HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.
Pfizer Global Health Fellow volunteers with Project HOPE in India
Cathy Dunwody volunteered with Project HOPE in India for three months as a Pfizer Global Health Fellow (GHF). During her Fellowship, Cathy partnered with Project HOPE SEA (South East Asia) colleagues to develop an enhanced health program communication strategy and corresponding tools. The GHF Program is Pfizer’s signature international corporate volunteer initiative that places Pfizer colleagues on short-term assignments with leading international development organizations in underserved communities around the world. Below are Cathy’s thoughts upon completion of her official assignment with Project HOPE.
I have been passionate about volunteer work for many years and wanted to apply my extensive Pfizer experiences and acquired skills to one of my core tenets – To those whom much is given, much is expected. Given my entire career has been in an allied health care industry, I wanted to combine my passion with my professional acumen.
Previously I have engaged in shorter term hands-on, community-focused opportunities across the United States, in Guatemala and in Mexico, and these have been some of my most important and rewarding experiences of my life. Alas, I wanted to invest more of me … to invest deeper in a volunteering experience. Participating in the Global Health Fellows program allowed me to volunteer over a longer period of time in an international setting with a premier NGO partner. It allowed me to test my courage, as well as apply my knowledge and strategies I developed over three decades of work at Pfizer in a new setting.
The overall goal for my Fellowship was to assist Project HOPE in developing an enhanced health program communication strategy and program communications tools. In partnership with the team, we were able to deliver a comprehensive communication plan with specific ideas for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and donors. Among the communication tools we developed were: the HOPESEA newsletter; a technical manual on Positive Deviants; inputs for the Project HOPE South East Asia (PH SEA) website; two-page donor “conversation starter” overviews for SEA Region as well as India, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal and Bangladesh; donor and government project presentations and internal process support tools.
The Fellowship afforded me the opportunity to view health care through a unique lens that provided vivid awareness and greater insight into global healthcare issues that require human, financial and technical resources. A key objective in my current role at Pfizer is to incorporate the Triple Aim into customer projects. This means working to simultaneously improve the health of a population, enhance the experience and outcomes of the patient and reduce per capita cost of care for the benefit of all in the community. These doctrines can be applied universally, and my Fellowship helped me see that the best means of improving global healthcare is to share this vision while empowering communities to incorporate local solutions. This is exactly what Project HOPE does around the globe – you activate your vision to enable local solutions to support community healthcare.
This is exactly what Project HOPE does around the globe –
you activate your vision to enable local solutions
to support community healthcare.
Now that I am back in the US, I have committed to continuing to support Project HOPE in my personal time … and thankfully my friends in India have accepted this offer! I say friends as I know I will always have these amazing dear people in my life. The Project HOPE team and India made me a better person. I can only humbly hope that my contributions hold a value for them too.
The truest measure lies not in our service to others, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them.
~ A Buddhist Nun
More than a dozen HOPE medical volunteers are on the ground in Texas providing health services to victims of Hurricane Harvey. HOPE’s team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and mental health professionals are providing a range of health services around the Houston area.
Some care is as simple as providing critical tetanus shots to protect people as they prepare to go back to their flood-damaged homes.
HOPE’s team is also providing much-needed psychosocial support from experts experienced in disaster situations.
Project HOPE has also delivered 500 hygiene kits for people impacted by Harvey and an additional 500 kits are on the way.
As Project HOPE continues to widen its response to the health care consequences of Hurricane Harvey, we are also tracking Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that has already battered parts of the Caribbean and could hit the continental U.S. this weekend. Thank you for your continued support as we monitor the health impact of these storms and continue to respond where the need is greatest.
PART 3: Interactive Engagement Means Better MNCH
Suchi Gaur, Ph.D., HOPE’s Communication Specialist in South-East Asia, visited outlying regions of Nepal where Project HOPE is working to improve health for mothers and children in the most challenging geographic conditions. This is the third of a three-part blog series about her experiences.
Crippled by poverty, seclusion and lack of access, Raksirang Village Development Committee (VDC) in the Makwanpur district of Nepal is also a region plagued with poor maternal and neonatal child health indicators. Project HOPE’s SPARSH-M program is responding through a local team and social mobilizers to train community health workers and health post in-charges as well as educating the community to help bridge gaps between access, quality service and demand.
