On Jan 2, during my visit to Mumbai, I visted a project there called “Aural Education for the Hearing Impaired”. AURED as most of you know is a project we fund in Mumbai that works with children that are hearing impaired. Here is my report from the visit.
AURED pretty much survives on grants and foundations. The AURED model itself cannot be self-sustained as close to 80% of the children AURED caters to are from very low income groups. Thus, the only sustenance comes from grants or foundations.
AURED in Mumbai
AURED’s biggest issue in Mumbai has nothing to with what AURED actually does – it has to do with supporting and related issues to what AURED actually does. In many cases if not most cases a lot of families that avail of AURED’s services come from out of station. Guess what happens now – they just show up at AURED’s door-step with bags and baggage and all (child and parents all together). Now, the complete diagnosis and therapy process may go from twice a week for a duration of a month, to a crash one week diagnosis and therapy depending on whether the family has a place to stay. Thus, AURED’s biggest issue here becomes housing low income people from out of state that have just shown up at AURED’s doorstep. This truly is their biggest problem in Mumbai.
It is interesting to note two things
- That AURED spends a considerable amount of the therapy time on the child’s parents along with the hearing impaired Child itself. Its about teaching the parents how to communicate and provide therapy themselves to the child at home – else the child will have to continue to reside in Mumbai for a very long time. Thus, AURED spends a significant amount of time on the child’s parents.
- That AURED has spent close to 28 years doing what it does and is one of the best institutions in India to do what it does. Thus, there are a lot of people across the country that wish to be trained by AURED or that AURED can recruit and train if the necessary “housing-during-training” and recruitment growth capital are made available.
Now I asked Aziza (AURED’s founder) about scaling and how one can expand AURED’s capabilities. She mentioned she has a center started in Hyderabad. One lady from Hyderabad who’s child availed of the AURED service, decided to start an AURED in Hyd. She got trained in Mumbai and then started in Hyd. When she started, she had 3 children that started coming to her for the service. Thus, she ran it from her house in Hyd. Now, Hyd has become the equivalent of AURED-SOUTH where kids and families come from all over South India to Hyd. This lady now caters to 44 children from her home in Hyd. Thus, guess what the problem is here now – it’s the same as Mumbai – they need an office space so that this lady does not have 44 kids coming to her house every week. A similar AURED center can of course be started in the north – if a space is available.
Another interesting fact to know is that AURED now has international acclaim – people bring their kids all the way from Africa too. A lady brought her child from Nigeria to AURED. She then herself got trained by AURED and has now started an AURED center in Nigeria.
Another issue we discussed at length that AURED needs help with is assuring it meets its annual budgetary requirements. They of course try and take whatever they can from any of the families that come in – if of course the family can make a payment. However, they never decline a family irrespective of whether the family has a capability to pay or not. The annual AURED budget is Rs.36 Lacs per year (USD 75,000) . Thus, we discussed ways of breaking this down to 36 one-lac commitments from various donors in Mumbai itself. AURED is going to pursue this too. Our Mumbai volunteers could of course assist here once we can start raising money in India in about 2 months.
Thus, all in all, AURED depends significantly on Vibha and our continued support to them is important. I met 8 Mumbai volunteers later on Saturday and informed them of all the areas where they could assist with AURED and of course other projects including scaling up Door Step School and Shikshana.
Another point that I brought up was Knowledge management. 28 years of knowledge is today accumulated within AURED. How can we ensure that this knowledge is managed and disseminated wherever needed. Its interesting to note that Aziza herself monitors most therapy sessions using CCTV from her desk. Each room is equipped with a camera and Aziza keeps a close eye on each therapy session being done by AURED therapists. She then goes in and corrects any areas where she thinks the therapist needs help. A lot of these sessions are available on tape and recorded. We could make all of these available on the web on the AURED site not only for retention but also for training and dissemination. This is another area where our volunteers could help through technology.