This is the story of A, a mother of two sons with intellectual disability and Thalassemia living in a village in North Pakistan. A got to know about the FaNs (Family Networks) 4 Kids program through an IVR poster, and desperate to get any help for her children, she immediately enrolled as Champion Family Volunteer. Before joining the program, her life was tough; she would avoid family gatherings where people would mock her children, as they were noisy and would get irritable on minor issues. She does everything for them, even simple daily tasks like changing their clothes, showering and feeding them.
A never knew children could be engaged through play activities. “It took a while but gradually my husband and I started noticing changes in our childrens’ behavior. The happiest day was when they started learning alphabets; this give me a ray of hope. I am very hopeful that my children will keep improving.” A wants to be a supporter and spread this ray of hope to other parents and children in her area with similar conditions through peer training sessions. “I have waited twelve years to get this information, I don’t want other mothers to suffer like me.”
The Human Development Research Foundation (Pakistan) was founded with the vision for ‘Improving lives through research.’ Over the last 13 years HDRF has been involved in conducting community based research with a special emphasis on health systems research, developing and testing contextually appropriate interventions for priority maternal and child health issues. In 2013, HDRF developed FaNs (Family Networks) for Kids, a project that implemented mHealth technologies (an interactive voice response system and Assisted Cascade Training for Developmental Disorders application), stigma reduction campaigns and peer-supervision with the objective to reduce the burden of developmental disorders in children within Pakistan. FaNs4Kids is also part of Ember – an incubator aimed at scaling and sustaining innovation in global mental health.