Email/blog post from Annie (’12) in India

Hey you awesome people!

[Apologies, but this has turned into an email of epic proportions. Make sure you at least see the last 2 paragraphs if you don’t make it all the way through].AnniePhotoVoice

First of all, let me say that I miss you guys. I miss the intellectual, activist, goofy and passionate community that was so tangible when we were on campus. I think we’ve done a fairly good job of remaining connected, but nothing will beat Tuesday night dinners and trivia, walking around lake Mac with the DreamGirls and listening to the cacophony of the birds from the roof of the training center together. I wish I knew what more of you were up to these days…I think it would actually be awesome if everyone responded to Martin’s email with a life update, but

I’m going to start with me.

A couple of months ago when Aparna (the Mabelle Arole Fellow at CRHP) was stressing about her quarterly report I started wondering if I wasn’t supposed to write some reports for the fellowship committee. I vaguely remember something like that being in the contract but I haven’t looked back to see…sorry guys. So consider this a very belated halfway update. God, the time has gone by fast.

Let me start with the people here: Ravi has been doing really well lately. We’ve had some great nights watching March Madness and playing pool after hours of working on proposals, emails etc. Shobha has gone to Pune for the month, Jamkhed is just to hot for her right now, so it’s been pretty quiet these days. Reshma (from the hospital) is still at the hospital and doing wonderfully. We’ve been going through this numbers workbook that she loves, and she frequently takes trips to town with us or by herself to visit her sisters or to go shopping or to the tailor. Jayesh is still cracking jokes at the expense of the rest of the staff like his good oled self. He’s taken on a much bigger role in training the past year or so. The internship program is going well…Interns are primarily responsible for visitors, social media, newsletters, monitoring and evaluation and other side projects. Since one of the last interns left I’ve taken on most of those roles in addition to my other jobs, and am excited to pass them off again once our 2 new guys (GUYS!!) come in May.

So now to the question you’re all probably asking: Besides late night pool games and Touburg what am I doing here?

My position has evolved quite a bit since I arrived, and I’ve done my best to document and organize in a way that it will be a semi-smooth transition for the next fellow. My main work has been in organizational development: communicating with donors, writing project reports, writing and editing grant proposals, brainstorming new opportunities for funding with Ravi, helping develop human resource and financial policies (that was a new one for me) and talking a lot with Ravi, Shobha and the staff about the vision and the future of CRHP. In some ways the job has turned out to be more administrative than suits my passions and personality. Photovoice was incredible, but since then the parts of my job that actually work directly with the community have been limited. And I think that’s the way it should be for now. People like Surekha, Pundit and Madhu should be the ones facilitating community groups, collaborating with the community on new initiatives and conducting the trainings. They have a lifetime of experience in the dynamics and strengths of this community, and a career of experience in how to talk to people and collaborate with them. The great thing is that when all my proposals are written, brainstorming documented, and I’ve updated the facebook page, I have all the freedom in the world to sit with the VHWs during training as they sing about nutrition and watch dozens of tubectomies in the hospital. And even though I know after this year I want to return to a community setting where I can do direct casework and collaboration as part of my job, there is no part of the emails, documents and media that isn’t incredibly satisfying for me. I know how important it is. And I love this organization, the people here and the awesome feeling of common humanity that extends across cultures. I’ve never wished to be anywhere else this year.

Here’s a peek into some of the main projects we’ve been cooking up throughout the past 8 months:

Computerizing the hospital system: Ravi has designed a Hospital Information System in access which eventually will house all the VHW and MHT data as well as visitor info etc. We started working on this in Sept (I was testing the system, simplifying beautifying the interface and working out the kinks with Ravi) but got waylaid once things got busy in Dec/Jan. Since Ravi is the only one who can code it, the project is pretty much dependent on him and he has been busy with other stuff. But I really hope we can get it up and running before I leave since I’m also in a good position to train the staff to use it.

New partnerships: A delegation from the Ministry of Health from Sri Lanka’s Western Province (including the Minister!) came in November to flesh out the plans to roll out CRHP’s model there. They have an existing infrastructure which will allow them to provide additional training to existing community health workers, focusing mainly on non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. They are also planning to establish 2 mobile health units for the 2 regions they’re piloting in. CRHP will get paid for consulting, training and compensated for all staff travel to Sri Lanka. I did a presentation for the delegation while they were here and most of the writing for the final project proposal.

As hopefully all of you know, as a result of Izmir’s bid committee’s chance sighting of the Health for All trailer on Vimeo, they have chosen CRHP as their poster child for commitment to the cause and pledged to donate $100,000 for a new training center that will help spread the principles of primary health care worldwide. After months of bureaucratic delays the $$ transfer was initiated last week, thanks to Tom’s dogged follow-up with the committee. Construction will start as soon as we receive it, probably next week. I collaborated on the writing of that proposal with Tom, Martin and Ravi. Here is the video that was screened as part of the Izmir Expo2020 bid presentation last November in Paris:

ICICI, a prominent bank in India has started a fellowship for young professionals who want to use their skills to make a difference in rural or less-developed areas. Fellows spend 6 months each at 2 organizations in different parts of India with intermittent trainings. I guided one of the main coordinators around campus during his stay and worked on the document that lays out the fellow’s project and learning goals. CRHP will get our first fellow from them in May–he’ll be working on M/E for the adolescent programs as well as human resources development in the office–and if it goes well, we’ll likely have fellows at frequent intervals from now on. The fellowship is really competitive (3000 apps for 13 spots last year) and the fellows get great support from their program as well as a generous stipend that will pay for their food and accommodation here, so it’s great for CRHP. This is also a great opportunity to invest in human capitol – the coordinator told me that out of the first batch of fellows from 2 years back, 80% have continued to work in the social sector. For a diverse group of MBAs, engineers, administration professionals etc. that is huge. And we hope that fellows will be able to help us not only technically during their stay, but also help spread the word about CRHP in India and become potential donors in the future.

