An Introduction…

Let me start from the beginning, as best I can. I am Jodi Bingham, and I have worked for the company for 8 years.  A little over a year ago I was approached to do marketing.  I can’t say that I have any formal training in this area, but I was the most appropriate person here and I am a quick learner who throws herself into a project completely.  Along with the help of Christopher Brock, who is also creative and a graphics wizard, we came up with a campaign that exceeded expectations.  We took this campaign, with its literature, posters, and lots of very creative draws and ideas, to a recent meeting in California where it was a big success.  I was really proud of what we did there!

I assumed that work would just carry on and adapt and grow to more shows, meetings, and conferences.  But there were other plans for my creative skills.  I was asked to come aboard a project that I had a lot of love for – the India project.

This is a project that Dr. Fazal Mohammad conceptualized many years ago and has made real strides towards in recent years.  The idea began for a vocational education center for the people in the area of the villages outside of Basti.  In the journey to make this dream a reality, it became clear that other steps and needs had to be met first.  So he started by building a community center with attached toilets.   This needed to have electricity and so a wind turbine was built, which not only powers the center but also will provide street lighting for much of the village.  I would learn of these contributions via meetings we had to share the work we have been doing and through personal conversations that I had with Dr. Mohammad.  It always sounded very fulfilling and the idea of me becoming involved was always flirted with, but I’m not sure I really expected that anything would ever really happen.  At least not as soon as it has.

Basically I was told that now that we have built toilets, we need to teach people to wash their hands after using them.  So take my marketing experience and apply that to a social marketing campaign.

And why me, why now?  Because I am a pretty white female with red hair and quite exotic and unusual by Indian standards.  I have an outgoing and upbeat personality and, for lack of a better word, am a great prop to use to sell the message of hygiene to the women of the village.  Trust me when I say that this does not bother me even in the slightest.  If, as they say, a message coming from me will be something they remember for the rest of their lives and I will be their ‘darling’ while I am there, I have no problems with them viewing me as an oddity or an object.  Getting the message across by whatever reasonable means necessary, I think.

Right out of the gate, I found this fantastic company that had a product I think is going to be of real interest and make quite an impact.  It’s called Glo Germ.  Fantastic stuff!  Plus, they donated at about $260 worth of product to the effort.  Very generous and easy to work with.

The next was Tippy Tap.  They have developed some great technology that I think will be a keystone for our efforts.

On the Tippy Tap website I found Dr. Pawankumar Patil and the Nirmal Hand Washing project.  We have been communicating, and his input and answers to my questions has been very welcome and appreciated.  I expect that his resources will be invaluable in developing my media and education.

All these fantastic sources are in the links area of our website.

My initial campaign was to:

1)      Install Tippy Taps for each home (or as many as possible).  These will be marketed as a status symbol and be visible for all to see you wash your hands.

2)      Education of the women of the village, especially the women who are mothers of young children.  I will use the Glo Germ system for this.  They in turn will influence the family and teach their children to wash.

3)      Place and promote the message using stickers on bathroom mirrors, develop a catchy song or jingle, and spread the message through as many different media and sources as possible.

Just as Dr. Mohammad began with a single goal and found that it wasn’t going to be as simple as ‘build it and they will come’, I, too, have found my objective not quite as singular as I originally envisioned.

I have been researching via various sources and combing over the research and publications of others.  It’s good to know that I’m not the first to try this, not that I expected to be.  I’ve collected quite the data base.  It’s far more efficient to learn from other’s experiences and so I have chosen to do so, especially in light of the time frame I have been given.

Originally, I was looking at going over the holidays and be in India for the end of December 2011 until the beginning of January 2012.  But it was decided that this time of year would be quite miserable in the area that I would be visiting due to the low temperatures and the fact that I most likely wouldn’t have hot water or heat.  So it was then decided that the best time of year to visit would be mid-February 2012 to mid-March 2012.  This is when the community center would be officially gifted to the people of the village and so my visit and education would be a very welcome addition.  However, this time would be coming up very quickly considering all the work that I would need to do.  And so the date is now mid-October 2012 to mid-November 2012.  Also, Global Hand Washing Day is October 15th.  I think it will be a great time to launch the program.

Upon researching and discussing the current needs of the people in the area, especially the women, I have found that there is also a desperate need for feminine hygiene education and supplies.  I originally found a product called Diva Cup.  I thought this product might work well for the women there, but discovered this was not the case.  First, it was insertable, which the Indian women find such things worn inside disgusting.  Second, the item is made of silicone and needs to be washed with only potable water.  So that was off the table.  But their website did lead me to LunaPads and Pads4Girls.  I wrote to them asking for assistance and they directed me to Eco Femme Eco Femme is a perfect fit for us!  I have already contacted them and we are very excited to be working with them to bring the women of the village these much-needed supplies and education.  When I watch the video on their website, I see the joy in the eyes of these women and the difference something like this can make in their lives.  I hope that I can see these women light up, even one smiling face, while I am there.  To see this elation would make it all worth it!

I have also found a need for follow-up.  That presents its own particular set of problems.  Basically, I need to set up a volunteer women’s organization within the village that will go to the homes and check on the families, make sure that hand washing is still being continued.  This organization will be run by a very special individual.  Someone who is basically an Indian version of me.  Young, outgoing, speaks both Hindi and English fluently, and lives in the area.  This will be the person who will not only be my companion and partner in this program, they will completely be in charge of maintaining the work that I have begun and all follow-up.  I am really hoping that Dr. Mohammad’s current trip to the area finds such a person.

But I already do have a contact and excellent resource with Raghu from SEVA who we have been working with since the community center was first conceived.  I have not met him in person, but I look forward to the day that I do see his smiling face and thank him for all his patience with me.

I also have seen an important need to supplement the education of the women with a primary school compliment.  And when I look at all the work that I have to do while I am there, I realize that there is no way that I can do this alone.  So I have enlisted David Keifert to take the lead of the children’s education.  He is genuinely motivated to help with this project and I am so grateful to have him involved.

I am a young white woman from Salt Lake City, Utah who has never been to India or any place like it.  In fact, I have only been out of the U.S. once and that was to an all-inclusive Jamaican resort.  I am not exactly well-traveled.  But I have a great desire to meet the people of India, to help them, and to do whatever is within my ability to see them succeed and prosper.  I just hope that’s enough.

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One Comment on “An Introduction…”

  1. I really like your writing style, good information, thanks for posting : D.


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