SNEHA Mumbai – My NGO team


young mum and baby
A home visit to see a mother of two with her new born

My NGO:   SNEHA – The Society for the Nutrition, Education and Health Action

“A secular, Mumbai – based non – profit organisation, SNEHA believes that investing in women’s health is essential to building viable urban communities. SNEHA targets four large public health areas – Maternal and Newborn Health, Child Health and Nutrition, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Prevention of Violence against Women and Children”.



SNEHA Life cycle support
SNEHA’s approach to public health

SNEHA’s story

Founded by five passionate neonatologists working in the slums in 1999 including the inspirational and celebrated founder trustee Dr. Armida Fernandez, SNEHA has blossomed into a 400+ strong organisation with many consultants guided by a stellar trustee board.

SNEHA was born from their deep frustration at repeatedly seeing infants they had worked tirelessly to save,  to only return to their uninformed impoverished homes.  Some were also victims of abuse.  This spurred a strong desire to find some solution to break this vicious cycle through the empowerment of women with information and tools to have healthier lives and families.  Starting in the slums of Dharavi they focused on nutrition and anti-natal care, breast feeding and immunizations and it soon became apparent the women in the communities were hungry for this information too and the SNEHA movement gained momentum.

My Assignment:   HR Policy and Practice – My aim is to enhance engagement and reduce attrition

SNEHA has grown so rapidly, winning NGO awards along the way including a recent “Change Maker” Award from the Hindustan Times, so there is a need to adapt and evolve approaches as they grow in size and dynamics change.hindustan Times Win Jan 2016  Shama and Vanessa

I conducted a 1:1 motivation survey with over 50 employees across all levels in the organisation across our four sites (more than half required me to be accompanied by a translator as my Hindi is just at a “rickshaw” level!) and being involved in the Great Places to Work (India), to really listen to the “voice of the customer” and also GEMBA by shadowing community worker’s home visits etc.

The pride and passion at SNEHA for their work and seeing the impact it has on communities and individual’s lives, often including their own as most come from the communities themselves, really shines through and it never fails to touch or inspire me.

From what I observed and heard, I have made numerous recommendations to the Leadership team. In this spirit of Appreciative Inquiry and with their endorsement, I have created and hosted a series of workshops and formed project teams.   Obviously cost is the major consideration in all initiatives at a NGO.

For example I recommended and initiated the launch of the intranet to bring more efficiency and keep a sense of “one SNEHA” as we grow  in size,  “Moving Online” sessions to use the technology we have as well as WOW sessions (“Ways of Working”) to help problem solving and build trust so the GSK ADP tool-kit has been delved into regularly!

So far, 70% of the workforce have attended my various workshops (90% of programme organisers and above) and I have presented at the annual conference.  Most presentations have been delivered with a translator which creates complexities in itself! (Another great learning experience!).  I feel proud whenever I see or hear the ADP language or other tools being used and even more so when told what a positive difference it has made.

While I am not a medical professional, counselor or front line field worker and I am mostly in the “ivory towers” of the head office (still in a community settlement directly under the flight path with a cattle shed) my hope is that my small contribution will give these very passionate and hard working teams more time and energy to do more do more, feel better, live longer!


What I have learnt?             

  • Appreciate Inquiry – while a GSK ADP tool, it has always been SNEHA’s guiding principal to build community relationships.  They are the AI experts!
  • Communication – keep it simple – especially where there is a language challenge
  • Patience – different pace and standards – learn to stress less and keep things in perspective
  • Problem solving – find alternatives – keep asking questions and remind yourself it ok to ask for help (let go of being stubbornly independent!)
  • Flexibility –  Working with doctors and those with PHDs at the same time as those who struggle to read and write (it is the first time, I have encountered those who sign documents with thumbprints as unable to sign an “X”).
  • Agility – Don’t ever assume – be it that you have internet or electricity or people you expect – so have a plan BUT plan to be flexible and adapt
  • Assertiveness –still keeping it friendly, I have had to really dial up my assertiveness to adapt to a new culture and society

SNEHA have been so very welcoming and friendly and I am very grateful to them all for making me feel part of the team.   I feel privileged and proud to have spent time with people across a variety of roles across the organisation from the CEO to the community workers, and I feel sad at the prospect of leaving.    But we have committed to stay in touch and I look forward to following their stories and future successes which undoubtedly there will be.

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    1. Thanks Noelle :0)
      Hope you are enjoying your last few weeks too?
      Funny to think we’ll both be back in GSK H soon…!
      Looking forward to catching up xx

  1. Hi, I would like to volunteer for this Organization. Have bin thinking about it over a year and want to put my efforts forward for the welfare of women. Recently was a part of a pageant Mrs.India Maharashtra and was the 3rd runner up and so I thot this cud be the best place where i cud share my victory and I cud help women.m believe in themselves and give wings to their dreams as well. I would feel obliged to b a part of it. I a mother of 2 year old and an entrepreneur too. I run a fashion design studio by the name chrysanthemums design studio. Pls let me know if u cud give me an opportunity to work for ur firm.

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