Calcutta Kids believes that healthy mothers and children are the foundation of a healthy community. Through community meetings, Calcutta Kids is seeking to engage the collective expertise of the mothers in Fakir Bagan and improve their health through improved collaboration and community cohesion.
Throughout the history of Calcutta Kids, the community has been an integral part of program design and implementation. The community health workers are all women from within two kilometers of the slum where we work. Women are provided with a safe and respectful space for health visits and have a close relationship with health workers, so the reality of each individual’s situation is available to Calcutta Kids to help improve and tailor programs to their specific needs.
Community Health Workers are the face of Calcutta Kids in Fakir Bagan. Each component of MYCHI is made possible with sustained interaction with Calcutta Kids community health workers. CHWs are trained to advocate for, educate, and assist pregnant women, mothers, and children 0-3 years old with their health care needs. They have undergone rigorous training in-house, as well as training from the Community Development Medicinal Unit (CDMU). They are given refresher trainings regularly by MYCHI program coordinator and manager, and the Calcutta Kids doctor. We have three senior community health workers or Area-in-Charges (AICs) and six community health workers (CHWs) who are from the communities they serve or neighboring areas.
Community meetings provide a safe space for women to discuss health issues with each other and with CK health workers. Meetings are also a forum for social interaction and empowerment among women of Fakir Bagan. Relationships between the Calcutta Kids health workers and women have flourished largely because of the monthly community meetings. Community meetings are held for pregnant women, mothers of young children, and mothers of malnourished children. Participants discuss a range of health-related topics. An Area-In-Charge works with the participants in the group and guides the flow of discussion At the beginning of each meeting, women share their own experiences and understandings of the presented health issue. AICs then work from these experiences and perceptions, seeking to provide the women with a more complete understanding of that meeting’s topic. At the end of the meeting, the AIC leads a question and answer session to determine whether the women have understood the information presented. The women are encouraged to put the counseling into practice and to pass their new wisdom on to friends, family, and neighbors. At a recent meeting one woman said, “I like the meetings because it is a chance for women to visit with each other and talk. There is no other place in Fakir Bagan to meet together like this.”
Pregnancy Community Meetings:
Pregnant women are invited to monthly community meetings to discuss topics related to pregnancy and childbirth. The purpose of this meeting is not only to reinforce counseling messages disseminated during the home visits, but more importantly for women to come together as a support group and share stories and experiences during their pregnancy. Outside of the community meetings, women do not have a forum to discuss what they are experiencing and feeling during pregnancy, which can be an emotional and vulnerable time. The Calcutta Kids Pregnancy meetings fill this crucial gap.
Child Health Community Meetings:
Mothers of young children are invited to attend monthly community meetings on child health. The groups are usually formed on the basis of the child’s age, so that relevant topics to the age group (such as feeding) can be discussed. Topics include child feeding practices, complimentary feeding, diarrheal diseases, worm infestation, acute respiratory infection, skin diseases, infant and child care, family planning, and hygiene practices.
Malnutrition Community Meetings:
Until recently, meetings for mothers of malnourished children were incorporated into the regular child health meetings as an additional topic. Following a six month intervention trial (April to October 2011) with severely malnourished children in Fakir Bagan (Read more- Nutrition), we have changed these meetings fundamentally to incorporate recent efforts in community mobilization.
Mothers Support Groups
Calcutta Kids has noticed a lack of community cohesiveness and support among the women and families of Fakir Bagan. Because social support can impact health outcomes, we set up a pilot support group to see if this is a model that can work in our community. This pilot group consists of eight mothers of severely malnourished children, most who did not show improvements in the six month nutrition trial. Using elements of community mobilization and participatory development, it is hoped that this group, along with facilitation by CK health workers, will find sustainable solutions to addressing the pervasive challenge of malnutrition in Fakir Bagan.
The women come to the meetings without being asked, and have brought many public health challenges to our attention. They are interested in making an impact on the community, and have been providing outreach to other mothers with malnourished children. Through weekly group sessions, the women have grown close together and are comfortable discussing their challenges and hopes for improvements in their family and community.
Maa O Sishu Siksha Kendra (Community Center)
On Wednesday, January 11, 2011, Calcutta Kids opened Maa O Sishu Siksha Kendra, the Calcutta Kids Community Center. The center is located within the slum of Fakir Bagan and will serve as a gathering place for our community outreach activities, as well as our monthly growth monitoring and promotion program.