Imagine what India will look like if all our children are born healthy, grow up with a healthy and developed brain and body, and become productive members for the country! Imagine what that scale of economic growth will do for our country if malnutrition stops threatening our future. – Piyasree Mukherjee, FMCH
“Health is Wealth” – We have grown up hearing this from our parents. I used to roll my eyes every time mom said that to make me have my fruits, and most of us still look at this and imagine nothing more but a poster outside a public hospital.
But for others, who dream of uplifting a country from poverty, access to nutrition and health care is the first step. Because without access to health care, we cannot dream of letting the children of this country reach their full potential.
While Healthcare is a state subject, there are many independent institutions doing great work in ensuring basic health care services to those who cannot afford it.
One such institution is Foundation for Mother & Child Health (FMCH), which dreams of a world where the potential of each child is not curtailed due to poor early health or malnutrition.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with Piyasree Mukherjee, CEO of FMCH. She holds a Masters Degree in Social Work and has over 14 years of experience in the nonprofit space in India. She has been with FMCH since the year 2011 and plays a key role in the successful functioning of the organisation. Here’s what she had to say:
Could you tell us a little about some of your best experiences at FMCH?
I think I will start with my very first month at FMCH, back in 2011. We had an infant (six-month-old baby girl) in a community we were working at with tuberculosis and severe acute malnutrition. This child had been in the hospital for over a month getting treated for TB and her family had lost hope of her survival. When the FMCH team found out about her, we designed a special care plan for her which included daily visits, supplementary nutrition and regular check-ups at our community center. The other task at hand was to be on-call with the family, especially her mother, ensuring we are able to answer her questions or hear her out when she feels fear for her child.
It took about three months but the child fought back and recovered. We continued to work with her and her family, and a year later she was on her feet, a healthy 2-year-old girl running around and being a child. Hers was the first success I witnessed and it helped me continue on at FMCH.
Another favourite moment of mine at FMCH was the day we hosted a community event at Dhobi Ghat to mark our exit from the community. Dhobi Ghat was FMCH’s very first intervention area and we had worked hard and long to ensure we were not needed any more. This day we were celebrating with the community, and formally handing over charge of the community’s health and nutrition to the several support groups we had formed with women from the area and worked with over a year to arrive at this day. At the event, I was told we will have some ’performances’ by children. I saw children who grew up with FMCH coming on to the stage to dance. For the entire team and of course me it was a moment of pure joy (and a tear-jerking moment) to witness a group of little girls who we knew as infants, healthy and happy, and reaching out to meet their potential.
And finally, I think what kept me going at FMCH for the past 7 years is the team of smart, talented, committed, strong women who form the frontline at FMCH. These women are from the communities we work in. They face many challenges on a daily basis but show up to work every day, ready to make the dream of healthy women and thriving children come true. These women have been my true inspiration. I draw tremendous strength from their grit, their determination and their ability to face challenges, and hope someday I will be like them.
What are your requirements to keep the work you do going?
For any non-profit with direct interventions on the ground (programs that directly deal with people, especially delivering services) a steady flow of funding is crucial. For example, if the need on the ground is to deliver antenatal care to 500 women in a year, the FMCH team requires funding to come in at periodic and predictable intervals, because the actual service delivery period for every pregnant woman is fixed (she remains pregnant for nine months only). Therefore, at FMCH we plan for funding ahead of time, through various sources, which helps us deliver quality services in a timely manner.
Another critical piece of intervention for a front-line agency such as FMCH is building capacities of the front-line team who actually deliver the services. There cannot be a direct intervention without the team on the ground meeting families every day to identify their needs and delivering services. Therefore, it is imperative to invest in their training, building capacities and refreshing their knowledge at regular intervals.
How has your journey with our monthly giving platform been?
For a high-priced program like ours on the monthly subscription platform, we are encouraged by the fact that there are people who chose to support FMCH’s endeavour to bring quality antenatal care for socioeconomically vulnerable women. This intervention is critical in many ways, and the very fact that donors are identifying it as a cause they wish to support helps us increase our reach to many more women on the ground, on a monthly basis.
What would you like to tell someone who may be interested in donating to FMCH?
Invest in nutrition, because it will directly lead to investing in India’s future. Our country at present is dealing with a massive challenge of addressing malnutrition, especially among women and children. If we invest in interventions that are designed to prevent malnutrition on the ground, it will have a direct impact on the country’s economy, because at present it is costing the country almost 4% of its GDP.
Imagine what India will look like if all our children are born healthy, grow up with a healthy and developed brain and body, and become productive members for the country! Imagine what that scale of economic growth will do for our country if malnutrition stops threatening our future.
Click here to subscribe to give monthly for the work done by FMCH. Your support will help them reach out to more mothers and children in need across India.