Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hurray for the rain!

Venkat is busy planting crops at our small farm in Mettupalayam following the monsoon rains. He says that we have had around 80% of a normal monsoon, a big improvement on recent, very droughty years. So far he has planted around 13 acres, mostly rice with some ground nuts (peanuts). He also plans to plant over 2 acres of trees, both mango and teak- these are partly for cropping purposes, but also to help offset the project's small but still significant carbon footprint. In our area, over recent years, the Indian Government, with help from Japan, have planted over 200 acres of trees.

Pictured is Patchyamman, one of the former bonded slaves, who now works full time on our farm- a big improvement on breaking rocks for a living!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Well done, Jon! A magnificent marathon effort.

Update on my recent blog- Jon ran the Riviera Marathon and raised a magnificent sum in excess of £1300! Thank you Jon and also a big thank you to all your friends, colleagues and family for their support.
Jon has asked if we will spend this money on helping to buy equipment and resources for our new Crakehall School. I have just sent another bank draft to Venkat which includes this money and will hopefully feature the opening of the school in our next newsletter.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Laura and Emily, two trainee doctors who spent their elective in Mettupalayam in July, held a general health camp in the village. During the camp they saw that Sabina, a 9 year old girl at Mettupalayam School, was suffering from malnutrition. This had been caused by long term tonsilitis, confirmed at the Government hospital. Sadly, at only 10kgs weight, she was far too underweight to have an operation, so we have been providing her parents with money each month to buy liquid food supplements. Venkat has now confirmed that Sabina has put on enough weight to have the operation which is now scheduled for the 21st December. This will be life changing for her, as we will be providing a good balanced diet at the school. This is just one of the local people who have been helped by Laura and Emily- thank you girls.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Doctor in charge

Many local people now help Venkat and IRDT. This is our very good Friend Dr Paramasivam who runs a weekly clinic at Mettupalayam on Friday afternoons. This clinic is open to all local people and whilst there is a small charge for any prescriptions, the consultation is free.

Not only do local people benefit, but Rosie was diagnosed with high blood pressure there last year- thank you my friend.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Becky teaching English

We have long been aware that the children's understanding of spoken English is very poor and that they may have a good vocabulary, but are unable to use it very well. We are therefore very lucky that Becky Bell, having decided to take a gap year before university, wanted to go to India to teach for 6 months. Through a contact with a very good Friend, Becky travelled out with me in early October and she is now spending her days working at Mettupalayam School.

In the picture, she is teaching one of the larger classes- I know that the children will pick up spoken English very quickly and look forward to being able to speak more meaningfully with them when I next visit in January.

Thank you Becky- you're a star!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Jon's marathon effort

On the 8th November, our very good Friend, Jonathan Power is running the Riviera marathon to raise funds for Friends of Mettupalayam. Jon stayed in Mettupalayam for a while some 2 years ago and was very impressed and touched by the work of Venkat and his team. Jon has decided to raise £1000 by running this, his very first, marathon!

You can support his fundraising efforts at www/

I will post a blog update when I know the total raised. Thank you and Good Luck Jon

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Putting a lid on it part 2

Apologies, the photo didn't attach to thelast blog!

Putting a lid on it!

At long last, the roof is now being added to the new Crakehall School. The engineer is using a new system of construction which is speeding things along nicely. The roof will be strong enough to become the floor for new visitor and staff accommodation when money allows.
It is particularly nice to think of the students being able to admire the view from the windows- much better than the old school buildings!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Cloth from waste

Organising and supporting womens self help groups (Sanghams) forms a very important part of IRDT's rural development and poverty relief work. A prime example are the groups who have bought cotton waste processing machines and who turn the offcuts from cotton clothing manufacture into re-usable cotton thread. Purchasing the specialist machines with the help of a government grant and a loan from the Indian Bank, this provides the women with a sound weekly income, and employment which they can fit in around their family responsibilities. The photo shows some members of one group at an exhibition in Chennai, explaining and promoting the scheme. IRDT were instrumental in linking the various participants together- the cotton clothing manufacturers, the machine manufacturers, transport, and government and bank officials.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Growing panes!

