Spotlight: The Institute for Indian Mother and Child (IIMC)

Updated: Apr 7

By Katya Marks, volunteer at IIMC for July 2019

Featuring interviews with Ivy Silk, coordinator of IIMC UK, and Abu Siddique, consultant, researcher and policymaker for IIMC.

INTRODUCTION



The Institute for Indian Mother and Child (IIMC) is a Non Governmental Voluntary Organisation (NGVO) based in Kolkata and operating across West Bengal, India. IIMC was founded in 1998 by Dr Sujit Brahmochary. At first, the organisation provided purely medical service, but Dr Brahmochary's extraordinary vision has seen IIMC expand so that it now runs a wide variety of projects, covering medical, educational and economic development, with a focus on women's empowerment.


One point that Dr Brahmochary emphasises is that the IIMC mission targets the most marginalised of communities. Within the area of West Bengal that they currently cover (mostly the North and South 24 Parganas), IIMC so far has 23 campuses in rural villages selected as the most in need of developmental aid. IIMC reaches areas that would often be otherwise left behind by charities based in the city centre. Furthermore, in each village IIMC takes a holistic approach, aiming to provide the complete foundations for lasting development. For example, on a visit to IIMC's Hogolkuria campus you would find a medical centre, a pre-primary and high school (in which many children receive monthly sponsorship via IIMC's sponsor child programme), a women's micro-credit bank, a women's peace council (a group of women who meet every day to discuss current affairs and deal with issues in the village), and a cheese production unit that sells mozzarella to a pizzeria in central Kolkata. Each of these projects is run by local people. IIMC's holistic programme of empowerment targets the problem from its roots, and makes a concrete difference to the lifestyles of the people it helps.


As Dr Siddique discusses in his interview, a key aim of IIMC's mission is to improve the health of the rural people, but lasting change in this domain cannot be brought about without simultaneous educational and economic development. Therefore, IIMC's medical centres play two very important roles. First, they satisfy immediate medical needs of over 120000 people every year by running weekly open clinics. Second, they play a crucial role in building the trusting relationship between IIMC and the local people, which eventually leads to increased engagement with other projects, and thus lasting development in the village.


Visit IIMC's website to read more about the organisation, including the sponsor child programme mentioned briefly above.

VOLUNTEERING AS A MEDICAL STUDENT FOR IIMC


Since its beginnings, IIMC has worked each month with international medical student volunteers. Primarily, the students are responsible for delivering basic medical aid in the clinics, but they also work with the local volunteers on other projects such as medical education.


I first learned of IIMC when Dr Brahmochary visited my university in February 2019 to talk about IIMC's work and the involvement of international volunteers. After this, I applied and was selected to volunteer for July 2019. Working with IIMC was a unique experience, in which I felt my skills were put to use in a meaningful way, and I gained valuable professional experience in health development. Furthermore, since returning to the UK I have remained involved with IIMC UK, itself an active branch of the charity.


IIMC relies on its volunteers, so if you are interested please check out the website for more information.

WORDS FROM IVY SILK, COORDINATOR OF IIMC UK


How did you become involved with The Institute for Indian Mother and Child (IIMC)?

A niece of mine –Ruth, whilst volunteering for a Mother Teresa home in Calcutta around 1990, met Dr Sujit Bhramachary, who at that time was The Mothers’ Medical advisor at the charity. Ruth was really impressed by Dr Sujit’s enthusiasm and heart for the people of his country, living in great need, and poverty.


Mother Teresa encouraged Dr Sujit to start his own mission. Long story. When this happened, Dr Sujit came to meet with Ruth in England. A local group, known as suitably interested was set up as Trustees of IIMC UK. From this team, later I became coordinator of the charity.

What do you do now for IIMC?

My main interest is obtaining sponsors for the education of children suggested and selected by IIMC Education Department. The UK has over 100 such children, sponsored by people from all over the country. Thankfully I have a couple of younger trustees who are able to help me with the technology required to do the work of any organisation such as IIMC. We are required by government to record Gift Aid Donations and submit very accurate figures to HMRC. Also “Charity Commission" figures.

What do you think makes IIMC special?

I think that IIMC is “special” because of the personal touch, and transparency.


Sponsors and friends know how their donations are being used and in what areas of the charity’s work. I’m often in weekly contact with Dr Sujit and his team. I visit annually, and can report to contributors how projects are continuing with news of any new activities and initiatives . Dr Sujit also visits the UK every few years and is always keen to meet as many supporters as possible.


