Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Sonja- our Tamil/English rose

I am delighted that Sonja is still able to study at Mettupalayam School. She arrived in January with her family who are staying in the Mettupalayam area. She is an albino girl, whose parents and sister are very typical Tamils. According to our doctor, Paramasivam, albinism is more comon in India than here, and brings with it a host of problems. The most obvious is that, without skin pigmentation, Sonja must stay out of the sun, so studying at school can be quite difficult. We are arranging to send out sunblock, which is impossible to find in our rural area, and also some sunhats.
It is very surreal for us to see Sonja with her family and to hear her speaking Tamil. She looks just like a beautiful English rose!

Thursday, 10 July 2008


Valli, a tribal woman from the Mettupalayam Quarry community, wife to Gopal, mother to Canaan and Mari. I know very little about Valli's life before we first found this small group of people during our visit to Mettupalayam in August 2004. At that time there were 14 families working as bonded labour (slaves) to a quarry owner next to our farm. Thanks to the generosity of Sadeh Lok Housing Group, Huddersfield, we managed to buy out all their debts, freeing them to find alternative employment. Some of the families left, however, 6 families stayed behind and we built houses for them, employing them in a communal quarry at much higher wages, provided good food and employment on the farm when quarrying was not possible due to the weather, and of course, took all 4 of the children into our Mettupalayam Primary School. We have also given them access to medical care.
Just last month, Mari graduated to the High School, a marvellous achievement for her and for her teachers.
This week was the 10th anniversary of Valli's father's death. He hanged himself from a tree near to the quarry settlement. We believe that Valli had been depressed and drinking. At the weekend she was found hanging from the same branch.
Life for Valli has been profoundly difficult, as it is for the vast majority of India's tribal people (dalits, untouchables). Our hope is for the next generation and we will continue to support Gopal Canaan and Mari.
Gopal Valli and Mari are pictured in the previous blog.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Mari at the High School!

Three years ago, Mari was working all day with her bonded labour parents, breaking granite for a pittance. She was suffering from long term problems due to inadequate food and little or no healthcare. After we paid off the family debts ( Thanks to the generosity of the directors and staff at Sadeh Lok Housing Group Ltd, Huddersfield)Mari started studying at our Mettupalayam Primary School. In the 3 years since, she has worked very hard and recently passed her High School entrance exams. IRDT have paid her annual school subs (about £4!), paid for her uniform and bought her a bike to travel to school. I dream that one day she may go to college!
In 2006 when she passed through puberty, her parents arranged a marriage for her with a 17 year old boy in the same tribal group. However, he very sadly died shortly before the wedding and so Mari was able to stay on at school. We have encouraged Mari's parents to delay any further arrangements for marriage whilst she is studying and continue to provide them with well paid work and healthcare support.