I’ve been blogging away about the sights sounds and a bit about my feelings as I encounter India, and only now does it strike me that perhaps not too many of you know about the actual project I’m working on. So this post is intended to give you a bit of background on that and update you on the status.
I’m working for an organization call Chaitanya Charitable trust. The organization was founded in 1996 after the founders (a husband and wife team, Hitesh and Kajal Pandya) expereinced the death of Hitesh’s brother. This caused them to reassess their proirities, close down their social work practices, liquidate all their assets and start CCT. They founded CCT and on a plot of land in one of Jamnagers 67 slums built the equivalent of a community center from which they could base all their outreach efforts in the slums.
Their vision: “To empower and lift up the lives of the poor and disadvantaged living in difficult circumstances, while emphasizes the dignity of each person and the right to equal opportunity through self-development.” and mission:
“Advance the lives of the poor and disadvantaged with programs that promote health and human services, education, slum development, and women’s empowerment to empower individuals to rise above their current situation.”
In the years since 1996 they haven been very active in about three of the slums helping to organize women’s (particularly marginalized) self-help groups, providing medical check-up/clinics, dispensing common medicine and antibiotics, assisting the World health organization monitor for Polio outbreaks. IN addition the provide facilites for disaster relief training (GSDMA )and the limited government outreach in the Slums
Importantly they provide daycare services in the mornings when Government school is in session so that school age children can attend school instead of looking after their siblings while their parents work. CCT also provides sewing and livelihood skills development classes.
About 5 years ago they also began implementing a program called Happy Children Center (HCC). One of the observations was that children in the slums were not obtaining the basic learning required to advance even when they were enrolled in the government school system. This was largely because the methods used in that system are not exciting and were seen as irreverent in the eyes of the children and their parents. This was resulting on high levels of dropout from the government system.
Happy Childrens Center was created to overcome these challenges. HCC provides two hours of education in math, Gujarati, Hindi and English, six days a week (5-7pm) after government school ends. The progress of the students is tightly monitored and special attention is provided when a student is not learning material needed. The HCC uses creative technique in teaching and the tag line for the organization is “Learning with Fun”. Currently they have three “classrooms” of 50 students each. One is in the actual facility and two are held in open air classrooms. The open air ones will be moved into some sort of rental facility as soon as funding can allow:
As a result they program is overflowing with children and the waiting list of new students is long. Importantly attendance in government schools has improved and children are not just attending school but are actually learning the basic skills to help them.
Given the great success of the program Hitesh and Kajall want to aggressively expand the HCC to serve up to 10% of the 30,000 Slum children (so 3000) 60 of the 67 Slums.
SO….. my team – Keith, Peter and Emily have been assigned to create a strategic plan for the expansion of HCC that provides a plan that will help them meet this objective.
Work has been proceeding well and we have learned how to get to work each day and make our way around Jamnager as needed. Hitesh and Kajal have been very engaged with us and have answered all our questions and helped us in countless ways in our investigations.
The first week of the assignment was to do initial interviews, visits to the classrooms and assess if our assignment was do-able in the time available. Weeks two focused on followup form that developing some initial ideas, doing research as to what similar organizations are doing, and understanding what partnerships might be key to develop and support such an expansion model.
Now we are into week three and we are into the formalization of the plan and related recommendations, the write up of the report, and the creation of the final presentation we will provide on Sept 4, since we depart Jamnager on Sept 6.
It’s clear that in CCT and HCC has some great strengths. They have very committed an involved founders who are innovate and passionate about their cause. Their teachers are skilled and have a high level of commitment. The and the quality of the program there is ample supply of students. On the downside there are more than a few challenges to the groups. Primarily is the lack ofr financial resources and funding.
We have been working hard to develop a set of recommendations allow for the sustainment and growth of the HCC program. So far there are four key areas to be addresses:
- Marketing and outreach, including updates to their online presence to attacrt internalization donors
- Partnership development with both local and internalization organizations
- Developing a phased and sustainable growth plan that has managed risk
- Recommending a organizational structure and operational procedures that will work well as the HCC scales to many more centers and slums
We have some very good ideas in each of these areas. Emily’s financial expertise and forecasting skills have been invaluable to create good financial models. Peter has been very active not just creating recommendations but in actually starting the work to modernize the website (including introduction of easy online based donations), improve Facebook fan page, and rationalize other abandoned accounts (twitter and linked in) that CCT historically had. We have also created a short promotional video for CCT. We have also created some standard funding proposal templates, created newsletters, and will provide recommendations about how to maintain on active online presence.
Partnership wise we have researched and investigated a host of potential partners and are now reaching out and in some cases engaging in the application process. This area is one that is most challenging since it is doubtful any will come to completion during our remaining two weeks here.
While we certainly won’t solve any issues directly I think our work will be very valuable and our recommendations and plan will be sound. In addition we will have actually completed or started portions of implementing the more critical recommendations which hopefully Hitesh and Kajal can continue once we leave and go back to our day jobs.
Anyway… sorry for the length and detail in this post but wanted to give all a sense of why I’m really here. Auto Risckshaw’s and the like are fun, but hopefully the efforts of Peter, Emily and I will make a meaningful difference.
Finishing off with a picture that shows just how cool our client is. Here is a fun picture of Hitesh on his commute home after work. Of course I snapped it while clinging to the backseat of the auto Rickshaw. India is nothing if not exciting!
Best wishes to all back home.