The Hope Foundation held 2-Day Annual Community Volunteer Meet to celebrate the outstanding efforts of our hundreds of community health and environment volunteers who are change-agents in the 35 slum communities across Kolkata and Howrah.
On the 3rd and 4th March, The Community Health and Environment Volunteers came together to highlight the important Community Health and Environment issues, affecting the daily life of the slum population of Kolkata and Howrah. By performing dramas and role-plays, showing video capsules, carrying out case study presentations and participating in fun but informative quizzes, the Volunteers were given the opportunity to exhibit their creative advocacy skills, while emphasizing some highly critical health, gender and environmental hygiene issues.
Less than a third of population have access to sanitation in India and over 186,000 children under five die from diarrhoeal diseases every year (Wateraid.org, 2014). A report by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) estimated that the total annual impact of inadequate sanitation in India amounted to a loss of INR 2.4 trillion (WSP, 2006). With the help of the Community Volunteers, the Hope Foundation and its partner NGO’s, PBKOJP and SEED, demonstrate that even minor changes every day can reflect a sharp decrease in the infections and disease experienced within close knit communities. By working in tandem with the Indian Government, the aim is to integrate safe and hygienic practice into everyday slum life and thus ensure increased good health, and the concerted efforts are already paying off!
These exciting two days were a chance for the Hope Foundation to recognise and show appreciation for, the exceptional dedication that the Volunteers demonstrate in making their communities safer, cleaner and more habitable. Not only have these men and women become pillars of their community, they have become an irrefutably vital part of The Hope Foundation’s overall aim of promoting Education, Protection, Health and the opportunity to obtain vocational skills and achieve employment to ensure development and poverty alleviation of the disadvantaged sections of the society. By providing each community with accurate information about sanitisation and hygienic practice, the Community Volunteers are consistently helping to ensure a safer, healthier future for the thousands of men, women and children that live in the dark one-room shanties in Kolkata and Howrah. By raising awareness of the education support and vocational training available through the Hope Foundation and other institutions, for boys AND for girls, the Volunteers encourage male and female education and employment in their communities and the belief that men and women can avail of equal opportunities. Young marriage is NOT the only option for a young female in Kolkata, underage employment is NOT a situation to be accepted and good health IS attainable.
Day 1 which was Health Volunteers Meet started with lighting the inaugural lamp by the Directors of The Hope Foundation and Hope Kolkata Foundation and special guests such as councillors of Municipality Wards of Kolkata. The first set of programme was 10-minute drama on gender, health and child right issues. Participants were Community Health Volunteer Groups from Hope Kolkata Foundation (HKF) North, South and Howrah and Paschim Banga Krira O Jana Kalyan Parishad (PBKOJP) I & II. Hope Kolkata North presented a strong view on Female Empowerment and gender equality in the community and projected the changing perception of different generations towards women employment. HKF Howrah discussed the stigma attached to Leprosy and the perception that it is difficult and expensive to treat in a drama form. This play, the winner of the competition, highlighted that Leprosy is CURABLE and treatment is FREE in government hospitals. The three other groups also made notable drama presentations. HKF South’s drama on child labour was characterized by outstanding performance by the south community children. PBKOJP II presented New Morning emphasizing the need for eradication of early marriage and domestic violence and PBKOJP I projected the society’s apathy towards disabled people and how that could be changed to a positive attitude.
‘I express all my best wishes and support to HOPE FOUNDATION and its 1000 community based change making volunteers for their remarkable contribution towards creating sustainable development through realistic solutions and heart touching care for the fellow citizens in the field of preventive and curative health care services.’ Ms Sunanda Mukherjee, Chairperson, Commission for Women Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata
The drama was followed by awarding Shibani Adhikari of Panchanantala Slum Community the Outstanding Health Volunteer of the Year Trophy. Mr. Debashish Kumar, Hon’ble Member Mayor In Council, of Kolkata Municipality, was invited to do the honours.
Next was a short video on the work the Health Volunteers under HOPE’s Community Health Programme or Jana Swastha Suraksha.
A quiz on Public Health marked the end of the first day. The 5 groups namely HKF North, South, Howrah and PBKOJP I & II participated gave each other steep competition but at the end of four exciting rounds, HKF South emerged as the winner.
The first, second, third prize winners in all categories were given prizes amidst deafening claps and cheering. Day 2 saw the Community Environment Volunteers Meet. The day started with screening 5 min. video capsules made by Environment Volunteers in association with Community Video Unit. In their video capsule, PBKOJP II covered the importance of taking responsibility for the garbage our daily living produces and highlights a community’s duty to avoid littering and dispose of their garbage responsibly in order to avoid open garbage heaps and the vermin and diseases that they attract. HKF North presented their video capsule on water pollution and the health risks and problems caused by sanitation practices using contaminated water. This video in particular discouraged washing in open water bodies, such as ponds and rivers and promoted hygienic toilet usage. HKF South, Howrah and PBKOJP I presented strong environmental issues as well through their video capsules.
Next was impromptu presentation of topics using effective props. PBKOJP I used colourful posters to discuss the importance of hygienic toilet use and sanitised water facilities as their topic was sanitation. HKF Howrah effectively discussed the problems experienced during the monsoon season when the underground sewage systems overflow. They also promoted the use of biodegradable products and recycling to create sustainable energy. HKF Howrah used an extremely creative puppet show to discuss the problems that are caused by the rainy season and how best to overcome them. This was an ingeniously creative way to present.
The last two events were quizzes for CEV groups followed by staff members and social workers of HOPE’s partner organizations. Quite difficult questions on environment, health and hygiene were battled by the teams as the audience cheered them on. Amongst the volunteer teams, HKF South won and in the quiz for the staff, PBKOJP II won by a whopping 40 points! with their efforts in the coming days. The 2-day meet was brought to an end by an inspiring speech by Paulami Dey Sarkar, Programme Director of The Hope Foundation who described the meet as a celebration of achievements and motivated the volunteers to keep up with their efforts in the coming days.
Prizes were given away by Jenny Brown, Overseas Director of HOPE, Ann Marie Murray, Overseas Director of HOPE and the judges, Rima Guha, English Language Instructor at HOPE and Paulami.
The 2-day event was attended by many distinguished personalities who addressed the gathering with encouraging words and praises for HOPE’s efforts. Some of the guests were, Professor Madhusmita Sengupta, Head of Department, Pediatric Medicine, Chitta Ranjan Shishu Sadan, Dr. Shaunabha Dutta, Super of Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, Shamina Rehman, Councilor of KMC 78 ward, Manjushree Majumdar, Councilor of KMC 83 Ward and Officer in Charge of Wattgunge Police Station.
The curtain was drawn leaving smiles on all present- HOPE and Partner Staff and of course the Volunteers who immensely enjoyed the programme, the fun and lip-smacking food. Tremendous hard work was put forth by the staff of HOPE India office as well as the coordinators of partner organizations to make the event a success. Kudos to all as the next year’s meet is eagerly awaited.
Shibani Adhikary, Community Health Volunteer from Panchanantala receiving Health Award from Member Mayor in Council, Mr. Debashish Kumar for Being the Change Agent.