Tag Archives: public health

Welcome To Our New Trustees

On the top of the agenda for Calcutta Kids during the year 2013 is sustainability. Too often in development the word sustainability is meant only to refer to financial sustainability.  But one of the major challenges development workers face in the field is organizational sustainability—how will the organization manage times of uncertainty and change; how will the vision and passion of the founder remain present in the team in such a profound way as to drive them without the physical presence of the founder? Since its inception Calcutta Kids has been focused on ensuring successful implementation of its programs in order to achieve its objectives. As significant changes in health indicators are now visible and attributable to our interventions, the obvious next step is to focus on the sustainability of the organizational systems and then scale up.

In the summer of 2012 following the unexpected death of our co-founding trustee in India, Mrs. Shwasti Chaudhuri, we inducted two dynamic new trustees to help guide the organization. I’m pleased to introduce Mr. Sudipta Sinha Roy and Mr. John Ambat. In the past several months, both of these trustees have spent a considerable amount of time at Calcutta Kids getting to know the staff and observing and participating in our activities. Aware of the organization’s desire to scale up, both John and Sudipta are carefully analyzing the existing systems and policies with regard to accounts, investments and human resources to ensure that we are ready.

Both Sudipta and John run their own companies and are able to provide 360 degree visions of how to run an organization in India. Given their rich professional experiences and backgrounds, they are able to guide Calcutta Kids to improve organizational sustainability.

A major challenge faced by organizations in the non-profit-sector in India is that of striking the right balance between policies guided by standards versus emotions. Individuals who choose to work in the non-profit-sector usually do so because of an emotional desire to serve the poor. A common purpose among a group of devoted employees often creates a feeling of family which certainly improves service delivery. But it also makes it difficult to standardize systems and ensure smooth functioning of the organization. In order to ensure healthy sustainability and growth, it is crucial for us to create an environment with a balance—one where we maintain an environment in which the staff feel like family, and is also able to function in a manner in which standardized policies and guidelines are followed. As we prepare to grow and move forward, we are confident in the guidance and support of the newest additions to our Board.

John and Sudipta have already proven to be wise additions to the governing body of Calcutta Kids. As do all of our trustees, they believe deeply in the work of Calcutta Kids and are committed to the organization’s sustainability and growth.–Noah Levinson and Evangeline Ambat

AIF Fellow impressions 2012-13 (2 of 2)

On our first day working as fellows at Calcutta Kids, about a month back now, Sriya and I found ourselves rolling our pant-legs up and wading into dark, murky water. We were walking door-to-door with the community health workers in Fakir Bagan. The health workers, who form the foundation of CK’s mission, cajoled and persuaded, informed and explained, about the basic behaviors that were essential for their health and the health of the child in their womb. I realized then, as the gentle fans in the homes of the expecting mothers did a valiant effort to dry our monsoon rain-soaked clothes, that public health didn’t get more grassroots than this. Calcutta Kids worked, rain or shine, at the deepest and most essential roots of maternal and child health, in areas that are black holes in the larger Indian public health system.

Cleaning the drains in Fakir Bagan

Compared to the U.S., Calcutta is, of course, a risky place. One thing that I heard many times from family and friends was to take care of my health. But the truth is no matter how much riskier my life has gotten since I came to Calcutta from Ohio, daily life for an inhabitant of Fakir Bagan is laden with an immensely greater amount of risk. We can look to life expectancy (an admittedly crude indicator). Life expectancy at birth in the U.S. is 78.5 years, and in India it’s 67.1 years (CIA World Factbook 2012). These are averages though; estimates of life expectancy in slums across the globe, ones similar to Fakir Bagan have ranged from seven to fifteen years lower than non-slum urban areas. The risks begin at the very beginning of life and continue throughout, and are not far from what the average American would have faced a century ago.

A healthy CK child

In my view, all health providers at their core attempt to mitigate and prevent risk for their beneficiaries. At the most essential and highest impact stages of life, Calcutta Kids tackles this vast disparity for risk of death and illness. I’ve seen this done through a myriad of MCH programs, including nutrition for malnourished children, regular immunization, check-ups with an on-staff physician, and regular meetings with our health workers.

Immunizations about to be given

Over the next year, Calcutta Kids’s capacity to be involved and engaged within the community will increase, including the behavior change communication programs and community health meetings Sriya will be aiding with as well as the new child development corner. Additionally, Calcutta Kids will be transitioning the health clinic into the Ma o Shishu Shiksha Kendra community center, right in the thick of Fakir Bagan, and initiating a potential geographical expansion within the Howrah slums. I look forward to helping with these goals throughout the year and many more rain soaked home visits.–Pranav Reddy (AIF William J. Clinton Fellow 2012-2013)