Friday, 22 October 2010

Latest updates

Crakehall School is now completed and open. Venkat is now starting the toilet block and then hopes to have the water tower finished so that we have piped water to the toilets and to the school. Our next project is probably going to be a new visitor accommodation block on the school's first floor. We will be putting funds aside to pay for this when possible.

This week, Venkat has paid 40000Rps (£600) to the Agricultural Board and will receive a grant for a further 43000Rps, which will pay for a drip feed irrigation system on a 2 1/2 acre plot. This will then be used for vegetable growing and the irrigation will save around 25% water, very important as the monsoon is again much less than needed.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

FOM now on Facebook

We now have a Facebook group under Friends of Mettupalayam, so you can now receive regular feeds more easily.
Hopefully this will be easier to update with small news items more regularly.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Mari's story- continued

This is the latest photo of Mari and her daughter, with Gopal, a proud grandfather. We have now heard fom Venkat that Marsi, Mari's husband, is still a bonded labourer, tied to a quarry owner near Kanchipuram. He is now getting into trouble as, understandably, he wishes to spend time with Mari and the baby. Venkat has been told that Marsi hasn't borrowed much money himself from the quarry owner, but has inherited his father's debts when his father died some 5/6 years ago.
FOM have agreed to find 9000 rupees, about £140, to buy Marsi his freedom, on the understanding that he treats Mari and the baby repectfully and properly, and allows the baby to come to Crakehall School when she is old enough. Venkat will find Marsi work on the farm, training him in agricultural techniques and tractor driving etc. We will also pay him a decent wage, as well as providing accommodation and support. There will be one less debt slave in India!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Paid to go to school?

One of the not-so-obvious ways that IRDT help local people is in accessing their rights and entitlements. This isn't easy when you can't read or write! This photo is of some of the tribal people who have chosen to settle near Mettupalayam as they appreciate the help that they receive. Across India, only around 5% of tribal children attend school and in order to encourage this, the Government have introduced an education grant. Venkat arranged for 24 Mettupalayam school and 4 secondary school pupils to go to the collectors office where each child received 600Rps- around £9, with a slightly higher payment for the older ones. In total, 16000Rps was paid out, around £240, a significant help to the parents.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Mari- a very young mother

Mari is one of the young children we found breaking rock some 6 years ago near to our farmland. Her parents and relatives were all bonded labourers (debt slaves) and were forced to stay working for the quarry owner despite inadequate wages, no proper housing and no access to healthcare. Following buying all 45 peoples freedom after our return to the UK, Mari was able to start at our Mettupalayam primary school and progressed to secondary school. However, following her mother's tragic suicide, she decided to leave school and was married last year at age 13! On Friday, Gomathi took her to the local clinic where she had a ceasarian birth, a baby daughter. Venkat had to pay for an ambulance to rush her to the government hospital as she was losing blood so badly. Today Venkat says that she is recovering well. I dread to think what would have happened to Mari and her daughter if we weren't around to take her to the clinic, then to hospital. The custom is not to give the baby a name for some time but we will continue to take an extra special interest in both Mari and her daughter.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Changing lives-3

This is Sabina, who has featured before in my blog. She was diagnosed with severe tonsillitis by Laura and Emily in July last year, but was too weak for an operation. After 6 months of special liquid nutrition (She had been unable to swallow solid food for a long time!) she was strong enough for the operation in December. The first photo was taken in July, at the health check-up camp, and the second one in mid January and, really, it is the same child!
Thank you Laura and Emily, for the diagnosis and for your compassion, thank you Venkat for your patience and support, and thank you to the doctors in the government hospital.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Changing lives-2

I would like to introduce you to Patchyammal. I met her first about 6 years ago, living in a very desperate situation, on the edge of starvation and although only 3 year's old, working at breaking rock with her slave parents. The family didn't earn enough money to buy food and had to resort to trying to trap rats to eat! When we returned to England, we managed, with the help of Sadeh Lok, to free all of the 14 family groups by paying off their debts. Most of the families chose to leave the area, but some remained. Regrettably, Patchyammal's parents split up but Sagar, her father, later remarried and now looks after Patchyammal, her sister Magaisse and her younger step siblings. Their income has improved considerably and the family have now returned to Mettupalayam, living with the other former debt slaves and working on the farm. Patchyammal is now coming to school each day, working hard and learning. Her health has improved although she will always suffer from those first 3 years of malnutrition. Hopefully, she will go on to secondary school- probably the first person in her family to achieve this. All this has been achieved with Venkat and Gomathi's dedication and commitment and the support of Friends in the UK. We are really making a difference to the lives and futures for these people.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Crakehall School update

Venkat has today had a meeting with the assistant engineer and agreed a timetable for the completion of our new Crakehall School building. With the Government School Building inspector due any day, it is important that we have the work completed speedily. We still hope and expect to be starting the new school year on the 1st June in the new school.

