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Feb 5, 2019

Prioritizing the women we partner with: welcoming complexity and planning longterm

Have you ever read Priyam Global's Manifesto? It's a little paragraph that outlines Priyam Global's core values. Focus on relationships. Brainstorm often and together. Welcome complexity. Evaluate and pivot. Be dynamic. Plan for the longterm. Stay humble. First drafted in 2015, that little paragraph continues to shape how we operate today.

Our plans to expand into rural areas of Chennai in early 2019 were based on careful thought and detailed evaluations of the situation in the communities where we work, alongside a realistic perspective of what we currently know and what we still need to learn. After two years of piloting our MAHLA project, which supports mothers of children with disabilities to develop self-confidence, strong friendships, and income-generating skills, we felt pretty confident that we had enough experience to begin turning our focus outward – beyond the families of children enrolled in our partner Hope School. 

But then, at the end of our second pilot year in December 2018, we interviewed every woman who has graduated from our program (a total of 24) and held several group conversations to hear their feedback and get a sense for how equipped they actually were to maintain lasting change for themselves and their families.

What evolved from these conversations was a two-fold realization:

  1. Our program is meeting the real needs of mothers and resulting in lasting emotional and mental improvement. This is illustrated by the 0% drop-out rate from our program, the steady attendance, and the obvious ease and love between the mothers compared to their withdrawn and anxious states at the beginning of the program.

  2. Equipping mothers with skills and knowledge, improving their wellbeing, and helping them to create the ability to make lasting change was the first step; now we need to support their own leadership capacity. The mothers unanimously requested a six month extension of the program, which we are referring to as Phase 2. In this phase, mothers from our first and second cohorts will be combined into a single group. Now that the mothers have useful skills and a wider perspective of their own value and worth, we need to teach them how to use their skills: how to set goals and objectives, how to problem solve, and how to advocate for their own needs. Taking part in our program infused the women with forward momentum, and now through practice and a modified version of support, we will work to ensure that this momentum is deeply ingrained and sustainable.

We have decided to grant the mothers' request and enrolled all 24 mothers in Phase 2, which begins this week! The women will have 6 months to practice together, teach each other, and work to meet various product targets. We are developing a personal capacity-building curriculum, and the women will participate in ongoing workshops to articulate their dreams, set goals, set priorities, solve problems creatively, and develop ther new-found confidence.

The standard approach for development and poverty alleviation programs is to set a fixed timeline based on funding and to end the program at a pre-determined time. However, the result of this is that the globe is littered with development projects that have ended too early or in the wrong way, and as a result any progress made during the project is lost. This is a waste of time, resources, effort, and hope.

We believe that by providing this additional support to the women in our program, who have consistently proven their commitment to improving their situations and making the life that they hope for, we will safeguard the investment we have already made in their lives. We also believe that a strengthened and unified family (as the MAHLA mothers refer to themselves) will become a self-sustaining network of mothers that can grow organically, a network that expands through the leadership of women who have already graduated.

We still plan to expand to rural areas, but have put that plan on hold for the next few months.

As always, feel free to email info@priyamglobal.org if you have any questions about our program. It is the power of individual donations that allows us the flexibility we need to continually improve our project based on the complexities of real lives, real people, and real possibilities. Thank you for funding this project!

Feb 4, 2019

Welcoming complexity and planning longterm

Have you ever read Priyam Global's Manifesto? It's a little paragraph that outlines Priyam Global's core values. Focus on relationships. Brainstorm often and together. Welcome complexity. Evaluate and pivot. Be dynamic. Plan for the longterm. Stay humble. First drafted in 2015, that little paragraph continues to shape how we operate today.

Our plans to expand into rural areas of Chennai in early 2019 were based on careful thought and detailed evaluations of the situation in the communities where we work, alongside a realistic perspective of what we currently know and what we still need to learn. After two years of piloting our MAHLA project, which supports mothers of children with disabilities to develop self-confidence, strong friendships, and income-generating skills, we felt pretty confident that we had enough experience to begin turning our focus outward – beyond the families of children enrolled in our partner Hope School. 

Then, at the end of our second pilot year in December 2018, we interviewed every woman who has graduated from our program (a total of 24) and held several group conversations to hear their feedback and get a sense for how equipped they actually were to maintain lasting change for themselves and their families.

What evolved from these conversations was a two-fold realization:

  1. Our program is meeting the real needs of mothers and resulting in lasting emotional and mental improvement. This is illustrated by the 0% drop-out rate from our program, the steady attendance, and the obvious ease and love between the mothers compared to their withdrawn and anxious states at the beginning of the program.

  2. Equipping mothers with skills and knowledge, improving their wellbeing, and helping them to create the ability to make lasting change was the first step; now we need to support their own leadership capacity. The mothers unanimously requested a six month extension of the program, which we are referring to as Phase 2. In this phase, mothers from our first and second cohorts will be combined into a single group. Now that the mothers have useful skills and a wider perspective of their own value and worth, we need to teach them how to use their skills: how to set goals and objectives, how to problem solve, and how to advocate for their own needs. Taking part in our program infused the women with forward momentum, and now through practice and a modified version of support, we will work to ensure that this momentum is deeply ingrained and sustainable.

