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). 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.
However, youth in LMICs, particularly those in remote, rural villages, were largely unable to access such tools – 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.
Making the connection through inREACH
inREACH is a flexible and self-paced program that supports LMIC high school-age youth mental wellbeing, emotional growth and thriving. The program is delivered via a menu of remote delivery options to youth, from low- to high-tech, based on the technologies most widely available to them – making use of feature phones, radio, smartphones, and/or physical workbooks. Partnerships with schools are developed by WorldBeing to serve as pick-up and registration points, and to help build awareness of the program among students.
inREACH 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.
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 chat bot
- Pre-recorded call-in IVR system
- Hours for 1-1 support and guidance with trained Youth Leaders via call, WhatsApp or SMS
InREACH was first piloted in 2021 with 100 students in Bihar, India, one of India’s poorest states. In 2022, CorStone expanded the intervention to nearly 2,600 girls in grades 9-12 at 56 government-run residential schools (known as KGBVs) for at-risk girls.
Through participation in inREACH, a self-paced inner wellbeing program:
- Students significantly improved their abilities to manage their emotions, face challenges in school, set and reach their goals, and solve problems in their lives.
- Nine out of ten students reported using what they learned during inREACH to help them with problems in school and/or at home.
- Nine out of ten students reported that their relationships with teachers and peers improved, that they cared more about their school, felt more comfortable asking teachers and peers for help, and felt safer in their school.