Swasti Health Catalyst – Where Change Really Happens.
Reflections from an IDEX Global Fellow.
28th February, 2019
We have all wondered whether an organization really impacts the community it aims to support and whether it can really make a difference to someone’s life. After going on my first field visit as an IDEX fellow with Swasti Health Catalyst to a school in Bangalore, I was moved by the impact that this organization and its partners have on the children they aim to support. As part of its Invest4Wellness (i4We) program, Swasti is now implementing its first i4We school program. The program is supported by Ashraya Hastha Trust (AHT). It targets 10 schools in Bangalore and focuses on the following areas:
Environmental wellness, which refers to good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being. In collaboration with alumni and corporates, this program ensures adequate and safe water for drinking, hand washing, and toilets. It also aims to provide rainwater harvesting structures and waste disposal systems, and improved seating and ventilation for the classrooms.
Physical wellness, recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep. This program provides annual screening and referrals for all school children, and referrals to local centers for treatment and support at home.
Social wellness, developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. Through this program, the Swasti trainers work with teachers and corporate volunteers on life skill modules, relationship management, personal safety, preventive health and compassion for all living beings. It includes 4 sessions on the same topics for students as well.
Intellectual wellness, recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills. This program focuses on strengthening school and stakeholder engagement including Parent-Teacher-Associations. It also aims to expand cultural and community activities.
Emotional wellness, for coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships. In collaboration with Resilience Works and similar partners, this program provides weekly counselling and coaching sessions for students, teachers and the parents. It is also creating peer counsellors and positive parenting workshops, and strengthening online resources and existing help-lines.
Seeing first-hand what the school program aims to achieve truly amazed me, especially considering the fact that at no point throughout my personal educational experiences in top private schools and universities had I seen or been provided with the same. The health camp that I attended includes a physical examination, where each student is screened for multiple types of illnesses and diseases including those not covered by government health schemes. The results of the examination are then used for creating sustainable solutions. Recognizing the equal importance of mental health, the program also includes a mental health awareness program where students in grades 5-8 are educated on mental health issues and coping mechanisms. Moreover, it includes a WASH program where students are educated on water-borne diseases, the importance of hygiene, and mechanisms that ensure a clean and hygienic lifestyle.
Apart from what it aims to achieve, it was great to see how Swasti achieves sustainable change. For example, it highly values and believes in the power of building relationships with stakeholders across sectors. During my field visit, I was able to see the importance of such collaboration through Swasti’s partnership with Sevamob, an organization that uses AI to enable healthcare. It carries out the actual physical examinations and uses technology to analyze the data, identify the problems, and apply relevant solutions.
The first field visit of my fellowship left me inspired. In one day and one school only, I saw the impact of four different enterprises or initiatives: Swasti, Sevamob, Reap Benefit which introduced Design Thinking to the students, and Akshaya Patra, which introduced the Midday Meal Scheme and across India, currently provides a lunch meal to 120,000,000 students and 1,265,000 schools on daily basis. Bangalore is a true social impact capital rich in ideas, research, innovation, and enterprises that aim to solve social problems, and Swasti Health Catalyst is a leading example of a successful social enterprise where change really happens.