February 2012

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 first project update of 2012. It is a pleasure to speak directly with everyone who supports the amazing work that Venkat and his team do to improve the lives and prospects for the children and communities we work with in Tamil Nadu.

School news

In Mettupalayam, the new Aspire school provision is gathering pace. The school is dedicated to tribal children from the local gypsy population and also our quarry settlement, many of whom otherwise cannot attend due to the nomadic nature of their families. Through education and support we can improve the lives and futures of these lovely children from the most marginalised sector of the community. As previously advised, the school is currently housed in the grounds and sub-standard buildings of the old school, with the children sleeping overnight on simple camp-beds, supervised by a night watchman. The local education office has given verbal commitment of on-going financial support, a condition of which is a requirement to build a purpose-built hostel for this group of up to 40 pupils. This would provide two dormitories for 20 children each, plus dining facilities, kitchen, toilets and bathroom. We estimate a budget of up to £15,000 and once we have confirmation of local education support we will be opening an appeal to raise this one-off capital amount.

Our Mettupalayam and Nambikkai schools each currently have 105 pupils and we are delighted to have had good continuity of our teaching staff providing a high standard of education to pupils in classes of less than twenty (local government schools often have 100 pupils per class).

Community News and Healthcare

Our marvellous support worker Gomathi, continues to lead more than 60 active women’s groups with a variety of practical and educational support. She has recently enabled Government Bank loans for 85 women. With these, each woman receives 44000Rps (£570) allowing the purchase of two milk cows. In return, they must repay 34000Rps over a two-year period.
We continue to provide food for old people in the local area. There is often nothing left for the old folk at meal times as parents and children traditionally come first.
The situation with disability support is challenging as we currently have no long-term trained disability worker. We have found it very difficult to find or retain suitably skilled people. However, we have women’s group leaders identified to support the disabled in their own villages and we continue to seek ways to improve what we do.

The Mettupalayam Farm

The monsoon season has provided about 70% of the desired rainfall this year and Venkat says this has provided satisfactory levels in our percolation lagoon for the farm. We currently have sugar cane almost ready to harvest plus groundnuts, watermelon and turmeric. Rice will be planted soon. In terms of livestock we have a small herd of cattle and a flock of some 300 ducks producing eggs for our nutrition programme. Our farm provides not just excellent food for our community, but also employment and income.

UK News

I am pleased to report a series of successful coffee mornings which took place in November. Five separate events were held across Yorkshire with almost £1300 raised and perhaps as important, the privilege to spread the word yet further about the project.

We have had an increasing number of UK visitors/volunteers working at the project and newly arrived- a Swiss teacher and her husband who are staying locally for around 6 months.

Please share this newsletter with friends and family, and contact us if you want additional copies. We continue to think that a paper newsletter is easier to read, at your convenience, but if anyone would rather receive this newsletter electronically, please let us know. If you wish to keep regularly up-to-date, you can access the Facebook link via our IRDT website which is open to view even if you are not a Facebook member.

We are always pleased to receive contacts from new Friends. Thank you once again for all your support and Venkat has asked to send on love and best wishes from all in Mettupalayam and Nambikkai.

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