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
Well, as we pray for a long hot summer, the staff and children at our projects have been praying for rain! Shortly after we received these photos of the schoolchildren doing “puja” at our small farm temple, we got the news that their prayers had been answered, with a short burst of summer monsoon rain.
Our schools started their new year in June, with new students, new uniforms (all made by our ladies tailoring unit!), new school books, renewed enthusiasm and some new teachers. It is a little sad when teachers move on, but Venkat tells us that we have three very competent replacements at the Crakehall school (all female again), recruited from the nearby town of Utherimerur. At Nambikki we have two new teachers. School student intake has been healthy and we have 120 children on the register at Nambikki and 125 at Crakehall.
The Crakehall School is close to a gypsy village and it is really encouraging that we have 15 new students from the village into our first two year groups. Just five years ago only around 20% of the local gypsy children attended school, now the figure is closer to 90%. Venkat has done more than anyone to encourage this sea-change, but he also believes that the success of the three gypsy boys who have progressed to college has had a massive “role-model” impact. Vijayan, Chandrasekar and Tamilarison all retain strong links with the school and recently did some teaching for us during their College vacations. Most of the gypsy parents are now fully committed to education for their children and can really see the potential it can have for their sons and daughters. Our next focus will be on encouraging the parents to support more of their children to continue to High School after their primary education. This year two gypsy girls and three boys are doing so. One is the brother of Vijayan and aiming to follow in his footsteps. It is unusual for a project like ours to still be going strong 30 years since its inception (by our founders David and Venkat). This just could not have happened without your amazing support over those years and it allows us to really reflect on the massive steps forward taken by so many touched by the project.
People like Rajeshwari who we have managed to support into the marvellous school for the deaf a few hours’ drive away. She continues to shine and to return during holidays to her grateful parents in Mettupalayam. Her smile could light the whole village! This year she has moved up to year 5 and should start computer training, which we are very happy to pay for.
Community News and Healthcare
In our last newsletter we told you that our great friend Gomathi who worked tirelessly for the project for many years was pregnant again after two miscarriages. Venkat ensured she had the best of care and the great news is that she has had a healthy baby boy – “Karthik Raja”. It is a lovely name. Venkat tells us the name is from a film director (Bollywood strikes again!).
Gomathi comes from a small village close to Mettupalayam called Serpakkam. We reported on it in the last newsletter recounting the pressing need for preventive healthcare, and improved nutrition, similar to that provided by the project in Mettupalayam. We have now undertaken a census of the village population to enable a programme of health support, assisted by our contracted local GP, Dr Paramasivam. With your support we aim to provide monthly health visits and we hope that Gomathi may be able to help manage this for us. Here she is with her husband Mohan, and (tiny) new baby.
At long last we are building a house for Venkat, big enough for him and his two children Anand and Ramya (both great supporters of their father and the project). Ramya is now working full time at the project, looking after the accounts, organising and taking art and craft classes, and maintaining the craft supplies room. Once this house is completed, the multipurpose building will be dedicated to storage and accommodation for visitors, which is an increasing and hugely positive trend. The children, staff and villagers gain huge encouragement, friendship and benefit from the many and various visitors who come to work and help the project. And of course you need only ask the visitors to know that they get at least as much! As usual, most of the hard building work is done by local village women, but Venkat insists that 300 rupees (£3) for an 11 hour day is a very good rate and they seem to be happy, at least for this photo! We hope the house will be finished this year.
The Mettupalayam Farm
As we mentioned, we have had some rain, but the water levels are still very low; we have not been able to properly irrigate our fields and have lost some sugar cane crop. However, the farm workers have done their best to make the most of what we have, clearing wells to increase capacity and bringing water from further afield to protect the mango orchard. Both the sugarcane plants and the trial crop of wheat were provided by the Government Agricultural Department, so our input costs have been minimal. It is still very sad to see all that effort go unrewarded!
As always, we want to thank all those who have contributed in so many ways to raising funds and raising awareness of the incredible work done by our team in Tamil Nadu. For example, Friends Ian and Lynn, and also Liz and sons who all successfully completed the coast to coast bike ride– raising a significant sum for teaching resources. We think they have just about recovered. Fantastic stuff.
As usual there have been numerous fairs, coffee mornings, events, garage sales, school concerts etc., and individual donations all supporting Venkat’s work. If you would like to hold a fund raising event and need more information or support, please do contact us. We are also still happy to give illustrated talks about our work in India.
Finally, a date for your diary. Karen and Rosie are planning an afternoon garden fair from 1-5pm on Sunday
27th July at Exelby. We hope to have Anand and Ramya here on a short visit, and it will be a very rare opportunity to meet with them and find out more about their lives and the project. We hope as many of you as possible will come and join us.
Once again, thank you all. Venkat and his team send you their love and best wishes.