Evangeline Grace is Oasis India’s Anti-human Trafficking (AHT) Co-ordinator in Chennai, and has led several outreach programs in the city’s urban slums. She gives us her take on the power of outreach programs.
What is an outreach program?
By definition, Outreach is the activity of providing services to any group of people who might otherwise not have access to those services. In our context, we conduct awareness sessions to the general public in the community – in the streets, schools and in local churches – who would not likely be part of our programs, and so are not aware of important issues like trafficking, abuse and child rights.
Why are outreach programs necessary?
In Oasis Chennai as far as AHT is concerned, we focus on prevention – so we educate and empower those in our programs on human trafficking, abuse, suicide prevention, importance of education, child labour, and the fundamental rights of children and women. But how do we reach the larger section of those in the community? Through these outreach programs.
How do you understand and engage the community?
The people in our communities are typically lower or lower-middle class. This makes them a vulnerable population to exploitation. They aren’t aware of their rights and they also don’t take their civic responsibilities seriously. So we aim to educate them on social problems and how and why they have to understand them.
What does it take to do an outreach program?
We have a Community Vigilance Group – we call them CVG for short – of 10 – 12 volunteers from the community. I train and facilitate this group of change agents. For the past one and a half years, we have met once a week to discuss the problems in the community and country, find ways to address them, and then take that to the community through outreach programs. The most common method of our outreach is street theatre. The team writes the script and practices together before performing it. We also do rallies around the streets.
What do you do to make a program effective?
Planned implementation is the essence of program effectiveness. The CVG members understand their contribution and have shown great commitment and dedication to learning. They have a heart to give back to their community, and put in a lot of work to ensure the message reaches people, and that it is followed up with action. That’s what makes our program effective. In the last six months we have reached 335 people through various outreach programs.