my power bill on the phone, but I don't know if I can call electricity in. So that's pretty cool.
— Yeah, it is. They actually can do that. There's an enabler technology platform that enables that. And we're talking about a technology platform that enables transport, okay? The government is budgeting for roads to increase commerce in the areas, in the towns and such. When we spoke to them, they were talking about train being one of the deepest issues that they have in the mountains, poverty, nutrition, and they were talking about donkeys, but then that didn't work. So then they said, well, we'll put a tram up like they have in Chattanooga. They have a tram that goes to the top of the mountain and comes back, but that's environmentally insensitive and it's very costly. And so I asked them about drones. Drones are being used by many other industries. They're actually revolutionizing the way that we do agriculture, the way we spray pesticides and things like that. Why can't we use drones for transport? Drones are sort of like, I don't know if you remember when computers came out, there was always a new version coming every three months, every three months and every three months. So drones are made very much like that. They are advancing rapidly in technology. Boeing actually has a 500 pound drone prototype. It's called a flying truck.
— Yeah, I can understand why.
— So there is a lot happening in drone technology. And so we spoke to drone operators, drone aviation experts, and they indicated that, yeah, this is a possibility of actually flying crops from the mountains to the markets.
— What sort of distance are we talking?
— It's about three miles, maybe.
— Three to five miles. It could be more.
— Yeah, but it's typically a pretty short hop.
— But it's okay, yeah. Now when you talk about drones and the power that they need in order to carry something, and then to fly that long, there's a lot of technology behind it, but it's possible.
— Question for you, Mrs. Smith. I keep referring to Mrs. Smith in Uganda. She wants to sell her jackfruit, weighs 25 pounds. How is she gonna afford to rent the drone?
— All she does is she calls up the drone with her phone. This is in the vision statement.
— Of course I can.
— So, but this is what we're working towards, okay? She calls up the drone on the phone. The drone is dispatched. It goes to her place. There's a platform that where she has to have it.
— It picks up the jackfruit and then it flies down to the market. The marketplace, they take the jackfruit, all parties have already registered onto a bank account. The funds are transferred to Mrs. Smith's bank account. She has access to them on her phone. It's just that simple.
— This would,
— But that complex.
— revolutionize life as it is known. Although what I kind of like about that is you're not really changing the entire way of life. You're giving a transportation system that will give Mrs. Smith four hours, five hours of her day back.
— It's really important. We're not changing anything. We're overlaying it with a technology platform that makes them more efficient.
— Now why is that important to stunting? That's the key thing, right?
— The reason why is because without exception, studies show that malnutrition and poverty are linked.
— No question.
— They're linked. And there's many reasons for that, but there's many groups that want go into the mountains and they want to change the malnutrition port of the equation, and for us, and that's good work, okay? But for us, it was like putting one wheel on the axle. After we looked at the analysis guided through with the Rockefeller Foundation, we knew we had to address poverty too. So the other wheel that we're putting on the axle to create the transformation engine is the drone transport system. With that, we'll be able to raise their incomes maybe from 50 cents to $2 per day. That would be revolutionary to them. The other thing that we're doing in our design is once the drone transport system is operational, of course, people won't be wanting to actually to walk down the mountains, they'll be wanting to take it. We believe we have to prove that out, okay? They'll be wanting to high it for their crops, but before they can, they have to register with the Rwenzori Food System. So, and attend village training. They have to do that. So it's a mandate. They go through village training and then they can onboard into the drone system. And the village training is continuous. In village training, we deal with three primary topics. Nutrition, farming, or soil fertility, and financial planning. Those are the key areas that we wanna help them with. So as they're making their money, we want them to know how to spend it wisely. Something that we probably would've liked to been taught when we were kids too, right?
— Everybody should know.
— Yeah. And soil fertility is huge there because the climate changes have affected the soil erosion. So they're always looking for ways to make the soil more fertile, okay. So we wanna bring expertise on that to bear on that. And also of course, nutrition to move the kids through stunting. Another thing we're doing is we want them to register their children to a PHR, personal health record. This personal health record will then keep track of them, and then we have the data from a public health perspective that gradually implements the types of trainings that we need at village training to move them from stunt to healthy.
