Shadowing Asha Workers on the Frontline

The Circle of Hope, Chicago group, long-time supporters of MANSI, the Maternal and Newborn Survival initiative of the American India Foundation, learned first hand the impact of their grant after a trip to Uttarakhand by Mira Bhatia, a supporter who spent the fall of 2019 shadowing Asha workers on the frontline and taking part in the MANSI program. 

“Visiting the MANSI program on the ground allowed me to see the conditions the MANSI workers work in, and the daily perils they encounter. The remote villages they work in are hilly terrain among communities that do not always welcome the health workers,” Mira said. She continued, “However, ASHA and MANSI workers continue to provide care and resources. Seeing how hard these MANSI/ASHA workers work with limited resources inspired me to find a way to help them.”

According to Jasma Ghai, hearing first-hand through the eyes of a fellow Circle of Hope member made the benefits of the work that AIF supports via the MANSI program all-the-more real. 

Anika Narain, a fourth-grader in COH Chicago, also believes that to hear about MANSI from someone that had been on-ground in India was very effective. “Mira’s heartfelt presentation made me and my mother excited to join COH and support the MANSI project, which happens to be located in my mom’s home state of Uttarakhand!”

Spurred by this enthusiasm, it was decided that, to cater to the shortage of essential items like warm bags and warm boxes, funds would be raised over the next few months to source these innovative items that make the MANSI project distinctive. The goal was to collect $2,500. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, plans were altered. COH, Chicago had to change the initial fundraising plans and had to adapt to a new one focusing on the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on MANSI.

Based on the pivot to COVID-19 Response efforts, the team pushed to raise funds to help young mothers and their families in the Uttarakhand region affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The campaign was called, Mother’s Relief Fund. As a gesture to honor mothers all over the world, the start date of the campaign coincided with Mother’s Day.

The generosity of all the donors made this campaign an absolute success. The initial fundraising target was $10,000 (with a $5,000 match from an anonymous donor), however, with an overwhelming response, they had to increase the target by $5,000 (with a $2,500 match from an anonymous donor). The final collection was a whopping $15,000.

Having knowledge of how difficult life is for these young mothers under normal circumstances, the hardship they usually face due to the difficult terrain, harsh climatic conditions, lack of basic infrastructures, and close to no support system, it was difficult for us to fathom their plight during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing this fundraiser would help at least 400 mothers with the very basic necessities gave us the much-needed solace and joy, said the COH fundraising team.

The funds raised will provide young mothers, who would have lost their basic livelihood earnings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a supply of monthly essentials that would include hygiene-related items such as soap, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer – in addition to food items which would include: rice, lentils, oils, and spices. Further, the funds would also be used toward essential PPE kits like masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and thermometers to gear up the Asha and Anganwari frontline workers.

Overall, the sentiments towards the MANSI project came into full shape this year through the lens that Mira’s trip to Uttarakhand provided, and COH Chicago decided to continue supporting MANSI’s work to make the project self-sustainable. With 19 families on board, consisting of highly motivated and dedicated mothers and daughters, the current year has started on a high note and with such a committed group, the Chicago team should be able to see their goals fulfilled by the end of the year.


Complied by Krishita Dutta along with Riya Chadha.


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