Exposure Visit

This past week I had the privilege of visiting the Hyderabad fellows, mostly to see the work of VOICE 4 Girls, which is Tera’s placement organization. VOICE 4 Girls is an NGO based in Hyderabad that organizes camps for girls age 11-16 from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Uttarakhand. The girls are from residential schools throughout Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Each participant school sends a handful of girls who then can go back to their schools and teach the skills they learned to their classmates. The purpose of the camps is to empower marginalized adolescent girls through teaching them English language skills and life skills, sharing critical knowledge, and helping them to be proud of being a girl. Specific areas covered during the camps include menstruation, health and hygiene, self-defense, livelihood and jobs, handling personal finances, and other skills and knowledge that girls need to lead successful lives.

The camps take place from mid May to mid June and the girls stay at selected residential school sites around AP and Telangana. The counselors are female college students going to school in Hyderabad that go through a rigorous application and interview process before being selected. There are also co-counselors that are selected from girls that previously attended the camps. These two women work together to teach the lessons each day and work with the same group of girls throughout the camp.

The day that I attended the camp they were covering the Proud to Be a Girl and Health and Hygiene chapters, which worked out well for me since I work in health in hygiene most of the time. The format of the camp was quite interesting. All of the lessons are taught in English and the girls are to use English when talking to the teachers and other students. Telugu can be used to explain something the girls are having a very hard time understanding in English, but part of the idea is to teach them English through immersion. Each day there are English snap shots related to the general topic area of that day that focuses on learning new words and how to use them. This day the snap shot focused on using adverbs of time like sometimes, often, never, always, etc. The format of the lessons is short explanations of the concept they are learning and then a series of activities to help the girls work with and better understand the concept. This is a really good way to go I think since concepts related to empowerment or self-esteem can be difficulty to explain in words and easier understand through activities. It was an interesting an informative experience that I think can help Broadleaf with their work as well. Some of the parents have been talking about camps so we might be able to use some ideas from VOICE to create ours if we chose to do them in the future. Also I have been thinking about what do we do with the kids that age out of our curriculum to make sure they maintain a health lifestyle, and I think possible using a model like the co-counselors where we have older students that went through CHHIP act as peer teachers or assistants for the SHAs might be an interesting concept to explore as we have more classes graduate out of the system.

Megan believes that health is an integral part of international development. To achieve maximum potential within a community, that community needs to be healthy. She has come to this conclusion because of her experiences abroad and in the US during her undergraduate and graduate degrees. While in college, she spent a summer volunteering at an orphanage in rural Rajasthan. During this adventure, she saw the many health issues facing women and children in India, particularly in rural areas with limited access to health care. This trip inspired her undergraduate thesis and motivated her to pursue graduate degrees in social work and public health. While in graduate school, she solidified her interest in sexual and reproductive health and maternal and child health. These areas were the focus of her research and projects throughout school. She participated in an internship in India at MAMTA: Health Institute for Mother and Child in the summer of 2012. During this internship, she had the opportunity to learn about Indian health systems and adolescent sexual health schemes. She fell in love with India during her volunteer and internship experiences and wants to live there on a permanent basis now that she has completed her graduate degree.

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