I have been on a bit of a learning curve since getting to Darjeeling about how NGOs work in India. Apparently for an NGO to be registered as such in India, they have to be functioning for three years first. When applying for registration, the organization has to have legal evidence of funding streams, how their money has been used, and what they have been doing. This is to ensure that the NGO is actually doing what they say that they do. Apparently there was a problem with new NGOs popping up, getting a bunch of donations from locals and foreigners, and then disappearing with the money. Before an organization is registered here, they cannot accept donations from within India. The organization I am working for is in the pre-registration limbo period, complicating our funding streams and requiring we have a local partner to work with. It definitely complicates matters for our program. Speaking of which, I promised to talk about the Broadleaf CHHIP program this month! CHHIP stands for comprehensive health and hygiene improvement program. The main activity we have for this is a health education curriculum that is taught in 7 Darjeeling area schools by 3 school health activists trained by previous staff members and AIF fellows. We are constantly working on expanding and improving the curriculum and training of the SHAs so that we are providing the students of our schools with the best health education and best health care possible. Another thing we do is ensure that our students have access to necessary medical care through screenings done by the SHAs and referrals to local doctors and hospitals. Improvement of the school health environment has also been an important project, building hygienic toilets and ensuring the school has access to a safe water source. Currently we are also working on getting the families and communities more involved in the health education program and the general health of the community. These things are the basis of our program and we will be working on it throughout the year! Next month a little about Darjeeling tourism and my travels since arriving in India.
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.