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Archive for the ‘survey’ Category

Survey: A Summary

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I arrived in Chennai on July 18th, intent on doing some work for Sangam India (an NGO I had become acquainted with during my option). I had spoken to Sriram a couple of times during my time in Delhi and he convinced me that there was a significant task which needed to be carried out: a survey for the new slum that they had “adopted.” I arrived and chatted with Nivedita and Sriram (the founders and co-chairs of Sangam India) regarding the work that would need to be done and when it would need to be organized for. I got to work immediately, with help from Katie Bush, a PhD student from the University of Michigan.

There are three areas to the survey in general: the consent form, the census sheet and the survey itself. I’ll deal with them in that order.

The consent form was designed by Katie but edited by myself.  We wrote some very basic text in English and Tamil, so that if the occupant was literate in one or the other, they could sign in that language. However, many of the interviewees were not literate in any language, and therefore had to have the consent form read out to them. In a few cases, they marked their acceptance with a thumbprint. Some others have agreed to answer the questions (and then done so) but have not filled in the consent form. This may have been an oversight on the part of the interviewers or due to a lack of anything to form a thumbprint with for illiterate interviewees. The consent form basically states that there is no immediate monetary benefit to conducting this survey, that all questions are answered voluntarily, that data will be published anonymously and will otherwise remain confidential and that consent is required before the first question may be asked.

The census form is based on a tried and tested format which was used for the pilot census which Sangam India used in Ramavaram, the slum they worked with previously. It asks for the name, age, position (in relation to head-of-family), caste, occupation and education status for each member of the household. Prior to this is the name of the interviewee, their age and gender, the house number and any phone number they may have and their monthly household income.

Katie and I designed the questions, aiming at the areas we deemed most important. It was partly adapted from the National Family Health Survey 1992-1993. This included 6 broad areas:  hygiene, environment, household, nutrition, health and education. A significant deficiency in any of these could have long term effects for the slum inhabitants in the future. Below, I’ll elaborate on each of these sections.

Hygiene focused on personal habits including bathing, washing hair, trimming nails, dental hygiene, hand washing, wound treatment and the use of footwear and underwear. It also included one question on menstrual health, which we aim to build on in future visits. We had originally intended to have an extended segment on women’s health, but we felt that this would have been too forward. Since this community has very few ties with the slum Sangam India previously worked with, we are aiming to build trust over a period of time. With this in mind, we felt that this information would be better gathered at a later date. The relatively poor response rate for this question seem to back up this decision.

The section on the environment was a brief one, designed to educate us on the source of water (separately for washing and drinking), lighting and to illuminate how the slum dwellers disposed of their garbage. An important inclusion in this was of what kind of toilet facility the houses had. The answer, in most cases, was none. This section brought us the most information, since we didn’t know that there was no drainage system and no means to move rubbish from the river and behind the houses (where most of it is dumped) to anywhere else.

The household section covered whether the house was structurally sound, the number of rooms and people per room, as well as other basics details about the house. Included in these were bathroom and kitchen status, drainage, pets (and whether they stayed inside or outside the house), water storage and treatment and asked whether there was a basic cleaning routine. These questions were important so we can see what the slum is like in terms of houses (whether the abodes are more temporary or permanent) and the conditions of the residents within. The results showed that there was a variety in terms of building stability as well as the population per room. The latter, in particular, is a problem which we must address as soon as possible, as the fires occurring in MGR Nagar are consuming more and more houses, leaving people with little option but to live outdoors or depend on the charity of their neighbours and share dwellings. In the slum, however, this means cramming an unreasonable number of people into a space which is simply too small to be healthy. Other striking findings are that the bathroom and toilet facilities are all but non-existent. The facilities were often marked as “shared”, only for the elaboration to come back that people performed their ablutions freely in a field or lake, polluting the resources nearby which some other residents relied on for fresh water. As a final, related note, there were very few houses which treated their water in any way before consuming it. Though the local government has provided some metro-tanks, my understanding is that this water should be boiled or at least filtered, as its source is bore-hole wells, before drinking it.

