Society for Community Health Awareness Research and Action

The CHLP Fellowship: A community health journey

Jyothi Lakshmi CR and Vishan Devda

The Community Health Learning Programme (CHLP) takes participants in the fellowship through a journey of field experience and inside learning, ultimately transforming their perspectives of community health. The ten-month learning course stimulates attitudinal changes that illustrate values and knowledge about community health through a ‘bottom-up’ approach. The CHLP fellows (2014-2015) represent various states of India including Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Karnataka.


Jyothi Lakshmi CR 

Jyothi Lakshmi hails from Thrissur, Kerala. She holds an M.Phil in Social work and has experience of over ten years in the development field with various NGOs. She was working as a Psychosocial Consultant at Empower Global Society, Bangalore prior to joining the Community Health Learning Program (CHLP).  She worked as a Medical Social Worker in Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Cochin and was the Head of Department of Social Work at Ansar Women’s College, Thrissur.

Jyothi Lakshmi joined CHLP with the aim of expanding her intellectual and emotional horizons in developing a strong commitment (in her own way) towards social change that promotes equity and justice in the field of health. Her main areas of interest lie in medical ethics, end of life care issues, mental health of adolescent boys and environmental health.

Learning at SOCHARA

The ‘bottom-up’ approach of SOCHARA has been very useful in enhancing her knowledge and experience related to development and community health. This learning has changed her thinking when considering ethical perspectives in ‘end of life’ care issues.

Joining the CHLP course in January 2014 has helped Jyothi Lakshmi move from a social work background towards other new health dimensions. This transformation period has been and continues to be crucial in changing her attitude and approach to community health. At SOCHARA she has learnt about the determinants of health. The community health approach opened up new horizons and created a rich experience during the CHLP course.

Field experience
Jyothi Lakshmi opted to do her field work in Gudlur, Nilgiris, where one of SOCHARAs’ mentoring partners - ACCORD works with tribal communities.  They work on economic recovery, education and development programmes for tribal communities, as well as health-related work,  that is focused on mental health. She has helped them renew the project to sustain their initiatives. Their non-hierarchical structure and community approach makes a difference and most of the staff belong to the tribal community.

During her field work, she gained an understanding of the tribal culture, community, health and lifestyle. She also learned of the problems associated with alcoholism; and an intervention approach.

"The culture of the community is homogenous but influenced by globalisation and outside intervention. They are confused and lack an identity of their own.” – says Jyothi Lakshmi.

After ACCORD’s intervention, the community leaders are empowered and help the needy. Due to Adivasi Munnetra Sangham they have a feeling of togetherness and are now proud about their culture and preservation. The main challenge lies in addressing their development without affecting their culture and lifestyle.

Jyothi Lakshmi’s main learning - ” We should not look at from our angle to learn from communities, don’t look from our cultural background. Be compassionate and be with them” [sic].

Vishan Devda

Vishan Singh is from Harda in Madhya Pradesh and is a graduate in science (BSc). He joined the CHLP Fellowship programme in 2014 and has just completed the course.

His early experience at Synergy as a volunteer helped him to gain knowledge and experience in child-related issues such as child sexual abuse, run away children, education etc. Under Synergy, he also had the opportunity of working with self help groups, community mobilization, awareness and advocacy for TB treatment, awareness on domestic violence, the School Management Committee (SMC) and the Village Health & Sanitation Committee (VHSC).

Learning at SOCHARA 
The CHLP learning programme has helped him to get new insights into the way SOCHARA looks at communities through the lens of rights and equity and envisages a community which is free from discrimination and is more equity oriented.

Field learning
Vishan’s field placement was at Harda District in MP, in the Korku hamlets, where he gained an understanding of local living habits, infrastructure issues, MNREGS implementation, sanitation, local health care tradition and practices.

In the field programme in Madhya Pradesh, Vishan was able to identify the gap in health care delivery and services. The time he spent with the organisation also helped him to learn more about public health systems. He had spent sufficient time at SOCHARA to participate in the in-house training and nurture and enhance his knowledge on community health from the field.

Highlights of Vishan’s health-related learning:

  • For Anganwadi positions, there was little emphasis on non-formal pre-school education
  • If ASHA workers were women from a lower caste, they faced a lot of difficulties and challenges in working with communities. The higher caste people would not cooperate and not allow them to enter their homes.
  • Poor emphasis on supplementary feeding among children between 6 months-1 year; elder children take care of the young while their mothers work in the field,  awareness about supplementary feeding is lacking.
  • Health sub centres do not function well and are open for limited days in a month.
  • There is no proper care and respect for people with mental illness and absolutely no treatment available at Government facilities