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Changing Lives, A Rural Development Project in South India

October 2011

FRIENDS OF METTUPALAYAM TRUST

Registered Charity No 1054673

c/o David Eldridge
The Coach House, Bainbridge
N Yorks DL8 3EE
Tel 01969 650618
E-mail davidweldridge@gmail.com

Francis and Rosie Muncaster
‘The Rowans’
Exelby,
Bedale. DL8 2HF
01677 425961
Email: fmuncaster@hotmail.com

Dear Friends

Welcome to our end of year newsletter and a summary of developments across the project. Should you wish to keep a more regular eye on things, why not access the Facebook link, (via our IRDT website, bottom right of page) which is open to view even if you are not a Facebook member.

School news

In our July newsletter, we mentioned the initial stages of a new initiative to encourage the local tribal children into education. Well, a lot has happened in the intervening months! Tribal and quarry children have a number of extra challenges. First, their families are nomadic, so regular school attendance has been an issue. Second, the tribal groups are deemed as below the lowest level of the caste system and have long been treated as such by most – with the notable exception of Venkat who has unceasingly championed their rights. As a result, there is a significant improvement in their acceptance within the local community. Venkat has now opened an annexe to the Crakehall School, utilising the existing buildings from the old school. There are 42 students who had previously dropped-out, ages ranging from 5 -13, with two new teachers dedicated to this group. The children are treated as a part of the Crakehall School, with some shared classes and joint events such as PE and Assembly. Basic meals and overnight accommodation are being provided, without which the children would not be able to attend as their families could be roaming many miles from the project. We have a name too – the ASPIRE school (Additional Special Provision for Integration & Rural Education). We rather like it! Venkat has approached the local education office on the understanding that full Government funding will be forthcoming. As you can imagine, this new endeavour has involved a massive amount of organisation and commitment from Venkat and his team at IRDT – recruitment, training, staff organisation and not least the design of suitable education plans for such a diverse group of ages and abilities. Here you can see the children in a quieter moment.

Community News and Healthcare

Mettupalayam gets a bus line! Knowing the width of the local track that runs past the school, it was with some surprise that we learned that a new bus route has opened incorporating our project and the village. This is good news and will enable better access to local areas and as far as Chennai. Attached is a photo of Venkat honouring the bus driver and conductor.

In Mettupalayam, dentistry is generally unavailable but working with the Utherimerur Rotary Club another free dental camp has been provided, open to all the school children and villagers. The dentists came from a top clinic in Chennai. Altogether 178 check-ups were carried out and around 80% of the children needed work doing. Venkat has arranged to make regular trips to the dental hospital until they have all been sorted. He says “Indian sweets” are to blame!

We are delighted to report the healthy arrival of two new “project” babies. Sakthi, who has worked with the project for many years gave birth to a 3.5 kg baby girl at a local hospital, photo attached. Mari a former student of Crakehall School and still only just 16 has given birth to her second daughter. After a C section last time, she felt some pains, sat under a neem tree and half-hour later, delivered her own baby! Thanks again to Venkat for keeping a watchful eye on them all.

UK News

Coffee across the world!

On the weekend of 19 November, the Trustees are each planning to hold coffee mornings to celebrate the work of our project – making a real difference to lives, expectations and aspirations. Venkat is arranging for coffee to be taken at the same time in both Mettupalayam and at the Nambiki School. We would be delighted if any friends wished to do the same – to promote our work and hopefully find new friends and support. Anyone wishing to do so, please let us know and we can provide any supporting information and materials as necessary.

We continue to keep close and regular UK contact with the project and we are pleased to report that some long-term supporters are making their first visit at the end of October and that further Trustee visits are planned for the early part of 2012.

Please share this newsletter with friends and family, and contact us if you want additional copies. We are always pleased to receive contacts from new Friends. Thank you again for all your support and let us be one of the first to wish you-

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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