This blog is written by DI Fellow Sandra Plaza.
It’s been an incredible journey. As a designer and a community planner trained in architecture, working alongside SNEHA–an organization whose mission is to improve lives of women and children living in Mumbai’s urban slums–this fellowship has been a truly rewarding experience. From participating in rallies to raise awareness about the prevention of violence against women and children, to attending a ceremony acknowledging the mothers who properly admitted their children to SNEHA’s day care centers, to sitting intimately with a group of beneficiaries in their homes to discuss SNEHA’s projects and programs, it has been a honor to work with the SNEHA team.
Their hard work, commitment and dedication are always inspiring.
Over the past few months, the project took a couple of turns and focused on ways to improve the delivery and quality of health based interventions at SNEHA’s Community Centers. SNEHA initiated a project in which 20 community centers have been inaugurated in one of the poorest wards of Mumbai (2009 Human Development Index). The centers are responsible for administering health information and services to beneficiaries, including maternity care, family planning, child development and adolescent health. We were tasked with understanding the processes, strategies and challenges in administering SNEHA’s community based interventions. Our goal was to determine which strategies employed result in positive health behavior, make suggestions to increase impact of existing services and programs, and facilitate the design and pilot of a new intervention.
As a part of the process, we conducted interviews with the SNEHA Center staff and ran a cognitive walkthrough exercise with the help of one of Design Impact’s consultants, Mike Roller of Kaleidoscope. The goal of the exercise was to visualize the processes used in delivering health services by closely examining the role of the community organizer, the process flow, challenges, and success drivers. Once the exercise was performed, we were able to identify clusters and gaps as opportunities for ideation. We looked at various ways to activate the center spaces to attract beneficiaries to participate in our programs. In addition, we also looked at different models of delivering SNEHA services by focusing on a ‘learning by doing’ approach and engaging participants in activities they see value in.
As a result, we tested and piloted a ‘Cooking Club’ demonstration on ways to make healthy and nutritious meals. This intervention aims to activate SNEHA Center spaces for adolescents and mothers. The program was a success and more than 25 women and adolescent girls attended the cooking class while the staff provided information on the benefits of healthy eating. The program will continue to roll out in all 20 centers, providing that the community remains interested.
Per the direction of the Program Director, I also provided a list of suggestions to increase impact of existing services and programs. We chose to look at different forms of communicating health messages to communities, and settled on using puppetry. This is in line with an emerging trend in India to communicate social messages through the arts. We had a puppet workshop, run by the Family Planning Association of India, to teach us how to make puppets and deliver performances to communicate health messages. It was a great experience, using recycled materials including soda bottles, coconut shells, paper and cardboard, to make the puppets. In addition, we’ve designed a mobile puppet theater to engage children at several of the centers.
With the project wrapping up, the goal now is to deliver a few of the performances, track impact and gather feedback from those who attend. I’m sure we’ll be uploading a video so we can show you the results and feedback from the beneficiaries who hopefully will enjoy our program and performances.
It has been a great ride working with SNEHA and hope you will continue to follow the work of this tremendous organization at www.snehamumbai.org. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done–it doesn’t stop today. I hope you can contribute your skills and talents to making a difference to those who need it most.