Mehr Grewal, 12, of Bellevue, Washington, a sixth-grader at Odle Middle School, has volunteered with a Seattle charitable organization for the past four years, and during that time has initiated campaigns to promote correct hand-washing and healthy eating, and assisted in the group’s semiannual health camps. When a recent flu epidemic was sweeping the country, Mehr asked herself: “What can we do to prevent this?” With some research, she learned that hand-washing was the most effective way. “This simple measure could actually save lives!” she said. So she began making presentations about the importance of hand hygiene at schools and community centers, and demonstrating the proper technique for washing hands. “My goal,” she said, “is to put across the simple message that hand-washing is like a do-it-yourself vaccine, which can protect the vulnerable from getting disease.” Mehr also is working with an infectious disease physician to observe hand-hygiene compliance at a hospital in Detroit.
In addition, Mehr started a nutritional counseling program and enlisted the support of a nutritionist to educate people about healthy diet options, and provide individualized meal plans tailored to their specific health conditions. She makes posters and brochures for the program, distributes meal plans and other resources, and translates into Hindi and Punjab if necessary. “The most difficult part has been to change people’s perspectives on food and to encourage healthier alternatives,” she said. “It is hard for them to change habits.” Mehr also helps out at a food bank and participates in blanket and clothing drives in the winter.