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Nigerian-Irish Teen Girls Develop Award Winning Dementia App

By Hanna Nelson | October 26th, 2020

Inspired by their mentor Evelyn Nomayo whose mother had dementia and passed away this year, three Nigerian-Irish teen girls in Drogheda, Ireland created an award winning app called Memory Haven to assist people living with dementia and their caregivers.

“What we had in mind when creating Memory Haven, even without knowing the amount of success that was going to come from it, was just to try and help as many families and individuals and communities as possible because we know first-hand how tough it is to know somebody living with dementia,” Raechel Akano, one of the creators of Memory Haven, told the BBC

As champions of Technovation Girls, an international competition which calls for young women to create mobile apps to address a crucial need in their communities, Raechel, Margaret Akano, and Joy Njekwe who developed the app under the guidance of Nomayo beated more than 1,500 teams from 62 countries, IrishCentral reports, and they plan to launch it on app store this month. 

The app includes various functions including memory games, health alerts and a reach out feature, which allows users to contact their loved ones, caregivers, doctors and emergency contacts. Photos in the app’s photo wallet feature are accompanied by tagged names, allowing users to identify people in the pictures. 

Memory Haven’s music playlist can play songs based on the users’ mood through its facial recognition feature. If the user is sad, Njekwe said, it would play a playlist to brighten up their spirits. And past research shows that not only can music help ease the behavioral symptoms of people with dementia such as agitation and anxiety, but it can also boost the mood of caregivers. 

The team hopes that the app will reach a global audience and that it will inspire young people to get involved in technology.

Nomayo, an Afro-Irish developer and the founder of Phase Innovate, an organization that trains and mentors underrepresented minorities and women in tech, was driven to mentor the girls as she was often the only girl or person of color in the class while earning her PhD in computer science and statistics.

“Whether I’m working or being educated, it’s so obvious that there’s a shortage of women in this space,” she told NPR. “So I just felt it: There was a need to bring more girls and people of color into that space.” 

Margaret is now in medical school, hoping to specialize in precision medicine and use technology to help people in health care, NPR reports. Rachael hopes to enter the field of international business and IT. And Njekwe plans to pursue the field of science after she graduates from high school. 

Additional reporting by Nicholas Chan

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