In 2020, AIF quickly pivoted to address the critical situation in India and the United States. In India, AIF leveraged its programs’ infrastructure on health, education, and livelihoods via its wide network to address the needs of the nation with ventilators, PPE, and other interventions in order to save the lives of vulnerable Indians from COVID-19. Read the report here.

In 2021, India recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 314,835 COVID-19 infections on April 22nd, as this second wave sent many more into a fragile health care system, critically short of hospital beds and oxygen. Working with our partners, hospitals, and governments, AIF has launched a three-pronged Phase 2 Emergency Response Strategy to address this crisis. Here is an overview.

The American India Foundation is committed to improving the lives of India’s underprivileged, with a special focus on women, children, and youth. AIF does this through high impact interventions in education, health, and livelihoods, because poverty is multidimensional. AIF’s unique value proposition is its broad engagement between communities, civil society, and expertise, thereby building a lasting bridge between the United States and India. With offices in New York and California, twelve chapters across the U.S., and India operations headquartered in Delhi NCR, AIF has impacted 6.7 million lives across 26 states of India.

Serving, Leading and Learning: My Journey as an AIF Fellow

Hi, I am Anushri, an AIF Fellow. Let me take you to my field visits to hilly Kalahandi district and coastal Ganjam district of Odisha, to facilitate participatory research methods with indigenous and other vulnerable communities.

SERVE: Ice-breaking / Rapport Building

I mainly work with women and children. To build rapport with children, I keep it light by doing things that they like. So, I play with them and discuss cartoons and films. In Ganjam, I first had a fun race with the talented, Telugu-speaking children from fishing community of Nolia Nuagam to get to the shore.

They wanted to play Kabbadi with me; I volunteered to serve as umpire and enjoying resolving minor tiffs between the two teams.

Once the children were comfortable opening up to me, we went on a transect walk where I got to see their village from their perspective.

They showed me places of importance to them such as the water spring which was 1 kilometre walk downhill from their village Kaupadar in Kalahandi. The bamboo water outlet was made by the villagers. Everyday women and girls have a bath, wash utensils / clothes and get water for their homes from this only nearby source of water. I could not hold myself from trying that sparkling water. It was so cool and fresh.

Earlier, I undertook a transect walk with my host community, Kondh tribal community, in Kalahandi.

Dream Mapping is an excellent way to find the felt needs of people. In Ganjam, we gave chart paper, sketch pens and crayons to three groups of children and asked them to make a map of their village, starting from locating their houses and then adding things that they would like to see. Everyone was appreciated and encouraged to pursue their dreams.

In a Dream Mapping excercise in Manikera Gram Panchayat of Kalahandi, the girls drew water tanks, a medicine store, a bus stop, park with swings, a mobile shop and a temple as presently they have to go really far to access these places. The women of Kaupadar, Kalahandi expressed to have a rice mill in the village.

Children drew what profession they want to be in. Some want to be fisherperson, teacher, doctor, lawyer, and even a good human being.

 

LEAD: Impact of Design Thinking: Ideation / Brainstorming / Problem Ranking Matrix

Participatory research methods lead to actual social impact when the results are shared with Block and District administration. This happened when the people of Biripadi village, Kalahandi, participated in ideation and brainstorming to express their biggest common problem is lack of Rice Mill. Otherwise women wake up early morning and spend hours to pound rice with a heavy pestle (locally called ‘Kolla’) in a mortar. When my Host Organisation conveyed this to the government officials, they readily agreed to direct funds to this cause and appreciated our efforts to bring this to their attention.

Result of Ideation (2nd picture below): Left side has list of problems that came up after brainstorming. Through a raise of hand, we did voting, ranking of problems and found the number one problem. Then with ideation, they came up with solutions to get a rice mill, written on right side.

People of Biripadi village, Kalahandi, participated in ideation and brainstorming to express their biggest common problem is lack of Rice Mill.

Workshop on Menstrual Health at Rangapadar, Kalahandi

Menstrual taboos like staying in a room outside the house and not going to kitchen are common in Kalahandi. At my Host Organization’s training campus in Rangapadar, Kalahandi, I facilitated workshops with women on menstruation and reproductive health. I tried to burst myths about periods and shared how it is a biological process and how it does not make women impure. I showed them a 20-minute cartoon film in Odia by Menstrupedia on YouTube, which illustrated reproductive organs, why periods occur, nutritious food they can have and how to maintain proper hygiene. The women were surprised to know about the reproductive system. They gave positive feedback about the workshop and said that it is an effective way to learn about their reproductive health.

In a focused group discussion, the women shared how they manage periods with cloth or napkins and their disposal.

LEARN: Cultural and Social Exchange, Meeting Influential People

Block Program Manager agreed to the need for Rice Mill at Biripadi village. Interacting with Teaching Staff of Kalipalli Upper Middle School in Ganjam. Meeting Teaching Staff at Aryapalli Upper Middle School in Ganjam.

Attending a wedding feast in a tribal village in Kalahandi. Local bus ride from Host Organization to Host Community.En route to stakeholder meeting, visited Phurlijharan Falls in Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary. Bike ambulance at a health centre operated by my host organisation in Lankagarh village.

 


 

Anushri is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with Seba Jagat in Kalahandi, Odisha. For her fellowship project, she is developing a case study to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the community by identifying innovative practices and traditional health related practices, documenting processes, analyzing qualitative and quantitative data, and measuring indicators. Anushri is a passionate development professional who has completed her double Masters in Social Work and Political Science from the University of Delhi. She is excited to serve as an AIF Clinton Fellow with Seba Jagat in one of the most underdeveloped districts of India - Kalahandi, Odisha. For her fellowship project, she will be engaging in project management of their ongoing effort to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the community and in the implementation of the Sampurna and rural sanitation programme aiming to reduce infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate in the area. Anushri has interned at the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Plastic Waste Management Programme where she worked on the Financial Inclusion of the waste picker community. During the COVID-19 lockdown, she registered domestic workers in the Public Distribution System to receive rations guaranteed by the government. She also made video-stories for Delhi-based and Rajasthan-based Community based Organisations to generate awareness about their work and to raise resources to continue their work. As an AIF Clinton Fellow, she will be venturing into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working at a place with immense scope to learn and bring about change. She hopes to be an asset to her host organization and achieve their objectives through dedicated efforts. She envisions building skills in project planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation by the completion of her fellowship.

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