Catarina Lopez, a staff member of Foundación Progressar with some of the EcoLeña production in Sacapulas. These eco-bricks will be used to build a school playground in Mt. Province, Philippines. (Photo by Rebecca Bacala)

By Len Lear

Many idealistic young people with a strong moral spine have dreams of eventually changing the world for the better. A Mt. Airy resident for the past 31 years, Betsy Platkin Teutsch, may actually be doing just that.

A native of Fargo, North Dakota, where Jews are about as common as Bengal tigers, Teutsch is arguably the nation’s most widely acclaimed “ketubah” (Jewish marriage contract) artist, but she is also the author of “100 Under $100; One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women.”

Three years in the making and published by She Writes Press, the author outlines over 100 initiatives that cost under $100 each, empower women around the world and encourage readers to get involved and become educated on global issues.

“Betsy Teutsch has assembled a fantastic guide for all who are dedicated to building a better world, especially for women,” said Linda Scott, founder of Power Shift, the Oxford University (England) Forum for Women in the World Economy.

Teutsch, 64, who majored in Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and has a masters degree in Jewish Education, has broken the book, published in 2015, down into 11 sectors, such as a category on Domestic Technology that includes improved and low-cost cooking, sanitation and laundering methods.

Teutsch has spoken about her book at numerous global education conferences, colleges, women’s groups, churches interested in global problems and solutions and several Rotary Club chapters.

“I felt this was an area often overlooked by men in terms of the time and effort women in developing countries spend on taking laundry to the river and washing it by hand with a washboard. It can take an entire day to do the laundry,” said Teutsch.

How is “100 Under $100” doing? “The book has done nicely; it continues to sell, and my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/100under100) has nearly 1000 followers. I update and share news from the many exciting initiatives I feature in the book, so people can follow their progress.”

Teutsch has made dozens of public appearances to promote the book, plus about 15 radio shows and even a Teen TV News show. She filmed it all in one day, but they’ve included interviews with her demonstrating solutions on six different TV episodes, and they rerun them often.

“The first time they ran one,” said Teutsch, “a boy from my nursery school class sent me a message on Facebook. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 60 years!”

The artist/author was also invited to speak at an Oxford University conference, which she did, and she recently traveled to Ixtapa, Mexico, for Opportunity Collaboration, a global network of leaders trying to create solutions for world poverty, where she spoke about the second volume of her book, which she is now working on.

The new book will focus entirely on reducing losses after a harvest. “This is a huge and quite technical project, but the stories are amazing. With very modest interventions, so much harvest that is lost between farm and market can be conserved. Imagine how a lack of refrigeration, electricity, good roads, safe storage and information negatively impacts the food supply.”

Teutsch has spoken about her book at several global education conferences, colleges, women’s groups, churches interested in global problems and solutions and several Rotary Club chapters. (Teutsch is also the co-author of “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols,” and she has created over 10,000 tambourines.)

What are Teutsch’s own favorite concepts in the book? “I love to show people solar lanterns; solar power is getting cheaper and cheaper and is providing so many more households with entry level electricity!

“I also like to show audiences the size of Jadelle contraceptive implants, which cost only $9 for low-income countries and last five years. They are the size of a one-inch vermicelli. Why do they cost hundreds of dollars in the U.S.? And why do so few women know about them? Probably because they replace 72 packets of birth control pills. That is not in the pharmaceutical sellers’ interest.”

In addition to her work as an author and Judaica artist, Teutsch has served as communications director for GreenMicroFinancin, an organization promoting affordable paths out of rural poverty. She also launched three local chapters of Dining for Women, a national network that supports women’s grassroots initiatives.

Teutsch met her husband, David, when both were studying in Jerusalem. She and David, a rabbi, moved into a home on Lincoln Drive in 1986, raising their two children, Zachary, now 33, and Nomi, 29. David, who teaches at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, has just published a book on gratitude as a spiritual practice and has written several other books as well.

For each copy of the paperback and e-book sold through Teutsch’s website, she donates a life-saving dose of Misoprostol, an inexpensive generic drug that prevents post-partum hemorrhage, the cause of the majority of maternal deaths worldwide.

Regarding the research for her book, Teutsch was shocked to learn that the leading cancer killer of women in the global south, cervical cancer, can be detected with a vinegar application and treatment during the same visit, which would save countless women’s lives.

You will not be surprised to learn that Teutsch feels that President Trump’s record on the environment has been dismal. “He’s leading the way backwards, missing out on the biggest opportunity for American business imaginable, the low-carbon, renewable economy. Why he pretends that coal is coming back is beyond me or any rational person, really.”

Many teachers are currently using Teutsch’s book to teach their students about the environment. The website www.ProjectEngin.com, which focuses on STEM curriculum, has created a “Guide to 100 Under $100” for classroom teachers.

Teutsch’s ongoing crusade includes “meeting the demand for birth control (200 million women go without), expanding access to solar power, getting people bicycles, getting rid of open fire cooking and planting trees for every household. When we do those things, we will have improved women’s lives and SHRUNK carbon!”

For more information about Teutsch’s book, visit www.100under100.org. Barbara Sherf also contributed to this article.

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