Meet the SHAs: Sushma Gurung

School Health Activists (SHAs) are an important part of our Broadleaf team. They are responsible for teaching students and the community in Darjeeling about the importance of health and education through curriculum and personal hygiene training sessions. Each of our SHAs have a unique life story which is what makes them so special and such a valued member of our Broadleaf organization. As we’ve gotten to know each of our SHAs over the years, we’ve realized how important their stories are and would like to share them with all of you in our new “Meet the SHAs” newsletter series.

First up is Sushma Gurung, who has worked with Broadleaf for the last 3 years as an SHA in the Manaydara school cluster.

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Sushma Gurung, I was born in 1989. I’m from Manaydara and I live in a joint family. I studied in Sai Dibya English School till 2nd standard but due to financial problems my parents were unable to pay my school fee so I joined a government school named Lamahatta Higher Secondary School and that’s where I completed my schooling. I graduated from Darjeeling Government College. After my graduation I completed 6 months training on nursing at Paramount Nursing, Siliguri. After the training I came back to my village and I started teaching at Laxmi Memorial School for 9 years. During my free time I engage myself in gardening, reading story books and general knowledge books.

Where did you grow up? What was your community like, and what are the biggest changes that you’ve seen in your community since you were a kid?

I was born and brought up in a village named Manaydara. My village is an agricultural area far from the hustle and bustle of Darjeeling city. In the early days majority of people in my village depend upon agriculture, we never used to buy vegetables from the shop instead we grew them in our field plus we used to visit market once a year. Only rich people used to go by car, and people like us used to walk. In present days due to wild animals growing vegetables or other crops is quite difficult, and people no longer depend merely on agriculture. Instead they move out to big cities for job opportunities or do some small business. The banking facilities including ATMs are still not available, which is now becoming a problem for us, and the condition of the road connecting to the main road is very bad.

What was the biggest surprise that you’ve had since working with broadleaf?

I was very surprised to see the students getting excited and happy whenever I used to visit school to give CHHIP lessons. I had experience working in school for about 9 years and was never able to build such a good rapport with students. In just one year after working with CHHIP I was able to build good rapport with students at all four partnering schools.

What stories do you have from working with children in CHHIP?

I would like to share a story of one student from Angel English School. Last year I usually used to go to school [early] so I could spend more time knowing the students, and during that time one
student approached me and started sharing with me about how she was feeling at the moment and how much she was missing her mother because her parents were divorced and she was currently living with her grandparents. So, whenever I used to visit school, she used to sit next to me and used to share whatever happened in the school and home that week. Whenever she used to share her happiness and sorrow I used to listen to her carefully and console her.

What are you most proud of from the work you’ve done with CHHIP?

Imparting knowledge on health and hygiene and building good rapport with the students makes me feel proud.

What is your greatest achievement?

During my nursing training I always had a shift in ICU, and now as an SHA I have a different experience and vast knowledge on health and hygiene plus I am able to check the overall health status of a child, which is in a way a greatest achievement for me.

What was a challenge that you’ve encountered working within your community as a SHA?

Giving iron supplementation to the students is sometimes challenging. Last year two students faced health issues during the time of iron supplementation and their parents directly blamed me and iron supplementation. So, it is difficult to make the parents understand the importance and side effects of iron supplementation.


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