DIR in India

The Janta Colony Project, Chandigarh

In a crowded slum where 8996 people live in 2,047 tiny homes, located just outside Chandigarh, capital of the Punjab, DIR has a project being implemented by the residents.  This "bustee" is called Janta Colony.

News from Chandigarh, January 2007

Kanwaljit Singh & Randeep Arora


[Read previous updates: June 2006, October 2006]

1. Staff Development and Personnel Evaluations:

From this month onwards, we have started monthly personnel appraisals for the Field Staff in order to evaluate and improve their performance. The various criteria used for this are Demeanor, Punctuality, Technical Knowledge; Performance in Field work, Team Work and their Committee Leadership. All these Health Promoters are evaluated in these areas, and their score converted to a 10 point scale. They are then individually interviewed by a Senior Staff member, and are encouraged to express their opinions regarding their performance, their strengths, their shortcomings, and what all they can do in order to improve. They are also asked for their opinions and thoughts about their work and what they think about the project, and what could be done in order to remove any weaknesses or loopholes. We hope this new initiative will go a long way to increase our effectiveness.

2.  Blood Testing:

Here's good news! All the Health Promoters are in excellent health. This was confirmed by a series of blood tests that they underwent at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh. Our Dr. Asha Katoch had paid a visit to Dr. Neelam Marwaha (Prof. and Head, Department of Hematology and Blood Transfusion), to request her help in getting blood grouping tests of Health Promoters done for the I.D. Cards. Dr. Neelam did that and more, all free of charge. As a result, each HP has now his/her Hemoglobin, Blood Grouping, HIV Test, and Hepatitis B test done. They tested normal in all of these reports.

3  St. Stephens School Lends A Helping Hand:

Ms. Manjeet and Ms. Pandey, both from St. Stephens School (A private upper-class school in Sector 45 Chandigarh) visited Janta Colony on 22nd January on invitation of Dr. Asha Katoch. They were moved by the poor living standards in Basti, and were appreciative of the work DIR-I is doing to uplift their situation.

Initially, they mulled over the idea of students and teachers from the school sparing some time to visit the Basti on a regular basis to give classes and impart education to the under-privileged children. However later on, they dropped the plan on discovering that St. Stephens is too far away from Janta colony and commuting daily to the Basti would consume an inordinate amount of time.  Finally, they have decided to adopt a different approach. They have taken a compiled list of needy children resident in the Basti from DIR-I and plan to discuss a proposal with the Principal of St. Stephens School on opening a new section in the school entirely for the Basti Children where they will get quality education. How far that idea actually goes is anyone's guess, but we do sincerely hope that the proposal is a success.

4.  Committee Meetings:

An important task each Health Promoter carries out weekly is to meet with his or her committee of neighboring volunteers to impart knowledge and skill on health promotion. Our Senior Staff regularly attends these Committee Meetings to observe and rate Health Promoters’ performance. In general, it is seen that instead of an interactive teaching and learning session with the members of their committees, there is just one-way lecture delivery. Health Promoters tend to lecture on and on about various issues without bothering to check whether the committee members actually understand the concepts. They also have problems in their communication skills, as discussed in the last month's report.

In view of these observations, we have organized communication workshops to strengthen the inter-personnel skills of Health Promoters. Health Promoters are asked to work in teams and adopt a more “people-centered” and interactive approach to Committee Meetings. The results are encouraging. A recent observation of a Committee Meeting suggested that the Health promoters are more aware of the value of asking questions and inviting feedback. Committee members are reacting favorably. More such workshops will be held, and Health promoters will continue to be coached in this aspect in future.

5. Puppet Shows:

The first performance of a puppet show our Health Promoters gave in December was not very encouraging. On 12th January, our Senior Staff gave a demonstration based on ideas derived from books on puppetry. In this, we made our own puppets and gave a performance on Oral Re-hydration Solution (ORS). It was well received, and we hope provided a learning experience for the Health Promoters who later gave new and vastly improved performances on 19th January. These were even more entertaining than the one which was given by the Senior Staff. We plan to select one of the best out of the three shows the Health Promoters have written, for performing in the upcoming Cultural Evening/ Annual General Meeting when the Board of Directors come visiting India in the month of March.

6. Nutrition Training Program (For Health Promoters):

Food Corporation of India (FCI) organized two day workshop for the Health Promoters. HPs were taught the basics of nutrition and various deficiency diseases, to supplement what we are teaching them in nutrition classes daily in Janta Colony.

Our Health Promoters did exceedingly well, and were able to thoroughly impress their instructors with their wide ranging knowledge about nutrition and health. We were gratified to see them outshine all the other people attending the workshop, and bag all the top positions in the tests that were conducted at the end of the training.

7.  Reading The News:

As already described, Health Promoters need to improve upon their communication skills. Also, our Health Promoters are very keen to learn the English language. So, we have introduced the concept of reading news from a daily paper in English, for five minutes before we start the daily activities. We hope this will improve their knowledge of English, inform them of the current events, and help remove their hesitation in speaking in public.

8.  Immunizations:

We have already achieved 100% immunization coverage for all the scheduled shots for children less than five years in Janta Colony. We are still continuing our immunization schedule of twice a month sessions just to keep ourselves abreast of the new arrivals in the colony, and to deal with the pregnant women who still need shots.

9.  New Growth Charts:

From this month, we have implemented new standardized WHO Growth Charts for use by the Field Staff. These take the place of the earlier charts we had designed to quantify number of Kilograms underweight.

10.  CEO Returns To India:

Our CEO returned back from his winter home leave on 28th January. His wife, Roberta, who is trained in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) is planning to conduct English classes for our Health Promoters during her visit to India.

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