A walk by a caring pediatrician through one of the world’s largest slums inspired the founding of a Mumbai NGO that became a model for how to help poor mothers and families learn about nutrition and protect the health of their children.
From 1999 to 2015, the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (or SNEHA, meaning “affection” in Hindi) grew from a five-member team working on an ad hoc basis and driven by the simple desire to help the poor, to a 360-person institution with focused and integrated programs to nurture the physical and emotional health of its clients.
The development of community-rooted programs with demonstrable impact was a key reason for SNEHA’s success. The approach was simple and two-pronged: spread information about healthy habits and provide the resources to develop them. The second reason for SNEHA’s success was the decision to collaborate with the government to utilize and coordinate public health systems and maximize resources. The government experience of its leaders enabled it to establish government relationships that might have been more difficult for organizations too prone to accept ideas about how government red tape can stand in the way of progress. The bottom line is not red tape, but what is possible.