By Tanzoom Ahmed (Manager, Resource Mobilization and Communication)
Field Trips are the most exciting part of our jobs, ask any social worker or non-profit professional and you are most likely to land up with the same answer. These visits give us an opportunity to connect and interact with the beneficiaries of our services and projects. In our case, the beneficiaries are the pregnant women, mothers and infants, who receive our free mMitra preventive care voice call and animation service. The importance of field trips is immense, as it helps us understand the purpose of our work; often times act as a motivational force and an incentive to helps us perform better in our area of work. My recent visit to Solapur was one such enriching and encouraging experience.
It was a visit to the district of Solapur in Maharashtra, during which we visited the villages of Musti, Arali, Tandlewadi and Baxi hipparga. My teammates for the day were my colleague Nivedita and two other officers working with our field partner Swayam Sikshan Prayog. We managed to create an instant rapport, which made our daylong interactions and discussions very easy.
The first village we visited was Musti and our first stop was the village Sub-Health center (Sub-center), the most peripheral and first contact point between the primary healthcare system and the village community. It was Immunization Day at the Sub-Health center, and hence a very busy day as nurses vaccinated infants and briefly chatted with the mothers about various infancy related preventive care measures. As I was trying hard to listen to the conversation between the ANMs and the mothers in the room filled with crying infants, my eyes were attracted to a bright smile of a woman clad in a greenish brown sari. Nivedita instantly got up from her chair to greet her and it took me only this one moment to realize that she was our Arogya Sakhi (health entrepreneur)-Shobha Tai.
Shobha Tai, our Arogya Sakhi (AS) in the village of Musti showed us around with great enthusiasm. She clearly was one of the most popular people in the Sub-center and the village. After a short village tour, she invited us to her house where some of the pregnant women enrolled with our mMitra services came for their regular check ups. All the enrolled women announced their satisfaction with the mMitra voice call and animation services, while Shobha Tai effortlessly conducted blood pressure tests on them. A brief discussion on adopting healthy practices during pregnancy followed immediately, and the pregnant women listened carefully to Shobha Tai, Nivedita and Kiran. Few minutes before leaving Musti, I requested Shobha Tai to allow me to record a short interview between her and Nivedita on my camcorder and she happily agreed.
She looked at the camera with an unusual confidence, and spoke about how much she loved her role as an AS. According to her, working for the health sector was something she always dreamed; she had trained and worked as an ASHA worker earlier, and therefore becoming an Arogya Sakhi came naturally to her. During her interview she highlighted a very important point and told us that villagers always seek her help in case of any emergencies. For deliveries occurring at night, the pregnant women has to be taken to a Primary Health Center (PHC) at a nearby village named Boramani. During such emergencies, the families of the pregnant women always informs Shobha Tai, who in turn calls the ambulance to take the pregnant woman to the PHC. Shobha Tai, was almost the pillar of trust for the village and most families looked out to her for any healthcare related help.
In the next village Arli, we were greeted by another energetic Arogya Sakhi named Kamla. Kamla Tai, was very hospitable and invited us to her cozy home, she served us Poha (a preparation of rice and peanuts) and sat with us to tell us about her work. She spoke about the passion she nurtured for her work and the respect people showed her for the help she offered. While we were chatting, an enrolled pregnant woman walked in and requested Kamla Tai to check her blood pressure and hemoglobin level. Kamla Tai brought out her asset-the health kit, and conducted the tests with much ease. Tai’s diagnosis showed low hemoglobin level of the pregnant woman, Tai immediately sat down with her and patiently explained the importance of consuming nutrient rich food.
The next village on our itinerary was Tandlewadi, our Arogya Sakhi Savita Tai took us to the local Anganwadi Center (the government sponsored childcare and mother care center), where pregnant women and mothers with infants came to enroll in our mMitra services. The Anganwadi center had neatly arranged desks and benches; the walls were painted with various colorful pictures of fruits, flowers, animals and maps to help children learn their basic general knowledge better. After a conversation with Savita Tai, we got some interesting feedback: according to her after enrolling to the mMitra services, the number of women taking calcium tablets have remarkably increased, additionally a large number of women were very happy to receive the preventive care information. There was high inquisitiveness among women, and they asked lot of questions related to pregnancy and infancy. Savita Tai looked very content with her job and was satisfied that she was helping a community so close to her heart.
Baxi Hipparga, was the last village we visited, our Arogya Sakhi Radha Tai was a confident woman who assumed many roles. She owned a fruit orchard, vegetable farms and an ice-cream and candy selling shop. During school recess, children lined outside her shop to buy their share of ice cream, which she also offered us to eat. While enjoying my favorite flavor of ice cream I listened to her talk. She narrated to us her experience with the enrolled pregnant women and mothers; her experience says that most pregnant women showed a lot of interest and followed the instructions. Many times even the families and spouses came to her with questions as well. Radha Tai’s eyes gleamed with happiness as she spoke about her work and contributions and this marked the end to my enriching experience.