The participatory nature of the trainings have been immensely valuable in raising the consciousness of women in this VDC, one of the five in which the program operates. One of the highlights of the program has been revitalizing mothers meetings to be more engaging. Recently, I participated in one of these meetings.
The frontline community health worker (FCHV) led a discussion on diarrhea and preventing infections in children, which resulted in great responsiveness and interaction among the mothers in attendance. The program creates awareness and aims to improve practices on quality maternal, neonatal, child health and hygiene services, prompting participants to adopt actionable behaviors. With poor infrastructure, lack of adequate water sources and absence of immediate health services, the fact that most people had a water tank outside their hut for washing hands showed a need for change.
The community women are excited, asking the FCHV for more details. They look forward to the sessions and also push other women to join in.
The Social Mobilizer is a key player in activating these mothers meetings,
traveling from house to house, engaging in conversations, making sure
pregnant, lactating mothers are provided with the best health services and information.
The social Mobilizer is a key player in activating these mothers meetings, traveling from house to house, engaging in conversations, making sure pregnant, lactating mothers are provided with the best health services and information. Despite the community’s overall reluctant attitude towards health services, the rigorous engagement of the Social Mobilizer and his facilitation in the field has made many community members actively seek services. Home visits are an important way to keep the community active and involved in health behavior change. The local team works with local government officials to advocate the successes of SPARSH-M at the institutional level in an effort to scale up good practices throughout the region.
At the end of the session, the nurse provided infants with food while she discussed the challenges she faces. Even though resources are scarce, growing access to urban markets creates a major challenge in preventing young children from getting addicted to fast food and sodas. I was surprised that despite a lack of adequate resources, people were wasting money on unhealthy snacks.
Even though resources are scarce,
growing access to urban markets creates a major challenge in
preventing young children from getting addicted to fast food and sodas.
As I walked down the hill to start the journey back, I realized that in a place where disasters had happened and services were still inadequate, a program like SPARSH-M can provide access and information to even the remotest and least resourced region in Nepal. In a region where basic education, early marriage and multiple pregnancies during adolescence is common, the importance of maternal, neonatal and nutritional education is essential. A program like ours is pushing boundaries.
PART 2: Engaging Conversations over Health
Suchi Gaur, Ph.D., HOPE’s Communication Specialist for Project HOPE in South-East Asia, visited outlying regions of Nepal where Project HOPE is working to improve health for mothers and children in the most challenging geographic conditions. This is the second of a three-part blog series about her experiences.
Nepal is a country of contrasts.
With beautiful landscapes but poor health indicators, Nepal is working its way toward providing better health care solutions to its people. During my recent visit to the program site in Makwanpur’s Raksirang block area, I was able to engage with participants in Project HOPE’s SPARSH-M program for maternal and child health, including the local health post in-charge, Social Mobilizer and a number of community women.
Meeting with the local health post in-charge of Raksirang VDC, I was able to observe the real impact of the SPARSH-M program. We hiked to the top of a hill where the village was situated, and during our steep climb with no marked pathway, it struck me again and again how difficult it is to mobilize communities to travel down to the health post for availing services. As we walked, he narrated his journey in this area and his engagement with the community post SPARSH-M.
When I got posted to this region, I was very sad.
Severe lack of resources and distance issues
made me wonder every day if I should go back.
“When I got posted to this region, I was very sad,” he recalled. “Severe lack of resources and distance issues made me wonder every day if I should go back. When the social mobilizer from the SPARSH-M team connected with me, I was intrigued. With SPARSH-M, I participated in the capacity building activities and training sessions. The sessions on communications, especially appreciative enquiry and community mobilization helped me a lot to start engaging more effectively with the community. Earlier I used to sit and wait for mothers to come to me but now, I actively go and visit them in their homes as well. SPARSH-M also helped support a mobile skilled birth attendant, and that has immensely helped in improving deliveries in the region.”
When we finally reached the village, everyone greeted him, and then, as part of the peer group activities, we began to engage with mothers and young adolescent girls at a mothers meeting. SPARSH-M started its basic work with reactivating the existing mothers groups by changing the way they are conducted so that they are more participatory.
