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Linkages, Linkages Everywhere

June 26, 2010 - India

by Caitlin McQuilling

“Creating linkages” is ones of the favorite buzzwords amongst NGOs. Linkages are referred to at big conferences and in widely distributed concept papers. A concept that seems quite simple – connecting people to the resources they need from across programs and sectors – has become a development field in itself with its own set of experts, grants, and conferences.

At RMF we don’t write proposals about linkages, start separate programs to promote them, or hire new staff specializing in linkages – they just happen in RMF’s programs because of our incredibly resourceful staff who focus on the person as a whole. While our HIV/AIDS and malnutrition programs are primarily health focused, we do everything we can to link our patients and the families we meet to other resources available to help them where we can’t. Part of the definition of RMF is that our programs do not exist in silos.

Two weeks into our NRC and our programs are already complimenting each other. Our CNEs, the field staff of our malnutrition program, are bringing in children from their villages to the NRC and spending all their non-field time in the NRC, hanging out with the mothers and giving one on one counseling. One of the children we admitted in the NRC was brought in by one of our HIV counselors, an HIV+ malnourished child. This child is doing well with the therapeutic nutrition we’re offering but will require much more extensive follow-up than the non HIV positive children. Our nutrition staff will train our HIV counselor on how to work with the family to ensure that this child gets proper nutrition and will also make home visits to follow-up.

Another one of our HIV/AIDS program volunteers, an HIV+ individual who regularly volunteers with our program and is also an anganwadi (village health worker), has already referred 3 children to our center, giving them counseling about the quality of care available with us that she has firsthand knowledge about. This woman stops by to visit the families she has referred whenever she comes in for her anti-retroviral therapy or attends counseling sessions at our office.

And the linkages don’t stop between one RMF program to another RMF program Our staff make every effort to link the families we interact with to all services available to them. The central mantra of our childhood malnutrition program is to “connect families to the resources available to identify, treat, and prevent malnutrition.” We connect families to government services such as discounted grains through PDS, health services at anganwadi centers, schools, work through NREGA, and more. In our HIV/AIDS program, we connect HIV positive individuals to livelihood programs supported by another local NGO, Pragati, and have also arranged for 6 HIV positive children to attend a boarding school in Ujjain, run by another NGO, free of cost.

These linkages are always mutually beneficial. Later this month, our nutrition field staff in Jhabua will train staff members of MPRLP on how to identify malnutrition in the field. MPRLP ( supports livelihood projects in rural areas throughout Jhabua, providing guidance to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act schemes. We’re simply giving their staff information about malnutrition since they’re often in villages where malnutrition is extremely high and want to know how to refer serious cases they may find for further help. However, beyond this simple training, we’re also building a relationship with an organization who can help our communities where we leave off. In the long-term our families will need access to sustainably livelihoods in their communities without having to migrate for work. We can help link these families to MPRLP, improving their living conditions and child’s health. Based on the community needs assessments we conducted in our villages during our baseline surveys, we will also be providing MPRLP with a list of priority villages for their livelihood programs and some ideas of projects they could take on which would benefit the community.

The linkages go on and on – from connecting female sex workers to literacy classes to introducing an NGO who works on clean water to all our contacts in MP, we’re using our networks and staff’s resourcefulness to make an impact far larger than what we could do alone.

photo: Members of the Wall Project who volunteered to paint our NRC

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