Mobile technology: Most of you probably remember hearing about how CRHP piloted the mobile tech of Smisha’s NGO Global Health Bridge about 2 years back. CRHP didn’t have the funding to continue with that particular project, but is still interested with how we can harness mobile technology for more efficient data collection and analysis. This fall we were approached by a group called Dimagi that has been developing apps and training health workers across the world to use them for several years now. They have a USAID grant through which they are providing a free pilot package of 10 phones, 2 weeks field support and initial app development to applicants. They actually contacted us, so we never had to apply. They came for an initial site visit and since I’ve been working with Ravi and their representative on the content for the app. They’re coming back next week to finalize the app and train the health workers (we’ll use the same ones we piloted with before) and from there we’ll see how well it’s working and whether or not we want to scale the operation to all villages/VHWs.

Interns and volunteers:The internship program has continued to be really valuable to CRHP. We provide their room and board for 6 months and they take care of social media, visitors, assist in grant-writing, compile the annual report  and help with curriculum development or program documentation. We’ve been having 2 at a time, and when Ellen left they started reporting to Ravi, but it’s been hard for him to juggle managing so many people, so he decided that my position should manage the interns from now on. So I’ve also taken on the role of intern/volunteer coordinator and deal with all the emails related to visitors or program/course applicants as well. This is a position that CRHP really needed, because we can have so many of our needs met by volunteers, but it takes a lot of work to manage and support them, and to make sure their strengths are being utilized and that both sides are benefitting. We decided to create a new Photography and Videography Internship which will meet annual report, video and social media needs (no applications yet so be sure to share the opportunity with your friends), as well as a Medical Volunteer position, which helps with monitoring at the hospital (MVs also pay).

Fundraising: Grants suck because they take up so much time and are hard to get, but we’ve still been applying for 1-2/month. Mostly Aparna and I work on these and Ravi does the budget and occasionally interns help out. No luck on any that we’ve applied to so far (that we’ve heard from) except for applications to funders that we’ve worked with in the past like churches who have given us $$. Over the past 25years, CRHP has raised the amount of funds generated by individual donors from 10% to 50%. Most of the influx has been due to the social media campaign and re-connecting with past visitors and donors through facebook, newsletters etc. But we’re not sure how it will pan out in the future, so we have a couple of initiatives we want to pursue now in order to move towards stability and sustainability. First, Martin had the great suggestion to make the monthly donation options on Global Giving more accessible to those who want to give less. I’ve also recently become a monthly supporter of The Abundance Foundation, and they have an awesome behind-the-scenes email that they only send to monthly supporters who they call the “Abundance Family.” I love this idea, and am going to kick off a campaign to increase monthly recurring donations sometime in the next 2 months.

As part of our long-term fundraising plan, we’ve become serious about fundraising for an endowment. The endowment will generate 8-10% interest, so we’re aiming for an initial goal of 2 million in 2 years, and 5 million after 10 years which will eventually generate enough interest to support our programs. And this is something that we can all be involved in. Those of you still around Elon (and I think I’ll be in the area too next year) can talk to University Advancement to learn more about Elon’s endowment strategy. I think that in regions where there are more of us we can organize a few high-profile fundraisers at which we present the endowment plan and solicit donations. We also have access to CRHP’s extensive network of past visitors and students and can try to get them involved as well. Ravi’s friends in the US do a fundraiser for CRHP every year, and he wants to start putting that into the endowment. We’re just in the beginning of discussions about what the game plan should be, but we have lots to build off of, including a presentation that Smisha made awhile back, and I’m sure that all of you will have awesome ideas that Ravi and I haven’t thought of yet.

Training evaluation: I’ve been doing surveys with all the groups who come for training to get a better idea of how we’re doing and how we can do better. I’m also working on setting up a system that will make evaluation efficient and informative in the future.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, along with continued partnership with STAPI, lots of long runs and some couch surfing thrown in.

One last action item (can there ever be a Periclean email without action items?): we need to raise the moo-lah so that Alyssa can carry on the Periclean legacy at CRHP next year. I am incredibly thankful and lucky to be having this experience–I have learned SO MUCH. But just as importantly, I think that CRHP has benefitted a lot from the fellowship, and it’s our job to make sure that the support is continued. Like Martin said, not all of us are going to have $500 to spare, but I have faith that we can raise it. I think it would be great if we could all make a personal donation before the end of the month, whatever amount we can afford. Get out your checkbooks and write a check, for whatever amount you can afford. Make it out to Elon and send it to Martin, 2625 CB. If you haven’t done your taxes yet you can even write it off. And then over May and June let’s raise as much as we can with letter-writing, profit shares, Helping Hands sales etc. Let’s keep a conversation going on the Facebook page for fundraising ideas, ok?

This may be the longest email I’ve ever written, sorry about that. Keep a lookout for a newsletter with a drought update coming out soon (if you don’t get CRHP newsletters please let me know). Send me ideas, questions and your life updates PLEASE. Also keep an eye on the stories being told through Look Out Loud! Meagan and Maggie have just departed the Philippines for Guatemala and have an open road ahead. Becky and Martin, good luck with the DreamGirls event. I miss those girls!

So much Periclean love,


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