Health covered three areas: status, access and vices. Status was included to assess the overall wellbeing of the community. We put together a few very basic screening questions to find out the prevalence of blindness, TB, malaria, diarrhoea and physical disability. The majority of health was dedicated to access, as this is the area in which we can help out the most. We asked which health centres they had used in the past and which they would consider returning to. The reason for this two-part question was to eliminate any centres which were nearby but which were not being used by the residents for whatever reason. Finally, “vices” covered two questions which covered whether anyone in the house smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol. There were many interviewees who freely admitted drug use outside of this realm, including some admissions of betel nut use. One problem with this section is that it changes depending on who was being asked. One interviewer observed that whenever the male head of the family was asked, neither alcohol nor tobacco was a problem, but when his wife or children were questioned, a different story emerged.

The education section was designed (by a separate education committee) with a few thoughts in mind. We wanted to know the number of children attending school and if there was any reason why they weren’t attending. The idea of providing vocational training for adults and children alike was voiced in one meeting, and we wanted to see if there were enough people who would commit to such a programme to consider running this. Other than this, we wanted to know what type of training they would consider. Finally, we were interested in the children who were not attending school and what they were doing instead. If they were working as labourers, for example, we were interested in giving them vocational training too, or helping them back into school. My interpretation of the results was a little disappointing, as a large proportion of interviewees gave their family’s highest educational qualification as ‘nil’, meaning that none of them had had any formal schooling. More worrying were the number of surveys which were simply left blank, indicating a complete lack of interest.

Finally, there is nutrition. We appreciated that this would be an important section to cover, but we did not anticipate how difficult it would be to get the data in a usable way. I had to abandon using the nutrition data since it was not specific enough. I had not made this section multiple choice, like many other aspects of the survey, as the sheer frequency that one eats meat, vegetables, paruppu or fruits could vary significantly. I realize that by doing this, I was being a little overambitious. While the question said, ‘How many times per week will you eat X?’, the answers often came back as ‘Whenever possible’ or ‘Daily.’ The latter was the more frequent answer, and the more annoying. Obviously, the inhabitants were commonly consuming X, but whilst ‘Daily’ for us clearly means ‘once per day,’ the nutrition habits of the slum dwellers seemed to be based around cooking as few times as safely possible, which might mean that ‘daily’ means one, two, three or more meals per day. Problems of this nature meant that I had to scrap even trying to recover data from this section.

One minor setback was that we designed the survey to be answered by one member of each household, though we soon realized that more than one family sometimes occupied one house. On the day, we gave spoken instructions to the volunteers to use one survey per family. The survey itself was carried out very well. Our volunteers were efficient and made a connection with the inhabitants. I was very aware that this survey was only partially a data collection exercise and was just as much to do with forging the kind of bond which can be relied on in later excursions when we are attempting to prove our intentions using action.


Download the Survey Materials (pdf):

Survey, Return to MGR Nagar

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

First things first, I’d like to thank everyone who turned up to MGR Nagar on Friday. Along with the female focus group discussion, I was back out there with a few of you to do a little more survey work. We got around 20 more results, and I’ve just finished typing them into an excel document and sent them to someone who (hopefully) knows what to do with them.

All told, we’ve got around 85 results and this probably represents a minimum of 70% of the slum. While I know the intention was to survey every member of the slum, I, personally, feel like that would not be particularly helpful. Between the surveys, the focus group and what we’ve seen, we have some idea of what we can do to help these guys.

I’d like to repeat my thanks to the surveyors in particular. I realize that it’s not a very glamorous side of what Sangam India is about, but it is necessary and very helpful. I hope you guys come out next time we’re doing something in MGR Nagar.

I’ll let you know when I know something about the survey results. Thanks again!

Pictures fom July 24th, 2009 Visit to MGR Nagar Slum

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Here are some pictures from our July 24th visit to the MGR Nagar Slum.  Pictures taken by Sriram, Nivedita, and Gautam.

Focus Group Discussion: Some of our members meet with women from the community to discuss their concerns and ideas for empowerment.

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Continued Survey Work: Gautam briefs the surveyors, then they get to work.

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Tuition Classes: Ashitha and Gayatri work with the children helping them prepare for an upcoming exam.

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See the rest of the pictures in our Gallery.

