Our director, Clare Hanbury was in Islamabad, Pakistan July 1-6th. She was re-igniting a relationship with the wonderful organisation that is the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and the umbrella organisation for the several ‘rural support programmes’ in Pakistan, the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN). The organisations that form the RSPN currently reach 32 million Pakistanis so its an NGO with a huge reach.
14 years ago and in her capacity as Director of Learning for Life UK 1998-2000 Clare helped to seed a community school programme that aimed to increase access to local, high quality education for girls in rural villages. This programme has now become a movement and there are many thousands of children attending community schools. What perhaps is the greatest achievement is that these schools have now been officially recognised by the government – some have become public schools and some have remained private and managed by communities themselves. It’s a great success. Although Clare says that she did very little to make this happen she obviously did enough for the NRSP to welcome her as a close friend 14 years on. Visiting them in July felt like she was picking up where she left off such was the ease and the enthusiasm for this new work.
Of course this time the focus was on Children for Health and what could be done to introduce or strengthen health education inputs across the RSPN and specifically the NRSP programmes and if/how we could use mobile.
In the several meetings, Clare demonstrated the ‘pneumonia stone’ – a fun way to introduce children to the idea of rapid breathing – one of the danger signs of acute respiratory infection (when a baby needs medicine fast!); the ‘diarrhoea doll’ – a quick and easy method to teach children why rehydration is needed during and after episodes of diarrhoea and finally the solarisation of water as a method for making water safer at household level in circumstances where access to clean water is difficult.
The team there loved these demos and the other Children for Health ideas for the 100 (messages) and we were soon swapping stories and messages and working out how the mobile phone could help. The NRSP already has some experience in using the mobile phone to help understand what the school councils are doing and what they need. The ‘Rainbow Stick’ was also a hit (!) and the idea of children collecting, learning and sharing each of the 100 messages and these being delivered like a ‘health times table’
Clare took the Children for Health ‘listening parrots’, Zuzu and Zaza and everybody loved meeting them but they didn’t get to meet children this time!
Clare returned happy and inspired and with a concrete plan to return to Pakistan in October to do some master training and mentoring with teachers and health workers in two very different NRSP projects and of course in a way that includes the children too! The British Pakistan Foundation have been interested to hear about her exploratory visit and are interested in helping Children for Health take the next step in Pakistan.