Following repairs to IRDT's computer, we are now receiving very regular updates on the new Crakehall School building, together with photos. The new form of construction means that the walls are now going up very quickly, with panels being made from concrete poured into formers. Venkat has also been advised that the roof for the whole school will only take 6 days to make, compared to around 20 days using the old methods! Over 30 people are now being employed on site, and the engineer is paying a daily rate of 300 rupees making a significant impact on the cashflow for the villagers.
Opening the new school is scheduled for mid October- there still seems much to be done by then!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Crakehall School, Mettupalayam progress

At long last, we have received some updated pictures from Mettupalayam. The new school is really starting to take shape and the walls are now being built between the supporting pillars. This is a new form of construction to us, with concrete walls being built within shuttering, supervised very closely by our excellent engineer and his team. We now hope to open the building during the early to middle of October. I have in fact booked my flights out for the 8th October so the engineer is aware of the time deadline for the opening ceremony!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Building progress

Now that the foundations are in place, the brickwork is starting to show real progress. Because of severe water shortages following the failure of the South West monsoon, we are having to buy in water. Every day, the building work is using 1000's of litres for concrete.

We are still on target to open the school in October and hope to have both trustee and donor representation at the event.

The wages that we are paying to the workmen and women will have a very real impact in the community- in a poor, rural area, little money comes in from outside the local economy and any additional money circulates around many times, benefiting many people.

Monday, 13 July 2009

local support

For many years, IRDT has been working below the radar of local businesses, being situated in a very rural village, off the main road. However, this has now changed, undoubtedly helped by Venkat's membership of the local Rotary and Lions clubs. His profile has also increased through strong links to the Indian Bank through SHG loans schemes, and also working with UNICEF and the Tamil Government on a village latrine programme.

This last week-end, a local pawnbroker has very kindly donated a whole set of school uniforms, some books and other items to Mettupalayam School- a total of Rps22000 worth (£280). This is a very significant sum in Indian terms, equivalent to a donation in the UK of around £2800!

The local Tamil community do seem to have a strong service ethic, and a strong regard for helping others less fortunate than themselves.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Sunday Lunch

For some time now, we have been able to provide a mid day meal on schooldays to all the old age people in our Mettupalayam area. We are now paying the cook for an extra day each week, buying in additional food and providing a mid day meal on Sundays as well. Gomathi, pictured, is serving the first meals last week. This will cost about an extra £30 each month- a small price to pay to ensure that everyone will be fed. We are also looking at the level of protein that is provided, we may need to supplement this with eggs.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Crakehall School, Mettupalayam Update

One month after my last update, it is appears that little progress has been made, however the site is now fully marked out, the foundation trenches have been completed and building of the first support pillars has started. We have an expression "Indian time" to describe how things tend to take much longer than anticipated, but it is easy at a distance to forget all the practical difficulties that Venkat faces- not least organising construction work in temperatues well in excess of 100 degreesF!
Venakt and Ramya are taking a well earned short break and visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal- something that Venkat has been promising Ramya for many years. Whilst I would also like to visit the Taj Mahal, I'm not sure I could cope with two 26 hour train journeys in 4 days!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Exam success

We have been supporting Nadhia's family for many years, and her younger sister Lakshmi has featured in our school resource material published by Tiger Moon. Nadhia recently completed her Higher Secondary School examinations, gaining a very good pass mark of 782 out of 1200. This is a very high score for students in this rural area, and reflects all Nadhia's hard work and dedication over the last two years.

Venkat is talking to Nadhia about her future and we are offering her a full time staff position at our project, as understudy to Gomathi. She may wish to continue her studies towards gaining a teaching qualification and we will look to continue to encourage her to continue her studies if at all possible.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Crakehall School, Mettupalayam

At long last, the foundation work for the new Crakehall School has started. This building will replace the three old buildings which have been erected over the years, providing a modern, purpose built set of classrooms, suitable for the next generation of pupils. We will also be able to accept pupils with disabilities, particularly wheelchairs, in the new building. With larger doors and windows, a nice balcony for shade, and much larger rooms, the improvement will be marvellous to see.

Subject to any unforseen delays, we hope to complete the building stage within 3 months. Regular updates will appear on this blog, together with photos as available.