Focus Group Discussion and Day Two of Survey

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Yesterday we went to the MGR Nagar Slum and were able to accomplish several things:

The first thing we were able to accomplish is the Focus Group Discussion that we had planned to conduct with the women in the slum. Through the discussion we were able to learn about the women and their perceived needs, and build a relationship with our most important allies in slum rehabilitation – the women of the community. This was led by Dr. Gayatri, Vandhana and Nivedita. More about this will be made available in a future post by one of the leaders of this project.

The second thing that we did was we ran a tuition class for the children. Because Sudha, the local Balwadi worker, was needed in the Focus Group Discussion, two of our members, Ashitha and Gayatri, took on the responsibility of running the tuition center for her in her absence. They had a wonderful time reading with the kids, and in this way got to know many of them better. This unplanned but fortunate event helped us to learn more about the children in the community.

The final thing we were able to do was to complete the survey. A number of volunteers came on the trip and did a wonderful job of continuing the survey work. Thanks to their efforts, we’ve been able to increase the total houses surveyed to nearly 85%.  This project was led by Gautam Bagga, who has been in charge of the survey project, and he’ll be blogging soon about the process and the outcome of this work.  We’d like to thank Anwin for coming out for the first time on this volunteer effort!

Thanks to everyone again for their wonderful support, and more information about today’s trip will be forthcoming.

Visit to MGR Nagar Slum Tomorrow, July 23

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Tomorrow we are heading on another trip to the MGR Nagar slum where we have two goals:

  • Survey: Our survey last week covered approximately 65 of the 108 houses. We hope to cover more of the houses this week with a team that will be following up with those.  This will be lead by Gautam Bagga.  If you’re planning on coming, please check out the survey, the consent form, and the handout so you can get familiar with them before we start.
  • Focus Group Discussion (FGD): A focus group will be conducted by the ladies who come out tomorrow. We hope to involve the able-minded and proactive members of the community to come together and to discuss their needs and how they can overcome them.  We hope this will be the beginning to a dialogue with the women which will give them a forum to grow and progress.  More about this activity will be available in a later post.  The FGD is being run by Nivedita Gunturi.

We’re always in need of volunteers, so please contact us if you can come!

MGR Nagar Survey

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

This past Saturday, we were able to conduct our survey at our new slum in MGR Nagar. It was an excellent chance for us to make a foray into the community and introduce ourselves to the members of the community as well as to become familiar with the issues in the community.

As the analysis of the survey data is carried out, we will start identifying important issues and trends that we should start addressing immediately.

We’d like to thank everyone who came out for the first time: Dr. Gayathri, Arti, Abdullah, Gayatri, Hari, Ester, Vijay, Anu and Salman. Without the help of all the surveyors, we certainly could not have covered the number of houses we managed.

This Friday, we will be conducting a small focus group discussion with the women of MGR nagar. We are also hoping to complete the survey. We need as many volunteers as possible, so please come out and bring your friends.

Photos from the Survey, June 18th 2009

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Here’s several photos from the survey, taken by Gautam Bagga, our survey coordinator:

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View the rest of the photos

Survey: the aftermath

Monday, July 20th, 2009

OK. First of all…THANK YOU! So many people turned up to help us conduct the survey and we made a lot of progress (more than this pessimist had hoped for). All that remains is for me to put the data into some kind of workable and usable format, which could take me up to a week (though I’m hoping that it’ll be less time-consuming than that).

I appreciate that this isn’t the typical work that people imagined doing when they read the Sangam India, but as I’ve mentioned, it’s very important so that we know which direction to go in. We seemed to be building rapport with the community, judging by the number of smiles we got (I managed to photograph a few, so check those out!) and the number of people who were willing to let us complete the survey.

Currently, I’m just putting the data together and I realize that I made a rather huge omission in my previous post. I made it seem like the survey was something that I put together by myself, but that is simply not the case. A more accurate description would be that I pruned the survey down a little from a far more extensive tool devised by Katie Bush, a University of Michigan PhD student who is working in Chennai. So many thanks to her.

Looking through these figures is fairly boring but necessary work. It’ll take me a good few days to get through it but there are already some minor mistakes that I made whilst tweaking that are my headache (roughly 65 times over!) now, so I guess I’d better get back to it. Thanks again for coming out to help us! I’ll write again when I’ve got some impressions from the data.