I have seen some loyal workers continuing at IIMC since my first visit in 2004. Such is their commitment. It certainly has the “family feeling”. Local residents in Sonapur (south of Kolkata in West Bengal) benefit from having IIMC based in their midst and are very thankful.


What do you think are the key components of successful developmental work?


Commitment: Commitment to the purpose and values IIMC was founded on, and continues to do each day.

Communication: We receive regular personal communication from Dr Sujit and the team who are also in personal contact with the projects that they run.

Cooperation: We work well between the countries supporting IIMC. IIMC itself relies heavily on the cooperation of it’s own volunteers and workforce, as they are the most involved.

Connections: Dr Sujit makes as many personal connections as possible. He travels extensively to try to get support for the ongoing work of the IIMC mission.

WORDS FROM ABU SIDDIQUE, CONSULTANT, RESEARCHER AND POLICYMAKER FOR IIMC


Tell us a bit about your work in global health!

In particular, my work is not centred on ‘Global Health’, but it covers the issue broadly. Being a sociologist, I see Global Health as one of prerequisites for overall development of poor people who are struggling in various corners of the world.


However, when I look at Global Health, I see a bleak picture, struggling to bring long-lasting healthy life of the poor who live in perpetual poverty. The fact is that by providing medical service exclusively, Global Health is unable to help the poor to sustain a healthy life. This can only be done with the inclusion of educational and economic services in the effort.


How did you become involved with IIMC?

I am profoundly keen to find and work for ‘People Centred Development (PCD)’, in which poor people fully participate, play major role and evolve a process of development. In spite of working with a good number of development organisations, I have hardly found any organisation able to help the poor to initiate a process of ‘PCD’.

However, I found the glimmer of a hope when I heard the story of IIMC from Dr. Sujit Brahmochary, the Founding Director, on 7 December 2010, while he was on his way to Belgium. I understood that IIMC’s development concept was most likely to achieve the goal of PCD by empowering the poor mother and child.

Subsequently, when I visited IIMC in India and observed its activities, I realised, it would be worthwhile to engage myself by contributing my knowledge and experience for the development of IIMC. Finally, my intent was approved by Dr. Brahmochary.


What do you do now for IIMC?

My responsibility for IIMC is now developing and implementing Policy and Research. By adopting a unique system of collecting information by meeting active volunteers of IIMC, I understand the needs for IIMC’s further development. By sharing my researched-based ideas with Dr. Brahmochary and other senior volunteers, I helped IIMC to adopt a number of appropriate plans, which resulted in future-looking development programmes.

To complement such work, I have authored a biography of Dr. Brahmochary and a book on effective voluntary service, and I am currently working on another book on IIMC as a whole. Following a suggestion of Dr. Brahmochary, I have recently engaged myself in developing a policy and plan for an ‘IIMC Young Volunteer Association and an ‘International Alumni of Old IIMCians’.



What do you think makes IIMC special?

The special feature of IIMC is crystal clear: having a clear path to empower poor mothers and children.

Having worked on this concept with the help of thousands of volunteers for about 30 years, IIMC emerges as an exceptional model of empowerment in its simultaneous provision of medical, education and economic services to poor mothers and children.


What do you see in the future for IIMC?

Undoubtedly IIMC is a successful voluntary organisation that has constructed an extraordinary model of empowerment for poor mothers and children. I wish to see in future this exceptional model adopted in different parts of the world to help millions of poor mothers and children become self-sustained, empowered human beings, continuously evolving their own development.

However, it is important to recognise that IIMC is based on the dedicated service of thousands of volunteers worldwide. This achievement can be credited to Dr. Brahmochary, who demonstrated the joy of voluntary service of the poor mothers and children. I can conclusively say that we need to cultivate ‘The Joy of Voluntary Service’ if we are to see the successful implementation of the IIMC Model.


What do you think are the key components of successful developmental work?

According to my observations, working closely with IIMC for long time, I would single out the following as the necessary components for developmental work:

Exceptionally dedicated leadership. (Dr. Sujit Brahmochary)

Motivated sincere voluntary service. (all IIMC volunteers both foreign and local)

Providing basic services to create dependable strong development platform. (IIMC’s Medical, Education and Economic supports)

Keeping on the dynamics of inspiration at all levels from management to grassroots level. (IIMC regularly organises meeting, workshop and seminar to inspire its volunteers, from top management to grassroots, and more importantly, associate mothers and children to achieve their goal of empowerment)


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