We have decided to grant the mothers' request and enrolled all 24 mothers in Phase 2, which begins this week! The women will have 6 months to practice together, teach each other, and work to meet various product targets. We are developing a personal capacity-building curriculum, and the women will participate in ongoing workshops to articulate their dreams, set goals, set priorities, solve problems creatively, and develop ther new-found confidence.

The standard approach for development and poverty alleviation programs is to set a fixed timeline based on funding and to end the program at a pre-determined time. However, the result of this is that the globe is littered with development projects that have ended too early or in the wrong way, and as a result any progress made during the project is lost. This is a waste of time, resources, effort, and hope.

We believe that by providing this additional support to the women in our program, who have consistently proven their commitment to improving their situations and making the life that they hope for, we will safeguard the investment we have already made in their lives. We also believe that a strengthened and unified family (as the MAHLA mothers refer to themselves) will become a self-sustaining network of mothers that can grow organically, a network that expands through the leadership of women who have already graduated.

We still plan to expand to rural areas, but have put that plan on hold for the next few months.

As always, feel free to email info@priyamglobal.org if you have any questions about our program. It is the power of individual donations that allows us the flexibility we need to continually improve our project based on the complexities of real lives, real people, and real possibilities. Thank you for funding this project!

Dec 28, 2018

Saranya's Story

Saranya, December 2018
Saranya, December 2018

Saranya is a wife and mother of two children. When her youngest daughter was born with a developmental disability, everyone in Saranya’s life blamed her. Before enrolling in Priyam’s program for mothers of children with disabilities, Saranya’s life played out in her home—she had no reason to leave her house, and felt very isolated. She could not find a job that was flexible enough to also allow for her to care for her daughter, as each morning and afternoon she needs to accompany her to and from a special education school. Saranya became depressed, and the poverty that her family lived in made everything worse. But then she was given an unexpected opportunity when she was invited to join Priyam Global’s MAHLA (Mothers Access Health, Livelihoods, and Advocacy) program in 2018. We sat down with Saranya earlier this month to hear in her own words how being a part of this program has changed her life.

Interview designed and edited by Michaela, Priyam Global director. Interview led and translated by Gereena, Priyam Global social worker and program coordinator.

 

G: Before you joined the program, describe how you felt about your life at the time. What thoughts and feelings did you have most often?

S: Before joining this program, my life was a question mark without any answer. I felt very lonely and isolated. I would go outside and mingle with society, but I was unable to share my happiness with my family, friends, or relatives. Very often I felt I must have committed some sin in my life, which is why god has given me a special [needs] child. Everyone ignored me since I had a special child. I was not able to attend any family occasions because they would see me with pity and talk behind my back. This made me feel upset and weak.

G: Before you joined the program, describe how you spent your time. For example, describe what would happen in a typical day.

S: Before joining this program, I mostly spent my time doing household work and taking care of my three children after they came back from school. My entire world was in that house; without any rest, I was the only one behind all of the things that needed to be done to maintain a good family, without any encouragement from anyone, including from relatives or friends.

G: For you specifically, what was the best part about being in the MAHLA program?

The best part about the MAHLA program is that we [the mothers in the program] were able to develop many new friendships and we began to know each other very well. Before the program, no one knew each other, but now we have all become like one big family. 

G: What has changed in your life and in you since you have been in the MAHLA program?

S: The best way that my life changed through the MAHLA program is that I now feel that I am a “super mom”. I don’t compare with others anymore and I celebrate each and every little thing around me. I made new friends with whom I can share my thoughts and experiences freely. I am no longer experiencing as much depression after entering into the Mahla project. I have also become more aware of health: cleanliness, hygiene, and nutrition because of the education sessions. Now I am focused on creating a life where I can live for many more years with my child.

G: What did you learn about yourself during the program? Did you discover anything new about your talents or interests, your feelings or your personality?

S: This project made a drastic change in everyone’s life, not only mine. I didn’t miss any of the training hours or educational sessions because I wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible.  This knowledge has allowed me to improve my personality and gather new ideas to develop and grow as a women with a special [needs] child. Before coming to this program I built a barrier for myself in which I believed I couldn’t do anything new. I would always depend on my husband as I didn’t have a proper education. Now I have developed courage and self-confidence through continuous training and awareness classes. I would like share my experiences and knowledge with [other mothers] so they can feel motivated to become independent in their own life.

G: Has anything changed in your family because of the program? For example, has your relationship with your husband changed? Has your relationship with (or understanding of) your special needs child changed?

S: Of course, many changes have occurred because of the project, especially within my husband. Previously, he did not involve me in anything. However, after I started learning new skills he got began to believe that I could acquire a better position by earning more money. My family members and friends now have more respect for me and even ask my opinion for new innovations in their life. This has made me feel like the happiest person in the world. If I had said no to [joining] this project I would feel like I was of no value, like trash in my house. My future has truly changed from this program — now I have the confidence to face any problems or issues that can happen. My past was a tragedy and my present was unhealthy, but now I would like to make some changes in the future, not only through my personality but from being able to stay stable and strong. I am so thankful that I had an opportunity through this MAHLA project.

 
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