Friday, July 17th, 2009

Hi, everybody, this is Gautam writing. I’ve been put in charge of the survey, and with regards to that, I’ve been cobbling one together over the last week or so. There are two purposes for this survey: the more obvious reason of data collection and incorporating that into future work we do in MGR Nagar, but additionally, we are looking to forge lasting bonds between ourselves and the inhabitants. Hence, I’ve tried to keep the survey as short as possible and have cut a lot of questions that were too difficult (and we’ve had to get rid of maternal health almost entirely…that’s something that we’ll do in the future). It should take around 15 minutes to do. We’re hoping to reach MGR Nagar at around 1700, and leave at around 1600. I’m going to be holding onto the Sangam India phone, so if there are any problems whilst taking the survey, then please give me a call.

We’re still not entirely sure on the numbers of volunteers that will be available, but if you have a few hours to spare, then please, PLEASE come down. I know that this isn’t particularly exciting work and there isn’t the direct feel-good factor that you get when helping at the camps but this work is just as important as it gives us a direction to work in over the coming months and years.

I’m going to do a quick breakdown of the survey, and its sections. Here it is:

We’re going to use census data to make things less confusing for you surveyor-folks. Each survey will have the occupants and a few details of theirs on the front page, to make it easier for me to decode the data.

Household – this is a section that you can fill by combination of simply observing the house (to see the quality of the walls, floor and roof) as well as asking a few simple questions. They’re fairly simple so all you need to do is circle the appropriate answer. It deals with their habitat and habits around it, including the bathroom status and water treatment/storage.

Environment – This deals with water sources for different activities and the source of lighting. It gives us an idea of how the average inhabitants of MGR Nagar are living, what they know about water treatment, and more importantly, what they don’t.

Hygiene – Basic hygiene questions about their washing habits. This is one of the most important segments, since rectifying any unsanitary habits is one of the ways that we can see a reduction in infection rates.

Health – A quick screening survey, just to find out what the prevalence of a few common conditions is like. Additionally, there are a couple of questions on access (where they’ve been and where they would go…both of these are important as we can identify which centres have earned the trust of the slum inhabitants). Rounding out this section are 2 questions: one is on smoking, and the other is on alcohol. In truth, we’re not expecting much statistical data from this, but we think that if anyone is likely to answer ‘yes’ to the alcohol question in particular, then it signifies the trust that we’re building between the people and ourselves. Still, it’s worth including.

Nutrition – Just to find out, roughly, what kind of society we’re looking at. Do they get enough fruits and vegetables? Are they eating enough in terms of calories? Does anyone take any supplements? An estimated 95% of the women will have anaemia. With that in mind…iron tablets, maybe?

Education – Finally, just a few quick questions on the adults’ level of education and whether they’d like to expand on that. Also, a quick note about the kids’ education level. This section is there since we’re trying to judge whether vocational programmes need to be put in place.

That’s about it. I’ll be filling in the front of the forms between 9pm tonight and tomorrow, so I hope you guys understood some of what was said above. I hope to see you tomorrow! Toodle pip!

Upcoming Survey, July 18th 2009

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

We have been working hard on our survey that we are going to be conducting this Saturday at the MGR Nagar Slum.

The objective of this survey is to learn more about the community and to use this information to determine how to best help the people there.

A large number of people have been involved in making the survey, a project that has been coordinated by Goutam Bagga, a volunteer from Sheffield, Britain.

The survey was developed by three teams:

  • A health and nutrition survey, developed by Dr. Gayatri
  • A sanitation survey, developed by Kathleen Bush, a PhD student from Michigan.
  • An educational survey, developed by Educational Committee.

With the help of our wonderful volunteers, we hope to use this survey to collect data about the community. We have tried to keep the survey short in order to be able to cover more of the population.

We’ve also made a quick handout for the interviewers and a consent form for the interviewees is in the works.

We will be using the census data provided by Paadhai in order to quicken the data collection. An immense thanks to Krithika Rajaram, of our Educational Committee, for translating this into English in a usable format.

If you are in Chennai and would like to help us volunteer the survey; we could really use your help! The success of this survey will depend now on having as many volunteers as possible to ask questions. Please contact us if you are interested.

This is the survey we are using, attached as a PDF: MGRSurvey.pdf