SOS Children’s Villages Spread Knowledge for Mothers through SMS

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Adam Jones
SOS Children’s Villages’ program Mobile for Development uses SMS to send Sri Lankan mothers, such as this woman in Jaffa, daily information and useful advice around family development.

Communication technologies allow users to keep in touch with events occurring in far flung places of the world, no matter where they are. Now one country is using these same technologies to strengthen families and protect the most vulnerable among them.

In Sri Lanka, SOS Children’s Villages, a children’s charity operating in over 125 countries, has created a mobile technology program designed to provide women with parenting tips, guidance on effective family communications, and even financial advice in order to help provide safe and nurturing environments for children in the region. The program, called Mobile for Development, was started in November 2013 and uses mobile phone technology to address a myriad of children’s health issues.

The pilot Mobile for Development program involved 150 mothers in two impoverished areas of Sri Lanka devastated by the 2004 tsunami, who were able to choose for themselves the type of content they would be receiving by phone. The women received three face-to-face training sessions and then SMS (text) messages for 180 days. The text messages, entitled ‘SMS Quicklearns,’ were provided by MobilTrain, which partnered with SOS Children’s Villages to provide content and technical support. The daily messages prompted the women to partake in self-reflection, practical ‘to-do’ or ‘to-try’ exercises, and homework assignments that were then monitored by a project focus group. The messages also provided the women with information on improving communications with their children, helping their children with their studies, and learning how to save money for more financial stability in the future. The mothers also had weekly meetings to discuss and share their experiences.

The program has already provided incredibly positive results. Among them, the women have said that they are now better able to understand the emotional needs of their children and families.

“The program has uplifted the education of children in these communities, reducing malnutrition, providing psychosocial support and capacity building of families,” says Ananda Karunarathne, National Director of SOS Sri Lanka. “The mothers are demanding this kind of project because they see the value of the method of learning and content.”

“It is a project that helped us learn about technology and how it can empower. It is beneficial in all aspects,” said one of the mothers participating in the program.

Due to the program’s success, SOS is planning to expand the program’s length from six months to one year. Plans are also underway to introduce the project in other locations where it can strengthen families and help parents to better care for their children.