The Power of Student Volunteers

The torrential rains of monsoon season can bring India’s financial capital to a halt and cause a spike in deadly and difficult diseases which disproportionately impact Mumbai’s poor. But during monsoon season last year, United Way Mumbai, the municipal public health department and the National Service Scheme of the University of Mumbai unleashed another powerful force to protect the city’s vulnerable: student volunteers.

Youth for Healthy Mumbai engaged more than 950 student volunteers from 29 colleges to conduct awareness campaigns about preventing and detecting malaria and dengue, which are caused by mosquitos that thrive in warm, wet conditions. Students were trained by the public health department and then conducted house visits, distributed pamphlets, held rallies and performed street plays in the city’s slums to spread awareness about preventing malaria and dengue. The volunteer health educators also identified mosquito breeding sites and educated local residents about how to eliminate them. In many cases, people immediately took action to prevent mosquitos from breeding in or near their home.

Over a three month period, the student volunteers reached more than 170,000 people from over 70,000 households. The volunteer health educators also identified more than 100 suspected cases of malaria and dengue in slums and referred them to the nearest health post.

Mumbai’s monsoon season will return each year, but thanks to the energy and goodwill of college-age volunteers, the city’s most vulnerable will be better equipped to prevent illness and live in a healthier community.