— Fantastic, fantastic. There's a lot happening. It reminds me, there's just a great need in the world. And God is calling on many people to make a difference where a difference needs to be made. I'm with John Casillas, we'll be back with more from our conversation in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Welcome back to Conversations brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is John Casillas from GlobalRise. That's an exciting work you're doing in Uganda. I know you mentioned earlier, you'd like to broaden that, you plan to broaden that to India, where stunting affect how many kids?
John Casillas: Over 63 million kids. It's the worst stunting zone on the planet.
John Bradshaw: That's massive and Guatemala you've mentioned, and maybe it's gonna spread beyond that. A few moments ago, you talked about what's coming with the drone food transportation system that's going to be implemented, but I don't want anybody to think that the work of GlobalRise in Uganda is all future. What's going on right now?
John Casillas: So to create a community nutrition program requires detailed household knowledge. A culture, food preferences. We need to really get into the mind of the Bukonzo, the tribe there and other tribes to understand how they view food. And we actually started that by implementing a Farm to Plate Protocol. The Farm to Plate Protocol by the way, was developed by a nutritionist in University of Costa Rica, who I am now married to. So Karen developed this program that looks at the environment at the orphanage that we're working at at Christalis Home and the foods. The food, the way that they prepare the foods, the ingredient, and so forth. And as we started to explore how to improve the food at the orphanage, we started becoming more acquainted with people in the community and how they view food, of course, and the different ways to improve food and food consumption. So that was a really big bonus for us. We were able to work at the orphanage food system to learn that really fast paced are learning to the community, 'cause we always wanted to move from the orphanage to the community. And when we went into the community, we started doing a survey. The survey took us a month and it was grueling. It was grueling. We had to actually look at the entire area and using statistical modeling, find out which village we were gonna actually survey. There's 1,650 households in the Karembe one which is where we surveyed. And we surveyed about 187 of those households. And it was a detailed survey. I mean, we got into the foods they ate, the foods that they would to eat, the number of children, the sex of the children, who the head of the household was, how their making household finances work. If they're farming, how much land they have. The types of crops that they grow. All those things are essential to understanding how to develop a community nutrition program. So we gathered the data and now we're putting together a community nutrition program. One of our board members, Sylvia Klinger has an organization in Chicago that she runs, interns run through University of Illinois is involved, University of Northern Florida is involved. And so we have this amazing, we've already run through 16 masters and PhD, new interns, our initial thoughts of the community nutrition program. And they've applied their thinking so that we're perfecting the program. And we've done that during this whole COVID phase where you can't travel. I mean, you could travel, but it's a little bit risky. So this is what we've been doing is putting together the community nutrition program. Next on our agenda is to have bio gardens, which is our local NGO that saves indigenous knowledge in Bukonzo area, in the Rwenzori Foothills to have them help us to implement it locally, to test it. So that's our next step. One of the things that we learned during the survey, I wanna point this out because this is my board is very technologically oriented. They're in the tech business, in banking, in health IT and in software information systems and things like that, as well as nutrition. So we have that sort of innovation orientation where we wanna bring high tech into the jungle, right? Well, one of the things that we were looking at is as we did the survey, it really was physically exhausting to do it. But we were looking at how to take what we did, which is critical for a good community nutrition program and apply it to other areas in their enjoying mountains. And we came up with this idea called geospatial nutrition profiles, or GNPs. GNPs basically, if we can establish that a village is geospatially equivalent to another village in the Rwenzori mountains with the same tribe, we don't have to redo the survey.
— It sounds basic, but we have to prove it. Otherwise we have to do the survey again, right? And the surveys are expensive and they're time consuming, you know? So we're proving out geospatial nutrition profiles as well, so that we can really scale our program across the entire Rwenzoris.
— So imagine you might have other partners on the ground or do you, or is this something that you are, it's all you and your team?
