The NALAM Project: Notes from the field

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The Banyan is excited to introduce its most recent venture – NALAM- a participatory, multi-dimensional approach that seeks to address mental health issues by focusing on well-being and alleviating socio-economic distresses.  This exciting initiative will be spearheaded by passionate, skilled community mobilisers in 30 Panchayats of the Thiruporur block, all working towards increased well-being and improved mental health outcomes in their communities.  NALAM is supported by a Grand Challenges Canada Global Mental Health grant. Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada and is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact in global health.

Initiated in October 2013, the formative research phase and baseline studies of the two year action research came to an end in March this year with the first batch of ‘NALAM Community Wellness Mobilisers’ arriving for their 10 day training module. Special sessions were conducted by Dr Srilatha Juvva, from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on ‘Self and Reflexive Practice’ and Dr Kishore, the Director of The Banyan on ‘Mental Health and Well-Being.’ Our sharp, feisty participants were a joy to work with.  The diversity of ages and backgrounds-our youngest NALAM community mobiliser is 21 and our oldest is 50- made it an enriching experience for all involved.

On the first day of training, NALAM Mobilisers were posed two questions on the board (“Describe yourself in a few words” and “Describe an incident/moment/person that brought about a change in your life”) and were asked to think of answers that they would say to be filmed on tape. The result were a series of beautiful, heart-rendering testimonies from strong, independent women dedicated to bringing about positive change; these videos reflect the spark and personality in these women and their effervescent joie de vivre was truly inspiring.

Below are glimpses into some of their incredible stories.

Uma Maheshwari

“For seven years, my husband drank a lot and his mental health was badly affected but I dealt with it on my own.  I couldn’t tell anyone outside because I felt it would reduce my respect. I brought him to The Banyan 4 years ago and he has not drunk a single sip since then…[..].. Why I want to do work like this? I thought about all the people out there, who like me can’t tell anyone about their situation. I thought that I could share my example with these people and help in some way.”

– Uma Maheshwari, Vandalur

Saraswathi

“…whatever work I do, even if I don’t know anything about it, I always have the eagerness to know and learn more. I think men and women are equal and ladies have all the same talents and abilities as men.  Apart from that, I am a chatterbox–sometimes I think I should my chattering but then I only keep getting opportunities to talk more! Like this video! I’m really glad I get this opportunity to do this work as a member of The Banyan. I want to keep learning about things I don’t know. That’s all there really is to say”

– Saraswathi, Melakottaiyur

Jeyapriya

“From a young age, I really wanted to become a nun. There was a sister guiding me from the 6th grade who even came home and asked my parents but they did not agree because we were Hindu. My life went on and I got married but the last thing she said to me was “you can do your service however you want- even after getting married. Just don’t stay without doing it!” She told me to listen patiently when people came to me with problem. So I take all of this and in the way that I know, if someone asks me something, I do the help that I can now.  I’m not coming to say that I do a lot but for what that sister told me continue to do my work passionately and will continue to do so at The Banyan.”

– Jeyapriya, Kovalam

To know more about NALAM, or visit one of the NALAM panchayats, contact:

Malavika Subramanian – +91 94454 73304, malavika@thebanyan.org

Nisha Vinayak – +91 99402 75305, nisha@thebanyan.org

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