inREACH Program | Bihar, India
Background + Situation
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare an ugly truth in global development: the “digital divide” remains a pervasive reality with often devastating consequences for the poor—particularly youth in low-and-middle-income countries | LMICs.
While many higher-income countries responded to the pandemic with a plethora of online learning and app-based tools designed to help ensure uninterrupted schooling and continued social connection among students, youth in LMICs, particularly those in remote, rural villages, were largely unable to access such tools. This was due to limited access to basic electricity in homes and many schools, a lack of technological infrastructure, low levels of digital literacy among students, parents, or teachers, and little to no access to wifi and smartphones among both teachers and students.
Faced with school closures and lockdowns at the height of the pandemic, millions of children living in LMICs were kept at home where they faced an increased risk of domestic abuse, gender-based violence, forced early marriage, or menial labor. In addition, cut off from their social and emotional support network of classmates and teachers, youth experienced a loss of personal agency and an increased risk of isolation and depression.
CorStone Response | inREACH
inREACH seeks to support LMIC high school-age youth’s mental well-being and emotional growth in order to thrive during and after COVID-19. The program provides resilience and wellbeing training and tools to students most affected and at-risk of poor mental health.
Program themes include emotional regulation and management, mindfulness, compassion and self-compassion, character strengths, growth mindset, goal setting and planning, communication and leadership, and problem-solving.
inREACH is a flexible and self-paced program that provides a menu of remote delivery options to youth—from low to high-tech—based on the technologies most widely available to them. The program makes use of feature phones, radio, smartphones, and/or physical workbooks. Partnerships with schools are developed by CorStone to serve as pick-up and registration points, and to help build awareness of the program among students. The participant experience combines:
- | Physical comic-style self-guided workbook, provided via community and/or school pickup points
- | Pre-recorded radio/podcast shows, aired on radio, via podcast, and/or via an Interactive Voice Response | IVR phone system
- | Automated WhatsApp chatbot
- | Pre-recorded call-in IVR system
- | Hours for 1-1 support and guidance with trained Youth Leaders via call, WhatsApp, or SMS
Participants reported that they improved in their abilities to identify their strengths, manage their emotions, face challenges in school, set and reach their goals, and solve problems in their lives (differences were highly statistically significant from before to after the program at p < 0.001).
- | Nine out of ten participants reported that they used the knowledge and skills they learned through inREACH to help them with problems in school and/or at home.
- | Participants reported that their relationships with teachers and peers improved, that they cared more about their school, that they felt more comfortable asking teachers and peers for help, and that they felt safer in their school vs. prior to inREACH.
- | Nine out of 10 participants reported each of these school-related improvements.