— We decided early on, we had to learn, that was all us, okay? But we quickly learned who the players were in the community and we of course realized that we can't promote this or this health campaign by ourselves. Fortunately, an organization called the Kasese Better Living Center was already in the works. I look at it as something that was on the works, the Lord placed us, you know? So the leaders of that, it's owned by the Adventist church, but the primary investor of the Kasese Better Living Center is actually the president of Uganda. Interestingly enough.
— Oh, that's friends in high places.
— Yeah, yeah. So when they heard about what we were doing, we organized a meeting with them. And this was part of the Rockefeller Foundation's work to work with the community. Over 80 leaders came to the meeting. Many in the mountain churches, in the town, the mayor, the government's office, they all came for two days we met and we discussed the deep problems that are stopping Kasese District from advancing. And everybody without any dissenters agreed that the number one problem was nutrition. And we were there representing what we doing in nutrition. The follow up on that meeting is they asked us to develop their nutrition program. So we're actually, it was something that we had planned to do, but now we have this great partner to do it with the Kesese Better Living Center. Another partner that's very integral to our work because they do workforce development, which is important to train people how to implement the nutrition program, but also going forward to work in the information systems and drone aviation and all those other things that are required to implement a drone food system. And that partner is Rwenzori International University. So Rwenzori International University is a new university. They actually are getting their licenses now. And, but they have campus. They have actually two campuses, one near the Rwenzori Foothills, which is still a raw land, but that's been architected. So we know exactly what it's gonna look like. And then in Kasese, they've renovated about six, seven buildings that are where the students will be. One of the buildings is presently under construction during the COVID time. Amazing, amazing. And Dr. Nathaniel Walemba founded that. He also founded the Kasese Better Living Center. He's an institution builder. That's why I call him. The guy is amazing. When he found out what we were doing, he made the connections locally and invited me to the board of trustees and I accepted. So I'm on the board of trustees of the Rwenzori International University now. And we're building a tech innovation hub there, which will do workforce development for us as we move into those types of needs. So we'll be able to take the young people there, by the way, Uganda is the fifth youngest population in the world. The average age is 16.7 years old, okay? This is a young population. Move them from where they're at, in Kasese in the mountains through training programs and certificate programs and employ them in the Rwenzori food system.
— I'm interested to back up and ask you about the Farm to Plate Protocol 'cause that sounds to me like, that's where you're putting food on plates and really implementing change in the dining area, your wife, Karen designed that. What is it? Walk me through it briefly 'cause I got a couple of other things to ask you.
— When I first heard of nutrition, for me, it was just food.
— But it isn't just food. It's how they prepare the food. It's the place where they prepare the food. It's how they clean, hand washing. You know, the Farm to Plate Protocol deals with, is very, very minimum. It's making sure that the farm producing the nutrients that the kids actually need.
— Oh, that's interesting.
— So rather than looking at what food's available, you're saying, what do we need? How do we get it? Where do we begin this thing and get it from the idea stage all the way through to the, here it is, and this is what's good for you?
— Precisely. And the need is dictated by the health of the children. So the nutritionist looks at the nutritional status of the children and she says, okay, these kids need this, this.
— The deficiency here. How do we figure out a way to get that there.
— More spinach in, more nut, gnuts, those types of things.
— Those are nutritionist questions that I don't have that she does.
— So we had to go to, and part of it was going to the farmer's market. We priced out, I think she told me between 150 and 200 food items and did baseline studies, then we had to change the food budget to accommodate those items. Remember that, and then we had to look at the kitchen, which was smoke filled, every time we walked in there, we were crying and coughing, it was horrible. We completely had to gut the kitchen, take out a lot of the hoods and open up the roofs and open up windows. And that was a real project, infrastructure project. During that project, we met local engineering firm and they provide all of our engineering expertise now as we build our vision.
— Everything worked like a handing glove.
— So Farm to Plate Protocol is creating the environment at the orphanage that will render the kids from stunting to healthy. There are some stunted children that have entered there.