Thank you again to Guy and family for donating all the money to enable Venkat to realise his dream.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Taken for a ride?

It may be April 1st, but this is no joke! Our recently born calf suddenly started to sicken, so Venkat took it down to the vet's in the jeep. A quick examination and injection later, and all is well.
Our small herd of dairy cows is very important to the local economy, as it forms part of a larger cooperative with the cows owned by the women in Mettupalayam. By collecting all the milk together each day, we are able to sell direct to the dairy, receiving a much better price.
Over the years, various groups and schools have bought individual cows to add to the herd, helping to establish this valuable business opportunity for all the Mettupalayam villagers.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Rice harvest

Our second crop of rice has just been harvested. Venkat is pleased that around 2 tonnes of rice is now bagged up and ready for sale to the Government Regulating Market. As we won't have enough well water for irrigation for another crop, Venkat is planning to plant watermelons as a short term cash crop.

Our farm not only provides good quality food, we are also able to show other local farmers how to grow crops in an environmentally friendly way, using minimal chemicals and maximising sales income. Yet another of our rural development activities.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Sponsored run/walk

Our very good Friend and supporter, Stuart, is looking to raise funds for our work by running/walking The Lyke Wake Walk in July. The extract below gives details, do e-mail me for further information and how to support him on

The Friends of Mettupalyam Trust is a village based project supporting children and adults in a very poor rural area of Tamil Nadu, South India. The project centres on the education of children, improving their future lives and health through education and better nutrition.
Following the Tsunami, which affected the coastline some 40 miles from our project Friends of Mettupalayam started a second project on the coast, with three classes of around 48 children. They have helped to set up and support over 200 women’s self help groups.
Back in July 2007 I undertook to walk Scafell Pike three times in one day, which I managed with excellent support from friends particularly on the last climb!! The money raised enabled me to make a real difference to the lives of the people in Tamil Nadu.
This year on July 18th I am doing “The Lyke Wake Walk” , hopefully this will be twinned with an event in the village in Tamil Nadu.
I have set myself the challenge of completing this walk of 40 miles across the North York Moors in just 12 hours, starting at 6.00pm and finishing at 6pm. To qualify for the Wake Club the walk is normally completed in 24 hours so 12 hours should prove a real challenge!
The walk includes 5000ft of climbing with the highest point on the walk being Botton Head at 1489ft. In order to reach the deadline I will be running a substantial part of the way, with the company of a few friends on the way! Training has already started with the Bath Half Marathon under my belt and a few more (local) races scheduled.
I do hope you will join me in supporting this project, further details of which can be found on the website uk , thank you for your kind donation based on a fixed amount for me completing the walk within 12 hours.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Open Day 8th March

As usual after returning from our annual trip to the project, yesterday we held an open afternoon. On display were the 5th and 4th class booklets which we brought back, and also the necklaces and bracelets. Whilst not primarily held for fund-raising, as always, our Friends were very generous and we had a total of over £250 donated to help the project. Pride of place in our displays were the plans for the new Crakehall School which we expect to start this week. I hope to be able to share the progress of this work with you all via photos from our project director, Venkat.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

First rank students

Through our bursary scheme, we continue to support Mettupalayam school students when they move on to government secondary school. This may be by way of fees, uniforms, school books or simply by recognizing their achievements. This is especially important for the gypsy children who now all continue on with their education rather than dropping out. This month, two of the gypsy children received awards for being first ranked in the exams- Chinnapunna who was in our top year last year, and is therefore in year 6, and Tamilarasan who is now in year 9.
He has been so sucessful in achieving top rank all through his secondary schooling so far that both he and his parents were featured in a full page article in the Indian Times. When he completes his schooling, Tamilarasan wants to be a Government officer so that he can help his people.

Nationally, less than 1% of gypsy children take up education- in our catchment area, we estimate that around 50% come to Mettupalayam school and we continue to encourage and educate parents in the benefits for both themselves and their children. The official description of the gypsy races is Most Backward Class, and there are significant Government payments for those who reach 10th standard and pass their exams. There are also marriage payments for gypsy girls who sucessfully complete 10th standard.