A Summer in New Delhi: Our Internship with OperationASHA

Through the course of our two-month internship with Operation ASHA, we were given opportunities to understand how a large and successful public health NGO functions in India. We were exposed to OpASHA’s work on every level, from observing meetings with the co-founders to accompanying providers and program managers on field visits.

On a normal day, we worked in OperationASHA’s main office in Sarita Vihar, New Delhi. We received assignments from Sonali Batra, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, to write up information on OpASHA’s technology suite, and had the chance to design several posters and deliverables about OpASHA, its work, and its tech.

Our supervisor was Dr. Smita Agrawal, OperationASHA’s Director of Training. We worked alongside her as she trained new community-based TB care providers all around north India via an online training interface. This gave us the opportunity to see one of the most powerful and sustainable parts of OpASHA’s model up close. It was also very interesting for us to see Dr. Agrawal’s expertise on educating community members, who were often semi-literate, on the complexities of TB detection, diagnosis, testing, counselling, and treatment.

Later, we accompanied Manju Bhajiya, Deputy Director of Operations, and Asha Negi, DOTS Center and Provider Supervisor, into the field. We had the opportunity to visit several DOTS centers in Delhi. At each center, we had the opportunity to see OpASHA’s work in progress: we watched as patients comfortably entered the office and chatted with the providers, both provider and patients scanned their fingers on the readers, and the patients took their TB medications. Seeing the efficiency of this process, as well as having the opportunity to speak with providers and patients and ask them any questions we had about their experiences, taught us much about the efficacy of OpASHA’s work. During these trips, we also developed our photography skills, taking photographs for OpASHA’s use in grants, etc. in a way that was conscious of both the people being photographed and the organization’s work.

Another feature of our internship at OpASHA was the opportunity to attend events and conferences on the organization’s behalf. We attended USAID’s annual Health Office Partners Meeting, where OpASHA’s technology and innovation were featured. There, we were able to present and give demonstrations while also mingling with representatives from some of the most prominent public health NGOs currently operating in India. We also attended a UNHCR event, showing OpASHA’s continued solidarity with the program and those they serve by taking part in their World Refugee Day festivities: a photography gallery displaying the lives of refugees in Delhi and around the rest of India, a poetry reading, and documentary film screening. Another day, we accompanied Dr. Shelly Batra, cofounder of OpASHA, to the hospital where she offers free gynecology clinic days — this gave us yet another perspective of public health work in the region.

Near the end of our internship, we traveled with Harshita Seth, Deputy Director (Operation), to observe OpASHA’s research with adolescent health programs in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. We spent 3 days doing field visits with programs seeking to improve adolescent and women’s health from a variety of angles. One program educated local shop owners and rickshaw drivers on how to diffuse dangerous situations where women are being threatened through an active bystander approach. Another used digital storytelling to educate young adolescents, both male and female, about gender, sexual and reproductive health, and relationships. We visited a center that provided a safe space for adolescents to spend time as well as learn about gender and discrimination. The educator at this program showed us comic book pages created by the youth, each portraying a personal story of gender discrimination they had witnessed or experienced. This visit to Lucknow was extremely educational and valuable for us, because we were able to see a great variety of work in the field, as well as to learn about the scope and reach of an organization like OpASHA. We never expected that OpASHA would be working in women’s and adolescent health, as they are an anti-TB NGO, but this trip taught us about their capability to facilitate high quality research in a large variety of issue areas that affect their target population because of their pre-established connection to the region.

During the last week and a half of our internship, we were given the opportunity to help write a grant application for the organization. This was the culmination of our experience at OpASHA, as we got to bring together the knowledge gained from the field with the writing skills we developed during our assignments at the beginning, and even improved our video editing skills for the required video explaining our proposed project. All in all, our internship with OperationASHA was engaging and fulfilling.

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