Shankar, the Social Mobilizer, is a key figure in the community. He is responsible for mobilizing communities through dialogue as a way to identify problems and find solutions. He is greeted, welcomed and appreciated by his community for all he does. He is a proud team member of the SPARSH-M program. During my engagements with Shankar, he raised a number of concerns including the belief in superstitions, poor health practices, a lack of adequate resources and the recent change in government.
He raised a number of concerns including the belief in superstitions,
poor health practices, a lack of adequate resources,
and the recent change in government.
“I feel very sad looking at the people and their state,” he said. “The Chepang community has remained secluded from the larger picture for many decades. Through SPARSH, we are trying to address many issues in maternal and neonatal health. But at times, we realize that even issues like sanitation and hygiene, which are not directly linked to the program, need to be addressed to facilitate better health practices. We discuss the harmful effects of early/child marriage because teenage pregnancy and maternal health is a major concern in this area. Through SPARSH, we are trying to solve not only the problem of training the health workers for better service delivery, but also making the community aware so that there is demand for the service.”
SPARSH-M is a step toward better engagement of community as well as better service delivery in this secluded region, so that the gaps in health care can be successfully bridged.
PART 1: Beyond Geographic Barriers
Suchi Gaur, Ph.D., HOPE’s Communication Specialist in Southeast Asia, visited outlying regions of Nepal where Project HOPE is working to improve health for mothers and children in the most challenging geographic conditions. This is the first in a three-part blog series about her experiences.
When most people spoke of Nepal prior to 2015, they referred to the beautiful landscapes, Buddhist shrines, Mount Everest. But after the April 2015 earthquake, people began to look at Nepal differently. The earthquake exposed existing issues in the regional corners of Nepal and also brought new problems, particularly regarding access to health care services and resources.
Health indicators are poor in rural Nepal, compared to national and district data, especially in the remote Makwanpur area, where access to health care is especially challenging. Project HOPE’s SPARSH-M program for maternal and child health operates in five Village Development Committees (VDCs) of this district, within the marginalized and disadvantaged Chepang and Tamang communities. The program is funded by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Project HOPE, and implemented in collaboration with the Nepal Public Health Foundation.
During my recent visit to the program site in Makwanpur’s Raksirang block area, I got an opportunity to not only meet and train the local field team at Hetauda, Makwanpur, but also travel across to Raksirang and interact with the team as they engaged with mothers and adolescent girls, strengthening the health program at the very basic, ground level.
Early morning, as we drove to the local village, we crossed a semi-dry riverbed for a few miles to reach the Raksirang VDC. With untimely rain and water filling up the cervices of the riverbed, our travel turned difficult. While the team discussed going back to the local office or going towards the VDC, I looked around and realized that this region can be completely cut off from the mainland during the monsoon season. The fact that this is one of the most inaccessible and marginalized areas of the country made me think about a complexity of issues regarding community mobilization, the presence or absence of local governance and support, the presence or absence of health facilities and sustainability factors associated with every single health activity implemented in the region.
I observed how this community struggled with traveling all the way from different villages situated on different hills to use these services and imagined how hard it would be for a pregnant woman to walk down to meet the health care provider.
I observed how this community struggled with traveling
all the way from different villages situated on different hills
to use these services and imagined how hard it would be for
a pregnant woman to walk down to meet the health care provider.
Eventually, we managed to reach the entry point for the VDC. With a steep walk to the main area, and no designated walk-way, we managed to reach a flat area, which was the center for all services in the VDC. A quiet, unhygienic and unplanned place, I realized how difficult it must be for the people living on different hills and villages to get to this location to access basic health services.
With SPARSH-M, one of the key objectives has been to improve access and utilization of maternal, neonatal, child health, nutrition services and hygiene practices. I observed how this community struggled with traveling all the way from different villages situated on different hills to use these services and immediately imagined how hard it would be for a pregnant woman to walk down to meet the health care provider.
I am proud that HOPE’s SPARSH-M program is working to address this major challenge in maternal and neonatal health in this remote region, including ensuring that health services are available in every VDC, in an accessible way: training health staff, providing a mobile skilled birth attendant as well as a social mobilizer to act as an immediate help in times of stress.
Get news from the field and updates on how your donations are being put to work.
Read and share stories about Project HOPE with your personal network.