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 our end of year report which seems like a good time to take stock, celebrate and inform you of a really exciting new venture.
We have come a long way
Since 1987 Friends of Mettupalayam has helped improve the lives and opportunities of many thousands of people in Tamil Nadu, around the area of Mettupalayam and after the 2005 tsunami also at our Nambikki School on the Bay of Bengal coast. This has been done through education at our two primary schools, but also through improved nutrition, healthcare, disability support, the development of women’s groups and other rural development activities. The work has been life-changing – children learning in small classes in purpose-built schools; gypsy families sending their children to school with real ambition for their futures; regular nutritious meals provided for children and the elderly; health camps provided on a weekly basis; proper toilet facilities built; women’s groups organising bank loans to allow such things as the purchase of milk cows or starting small enterprises; entire families freed from bonded slavery.
Back in 1987 the village dwellings were all simple thatched huts, the school a basic concrete block and we had just installed the first water pump.
Twenty five years on and here is our new Crakehall school building and some rather healthy-looking children in front of the school’s dedicated filtered water tank.
Our New Venture, Serpakkam
You may recall in our last two newsletters, we talked about the development needs of a village just 4 miles away from Mettupalayam. We have close links with Serpakkam. It is the family village of our great friend Gomathi (pictured here in her village main street) who worked for the project for many years until her recent marriage. We have provided some level of disability, elderly and health support here over the years.
In some ways, Serpakkam reminds us of Mettupalayam 25 years ago. Many of the village children do not attend school, healthcare needs (as previously reported) are a major concern and the level of malnutrition has been identified as a major contributing factor. Building on our experience in Mettupalayam we have therefore developed a comprehensive development plan for Serpakkam. Our aim is to:
– address immediate health problems including those caused by poor diet
– improve the short term nutritional intake of the villagers by provided subsidised vegetables
– improve the long term nutritional intake of the villagers by developing kitchen gardens
– establish a basic primary health care service in the village
– review the position of village children with respect to educational needs
– review the position of elderly villagers
This plan will involve the appointment of key personnel within the village to take prime responsibility for healthcare, for the provision of vegetables and support for the elderly. We are looking at the barriers to free education and will work to remove these in whatever way is appropriate.
The project will cost in the region of £6,000 gross in the first year with costs reducing once the village becomes more self-sufficient in areas such as growing its own vegetables. Trustees have agreed funding for the first 12 months, with a full review to be undertaken at that time. Having said that, we are confident that we can bring the same sorts of benefit to Serpakkam that have transformed Mettupalayam.
This week Venkat has taken delivery of 500kg of fresh vegetables for the village. Here he is getting the Crakehall schoolchildren to measure out small bags of mixed vegetables; ready for Serpakkam where these will be sold at a reduced rate. He is also arranging that Gomathi is there at the start of the programme. Her authority and detailed village knowledge will ensure the programme is built on a solid foundation.
We are already taking steps to seek additional funding based on the aims and needs of this project and look forward to keeping all our friends updated on progress. If you would like to contribute towards this, £10 each month would cover the cost for one family!
Both Nambikki and Crakehall schools report healthy numbers with approximately 110 children at each school. Our teachers are performing well and the ongoing input from UK visitors has added greatly to the varied curriculum. The teaching of English has been brought alive by the use of phonics and the Jolly Phonics programme. Crakehall School has recently taken delivery of a 18kg consignment of Lego bricks – many thanks to Lego UK for this generous gift. You can see how much the children love it.
Amongst many other local schools, we are delighted that the close links between the Crakehall Primary school near Bedale, North Yorkshire and its namesake in Mettupalayam are being developed and strengthened.
The children have held a competition to name the new calf in Mettupalayam and have asked their counterparts to help them to name their new wildlife area, (Caramel and Butterfly Forest, respectively!). They also write and share letters. This bond of friendship is sure to have many educational benefits to the children at both schools.
As previously reported we are in the process of building a house for Venkat and his family. Our most recent UK visitor to the project, Karen, has told us that Venkat’s own bedroom is the size of a small cupboard! (“Where I sleep is not important”) Anyway, the building work is progressing reasonably well. Although monsoon rains and local superstitions find ways of delaying things we are still hopeful it will be pretty well finished by the end of the year. This will give Venkat, Ramya and Anand some personal space and free up the project multipurpose building for the flow of UK visitors expected over the next few months. All our visitors contribute greatly across differing areas – school teaching, healthcare, women’s group development and perhaps most of all in providing friendship and support to our team, the children and the local community.
The Mettupalayam Farm
We are currently in the main monsoon season, but as yet Tamil Nadu has had little rain. There are about three more weeks of the season, so we are still hoping for the best (please feel free to try rain dances).
We have three acres of sugar cane growing well and Venkat has had one acre ploughed ready for paddy. He will prepare another ten acres if we get good rain, but paddy relies on water. Should there be insufficient water for paddy, no doubt he will be planting groundnuts (peanuts), a useful, dry season crop. Our cow is again pregnant and we hope for another female calf in due course.
As we get close to Christmas we will be going to various fairs and coffee mornings to raise money and sell goods. If anyone wants to do any similar fund and awareness-raising, please do get in touch and we can provide information and leaflets. In the meantime, we hope that you have found the newsletter informative. Please do share this with family and friends, and let us know if you would like an additional copy. Also a reminder that we are posting news items and photos each week on our Facebook page.
If you have any questions or requests do not hesitate to get in touch.
Our thanks and very best festive wishes from the UK and Tamil Nadu.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!