— So two questions for you. One is how do you see this plugging into mission where, take me to the mission aspect or how this opens the door for mission.
— So our view with GlobalRise mission is all about the health message. It really is. But we also know that you can leave a person healthy, but their salvation can be in question, right? So we're focused on the health. We feel like we're John, the Baptist going in, prepare ye the way of the Lord, right? With the health message. That's what we're doing. And then beyond that, we're working with the church authorities who need to then plug in the evangelistic component. We don't have the expertise that It Is Written has to do evangelism. We have a lot of stories we might tell up but we don't know that whole area. We just focus on the health message, bringing good health to kids in the mountains.
— I read somewhere where a writer with a considerable amount of wisdom said, Jesus mingled among people as one who desired their good, won their confidence ministered to their needs. And you're certainly doing that. Let me ask you this question. I wanna find out from you. You're a Christian believer, what does the gospel mean to you? What does Jesus mean to you personally?
— You know, what it means to me is transforming my life every day because the need is not just every day. It's really, it's every moment I have. I am prone to go astray. I mean, it's programmed in me and I hate to say it, but I just, I need the Lord to straight me up every day. And it's something as pragmatic as that, I wanna live a healthier life. I wanna live a happier life. I wanna live in the society of angels. I do. I wanna live in the society of people that I love and I wanna be loved, you know? And that's to me, the gospel, the good news that God does love us, that we don't have to be dying in sin or in guilt from sin. We can go to His feet. We can ask for forgiveness. He gives it to us graciously even when we can't forgive ourselves, but we should. And then He takes our hand and He walks us through life together.
— Yes, He does. Hey, I know GlobalRise is a donor funded organization. So tell me how people can get on board and help you with what you're doing.
— Good question. So I wanna show you something.
— That is great.
— That is great.
— This is twiga, and twiga has a crusade, okay? Twiga's crusade is to kick stunting out of Kasese. That was a battle cry that the community created, okay? So we just adopted it. So twiga's crusade is to kick stunting out of Kesese. Twiga is available to everybody that gives us $25 a month, okay? So when someone do journeys, $25 a month, we have a beautiful family in St. Louis that will mail out twiga to their home. And if they have their friends join us, okay, then we'll mail twiga to their friends, but we'll also then give them tembo.
— Oh, fantastic.
— Tembo, the elephant then goes to the person that is twiga because their friend joined.
— And once they have another friend that joins, we will give them faru, the rhino.
— Okay, good there. Faru, the rhino. By the way, each one has a special message. And then up to three friends join and they get pendu, the zebra.
— Hey, who makes these?
— So yeah, there's stories behind them. All of these are made by the woman in Kasese. Now there's cotton in the fields. They pick the cotton, they stuff the animals with the cotton and we buy them from the woman. So we're helping women in that way, and actually this whole project started when we met a woman who was making these in her restaurant. And we said, boy, there's a really cute. She's like, after a while we came in and she's like, "Can we talk here? I want you, is it possible for you to buy a whole bunch of these because I'm trying to expand my restaurant, right"? And it all worked out. We actually end up buying a lot of them. Karen developed a project in the University of Costa Rica to sell these animals. Before you know it, we sold 700 of them.
— And she was able to expand her restaurant.
— Fantastic. So somebody wants to support you and end up with twiga and twiga's friends, how do they do that? Where do they go?
— Go to www.globalrise.org.
— GlobalRise with an S dot org, and click on the donation button and it'll show everything. Actually, the twiga's crusade will come up. All they have to do is join us, and they'll explain the rest.
— John, this is a great project. You're changing lives, saving lives. And as this unfolds, GlobalRise is gonna have a major, major impact on whole communities of people. Wish you the very best. Thank you so much for taking your time.
— Thank you, John. It was a pleasure to be here.
— Great fun, thank you. And thank you for joining us. This has been really a blessing for me and I hope for you. He is John Casillas from GlobalRise. I'm John Bradshaw, and this has been our conversation.