It will be a red letter day when we can finally say that the school is open for business!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Sakthi- a special story

Sakthi is a former IRDT worker who wanted to be a police lady. She studied hard and Venkat saved all her salary for 2 years until she had passed her police entrance exam and physical test. She has now been a police lady for about 2 years and is a true role model. She refuses to take any bribes and is very honest. This week she has been guarding prisoners between jail and court and she noticed that one of the women prisoners had a small baby which was both under-nourished and showing mosquito bites. Sakthi returned to the jail with a mosquito net, some food and biscuits and also gave the woman 400 rupees (about £6). The warder at the jail was so moved that he wrote a letter of commendation to the Police Superintendant and this has now been printed with Sakthi's picture in the local papers. We are very proud of our daughter and very special friend Sakthi.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Meena returns for leprosy treatment

I am delighted to confirm that Meena has now been found and has returned to Mettupalayam. She has been to the clinic who have confirmed early stages of leprosy and prescribed 1 months treatment with antibiotics. She will then return for a second examination to determine whether further treatment is necessary. Normally 6 months of antibiotics will halt the spread of the disease.

Meena is to stay at Mettupalayam with her relations and attend Mettupalayam School.

Thank you Venkat, Gopal and Patchyamman for taking such efforts to help this young girl.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

An elephant blessing

Temple elephants are a regular feature of the bigger temples in South India. For a small donation, the elephant will give you a blessing. This is Jean, up front and personal with her elephant and receiving a blessing!

I found it quite scary being so close to such a large animal, particularly as you do hear stories of elephant rage! However, it is worth it, to be able to tell the story to friends and family when you return home.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Sometimes life is so hard in India. Meena is from the quarry community who were freed from debt slavery by IRDT some 5 years ago. Her family have moved to Karpakkam and only visit their friends and relatives near Mettupalayam on feast days. When we were there last month, we noticed that she was showing classic signs of leprosy and had hoped to arrange for her to visit the government hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately she has returned home before this could be arranged. Venkat is now going to send one of our farm workers, either Patchyamman or Gopal, on the bus to try to find her and talk to her parents about treatment. Ideally we would like her to stay in Mettupalayam for 6 months so that we can make sure she takes the antibiotics which will stop the disease from spreading and doing further damage. I hope to be able to confirm this later.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Billy Bear in India

The children at Leeming and Londonderry School, N Yorks very kindly agreed that Billy Bear could accompany us on our annual visit to the project. He really enjoyed his visit, meeting all the children at Mettupalayam School and he returned to school on Monday with his companions to tell all the children about his adventures! At Mettupalayam School, Billy was a star attraction, only in Tamil he is known as Billy Bommai!

On a serious note, Billy has provided many opportunities to explain to our children about life in another culture, in a different part of the world and he enables us to build very strong links, developing cohesion and understanding.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

School trip

Hugo and Jean kindly paid to hire a coach to take some of the children, teachers and staff to visit Pondicherry today. On the way, they stopped at Auroville and this photo shows the Matrimandir in the background. It is a real treat for the children to go on school trips which are only able to be organised occasionally due to the cost. Thank you Hugo and Jean!

I have been wanting to visit Pondicherry for some time- perhaps on my next visit?

Thursday, 28 January 2010


From the recent blog, you will know about Sabina, a young girl at our Mettupalayam School. She was diagnosed as suffering from acute tonsillitis which had been affecting her for some years. Incredibly underweight, the hospital doctor said that she was too ill to have the operation, so we have been providing her with liquid food supplements to build up her weight and strength. She went into hospital on the 21st December and has had her tonsils removed. When we were in India two weeks ago, she had just restarted school. Pictured with her grateful father, it is thanks to Laura and Emily that she was diagnosed, thanks to IRDT and Venkat for the food supplements and not least, thanks to the Government Hospital doctors for the free operation.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Self Help Groups

One of the most important activities organised by IRDT in both project areas is the foundation and support for self help groups or Sanghams. Gomathi now works with over 185 groups, in excess of 3500 people, mainly women but with some male farmers clubs. All but two of these are being run successfully, repaying their Indian Bank loans and developing their small enterprises. Whilst at the project we attended a meeting with the only group having real problems where the leader and deputy had taken funds from the other members and used them for personal expenditure. To see Gomathi and Venkat, with the support of the majority of the group, taking these women to task was an awesome sight! Having changed leaders, we were told that the money would be repaid to the group over the coming month.
These groups are effective, not just in improving the local economy but also helping their members effect real social change.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

One of the highlights for the children at Mettupalayam School has been the increasing ability to arrange school trips this year. The most recent trip pictured was for the older children to visit the famous sea temples of Mamallapuram, close to our Nambikki project. Until recently, many children hadn't seen the sea, so this is a real treat for them! A big thank you to Ashfield Infants School, Workington who recently raised funds for us which paid for these school trips.

This post also gives everyone here in the UK the chance to wish all our Friends where ever you may be, a very Happy New Year.