FRIENDS OF METTUPALAYAM TRUST
Registered Charity No 1054673
C/o David Eldridge
The Coach House, Bainbridge
N Yorks DL8 3EE
Tel 01969 650618
Francis and Rosie Muncaster
Bedale. DL8 2HF
Welcome to the mid-year update on our projects in Tamil Nadu, South India. Thanks to you, our two schools are thriving and we continue to provide vital healthcare, disability and wide-ranging rural development support to those in and around the communities inland at Mettupalayam and on the Bay of Bengal coast at our Nambikkai school.
Both of our schools continue to have very healthy student numbers. This year, our Nambikkai school has enrolled 133 students, exceeding the Crakehall school in Mettupalayam which has 122.
In Mettupalayam we are delighted that our recently-built toilets are now functional and being used. It was something of a culture-change for the children, who have always been used to just disappearing into the trees.
A new set of gypsy children have enrolled and Venkat is concerned that they show signs of long-term malnutrition. As a result he has arranged to supply extra protein and vitamins through regular eggs, milk, pulses and fresh vegetables. A simple health monitoring sheet will track their weight and height over the next three months.
Our super group of teachers was joined by Rob Jakeman and his girlfriend Ruth who visited the school for a month earlier this year. Rob is a musician and he introduced the children to a variety of music and musical instruments. Fund raising by family and friends in the UK enabled Venkat to buy a variety of instruments. Rob brought new experiences, fun and joy and is yet another example of the different way friends and visitors enrich the lives of our students and village children. Thanks Rob.
At Nambikkai, the children celebrated the 8th anniversary of the school, which opened just months after the terrible tsunami that struck the community there on Boxing Day 2004. They celebrated in style as you can see from the photo. And we are happy to say that the whole event, costume hire et al was sponsored and paid for by local businesses, parents (and politicians!). It is really gratifying to see what has happened since 2005 and how so many young people have benefitted from your support.
Venkat has always dreamed of expanding the Crakehall School provision to include a middle school for years 6 to 8. There are many good reasons for doing this, not least the high drop-out rate of the gypsy children due to discrimination and bullying when they progress to secondary school. We are now planning to retain the current year 5 children next summer although there will be many hurdles to clear before official permission is given. We also need to consider funding and would hope that new donors and supporters will come forward to help with the income requirement.
Community news and healthcare.
Venkat and his team, supported by our local GP Dr Paramasevum provide invaluable healthcare support for the local people, as well as caring for those with disabilities. This support is particularly welcome, as disability is still viewed with some negativity by many in India, with some disabled children and adults kept away from the rest of the community. As with the integration of the Gypsy community, the project is not just directly helping those involved, but also driving change within the whole wider community.
Recently, funded by the IRDT disability programme, the local Rotary Club presented 2 specially adapted wheelchairs to two elderly disabled men, who previously had very limited mobility.
Our regular eye camps continue to provide relief and life-changing improvements for many. Run by doctors and students from a nearby medical college, the most recent camp examined 40 elderly patients from which 20 cataract operations were arranged!
In the last newsletter, we reported the start of a small tailoring class for village and gypsy women. Since then our Friend Karen has visited again, sourced three more sewing machines and provided further training and direction. The tailoring unit is now flourishing; there is a waiting list for training and all our school uniforms have been made “in-house”. This initiative is providing skills and income for the local community and great value clothing for the school. Fantastic!
With the generous support of one of our Friends, we are now planning further development of the second floor of our Crakehall school building. In preparation for this, Venkat has arranged for the local production of 50,000 bricks. Not only is it much cheaper making the bricks ourselves, it also provided some good extra income for around 10 families. This project was managed by Venkat’s son Anand, who has been helping at the project. In this photo you can see ladies carrying bricks to the kiln for firing. In 40 degrees, the work was obviously too arduous for the men! We will keep you posted!
We have had rain! And the good news is that we have had better than average rainfall for this early rain season, which will be a big help for the cultivation of crops for food for school and community meals.
Picking mangoes is a job for everyone, including these two school girls – they love mangoes. Even Venkat was caught on camera clambering up the mango tree! Incidentally, these two girls are from the two different communities that we serve- a village girl and a gypsy girl. Venkat and the teachers work very hard to make sure that there is no discrimination and the children respond by choosing their own best friends!
Venkat has been taking the opportunity of the rain to clear some unwanted vegetation, small unproductive trees etc, and to improve the farmland. Regrettably we were unable to complete the purchase of the 7.5 acres of land that we had been leasing for the last 6 years, due to the reluctance of the seller following much increased land prices but the return of the lease purchase funds has been very welcome.
We were thrilled to be able to host a visit to the UK for Venkat earlier this year. Venkat was extremely active whilst here – meeting Friends at Francis and Rosie’s Open Day, visiting schools to speak about the project and spending quality time with his great friends David and Adele. As you may know, David founded the project with Venkat nearly 30 years ago. We know how much he and everyone else valued his visit.
Next visitors to the project are the Bell family, who are travelling soon. Everyone at the project enjoys visitors and we look forward to hearing their news.
On the home front, we would like to thank all those involved in fund-raising and raising awareness. From car boot sales to animal rescue fun days, Catterick Sunday Market collection, coffee mornings and open days; thank you all. As anyone who visits the project will attest, the proceeds are incredibly well spent and the commitment and friendship of all our Friends is valued just as highly.
Visitors are already booked to visit Mettupalayam again this Autumn/Winter when the weather is somewhat cooler, and we look forward to contributions again to the tailoring unit, the school and the social work. It is difficult to overstate the benefit that these volunteers provide to Venkat and his staff and, as they are all self-funded, all at no extra cost to project funds.
Should you have any questions or ideas you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Hugo or Jean, contact details at the top of the newsletter.
Thank you all again for your generous and consistent support.