At the end of 2022, I look back on what has been an exceptional year. After two years of isolation and pandemic fear, 2022 brought a return to life similar to what it had been like before COVID. Yet, something had intrinsically changed. Hybrid work environments are now the norm and like in many other workplaces, we at RIST spent some time finding the right hybrid balance that would work for us. We also welcomed new members to our program team and planned itineraries for long-delayed travel and visits to partners.
COVID highlighted the gaps that exist in the healthcare delivery system across India. Even though the country showed swift post-pandemic economic recovery, most of India still does not have access to quality healthcare or education. Conservation work is struggling as it often challenges development and we are striving to find that happy medium of community-supported conservation that does not compromise access to progress. We renewed our commitment to bridging these gaps through our work with qualified partners, and experts in their chosen work. They have allowed RIST support to reach the farthest corners where help is most needed.
Most of the team were able to visit India this year, some of them for the first time as representatives of RIST. Their time in the field was well spent and they came back recharged with renewed excitement for the work we do, brimming with ideas on how we can do better.
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the work of some of our grantee partners in our focus areas. In education, Humana, RIST’s partner since 2018, found a gap in children’s learning levels in government public schools (GPS) in Uttar Pradesh. Their Kadam+ program focused on reducing this gap by implementing their trio methodology and by working hand in hand with the local government to further this model. The program will affect 25,000 children in over 200 schools by providing them with an opportunity to navigate their own learning.
In health, our partnership with Americares continues on a strong foothold with 8 Mobile Health Clinics (MHC) running in 130 locations in Mumbai. The MHCs provided free services and medicines to ensure access to care while the health education and community engagement program contributed to positive behavioral change. This year, Americares also introduced the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support initiative to understand the mental health needs of the community and provide basic services for it. The team continues to work diligently around building awareness of mental health and ensuring timely assistance is in place.
Our conservation work partner, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is implementing a project focusing on Riparian areas that are the worst affected by land use changes and are some of the most neglected in most parts of the world including India. The river Narmada is India’s fifth largest, supporting life and livelihoods for an estimated 50 million people. However, like other river systems, River Narmada faces threats due to the degradation of forests (including riparian areas), water and sand extraction, intensifying pollution, and climate change. With RIST’s support, TNC-India is developing and implementing a science-based, community-led approach to restore 250 hectares of riparian areas in Narmada’s degraded riparian forests to benefit people and biodiversity. The learnings from this program will be used for riparian restoration in Madhya Pradesh, and in turn, foster replication and scaling in areas around other Central Indian rivers.
As we enter 2023, I look forward to these programs and the many others we support, to show their positive impact on the communities we serve. For what is most important is we continue to try to make a difference. One of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes says it best- “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Wishing all of you a healthy and happy 2023.