Health on Stage participants“’Health on Stage’ has given me the opportunity to appreciate deeply the value of forum theatre in social transformation,” said Felimon Blanco, theatre practitioner from The Philippines. “It also proved that people from diverse cultural backgrounds can work together towards a common goal.” Felimon was one of 21 young international volunteers who participated in the 10th Asia-Europe Young Volunteers Exchange (AEYVE): Health on Stage project in India.

Six weeks after closely working with communities in South India, all ‘Health on Stage’ volunteers from 14 countries are now making a new beginning. They took back learning experiences to their respective countries and will continue with community development work in their own ways. As Otgontseren Osor, a volunteer from Mongolia, said: “I am a teacher. I would like to share my knowledge and experience to teach my students in a more creative way.”

“Health on Stage” was also a networking opportunity for many. Noted Anupama M.P., one of the Indian volunteers: “I came here empty handed but I am leaving with a network of international volunteers. This will strongly help me with my future community development initiatives in India”.

Participants used knowledge of forum theatre as a creative medium to promote public health dialogue in Bangalore, Mysore and Chennai. Public health, particularly water related diseases, is one of the main concerns in these underprivileged urban, sub-urban and rural pockets of South India. “Lack of adequate hygiene and sanitation facilities, open defecation and unclean environment have been some of the root causes behind such diseases,” noted Rubini Raghunathan, “Health on Stage” volunteer and local Self-Help-Group (SHG) member in Chennai.

“It was difficult but in the end, we as a team did a great job performing short simple street plays that touched at least a few lives in the communities,” said Evelien Driessen, volunteer from The Netherlands. “I truly believe we were able to create awareness that people in the communities can have the power to change their living conditions and thus improve their lives.”

Such field experiences from “Health on Stage” were shared by participants at the “Open Day” event in Bangalore, India (30th September). The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS) with Field Services & Inter-Cultural Learning (FSL India) organised this event as the closing session of the “10th Asia-Europe Young Volunteers Exchange programme: Health on Stage”. Representatives from civil society organisations, forum theatre practitioners, public health experts and the media participated in this occasion.

See the pictures from the project,

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