November 2015

FRIENDS OF METTUPALAYAM TRUST

Registered Charity No 1054673

c/o Adele 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,

1We hope you have had a good summer. The sun and relatively dry weather which we have all enjoyed over the last month or two, has been replicated in Tamil Nadu, which unfortunately is not such good news for water levels and crops. However, there is still time for some November monsoon rains – so your rain-dances, crossed fingers or positive thoughts are all very welcome!
Having recently returned from the project it is really heartening to be able to report back on the lives that are being changed through your support. Our team in Tamil Nadu is amazing and we are so lucky to have Venkat’s two children, Ramya and Anand, both helping their father full time. He says it is their duty (!) but they willingly give their total commitment and complimentary skills in providing service to others. More of this as you read on.

School News

Both our schools are operating well with the new teacher teams beginning to settle in and develop. As flagged up in our last newsletter, we have invested in three desktop computers and these are now installed and being used in the Crakehall school in Mettupalayam. We are very fortunate that Anand is highly skilled in computers and computer technology. He is leading basic computer skills training with the fifth standard students, which will mean that when they graduate to high school they will have a head start We hope you have had a good summer. The sun and relatively dry weather which we have all enjoyed over the last month or two, has been replicated in Tamil Nadu, which unfortunately is not such good news for water levels and crops. Howeverin IT. The computers are also available for use by older village and gypsy students to use to enhance their high school study. With the advance of technology and the increasing opportunities and demands of this area, we hope you agree that this is a sensible use of resources to enhance educational standards.

Another new addition to the curriculum is Yoga classes! We are very pleased that one of our new teachers, Mohana, is a qualified Yoga teacher and Venkat is very supportive of the mind and body benefits that this can give to our students as an integral part of the curriculum. Here you can see one of the regular Monday and Friday classes.

We are also delighted that two good friends of the project, Ian and Lyn Godwin, are planning another month-long trip in the New Year. Now retired from teaching, Ian and Lyn will focus their time on supporting and developing the teacher teams at both Crakehall and Nambikki. Venkat also hopes to use their visit to encourage best practice discussions between the teacher groups at both sites. We know how much the teachers and students enjoy the support, input and fresh ideas that visitors bring. Critical to their success is the Venkatachalam family who provide the connections, advice and translation needed. We have already mentioned Anand, but his sister Ramya is doing amazing work in this area too, particularly in developing art and craft skills into the curriculum. They are an awesome team.

The Quarry families

You may well recall the work the project did in the past to free a group of families who were tied as bonded slaves to a local quarry owner. This group had recently wandered away and was scattered around the local area. One of the children of this group is Selvi, a lovely girl who was a student at our school. She is about 14 and is now heavily pregnant. As soon as Venkat became aware of this, and finding that she was anaemic, he took action to ensure she took proper ante-natal care. We are pleased that the local midwife is now supporting her. Selvi and her husband, Rajah Ghol, plus her father and mother and two other families have returned to the accommodation at our farm buildings and Rajah Ghol is now employed doing odd job work at the farm and the project. We are also ensuring regular nutritious food for mum-to-be Selvi. Here she is attending the local health centre.
We are also delighted to mention that Meena, also from this community, has returned with her husband and child- you may recall that Meena was diagnosed with early stage leprosy, now fully cured thanks to IRDT help!

Healthcare

5We are really fortunate to have a strong bond with our local General Practitioner, Dr Paramassivum, who takes a regular clinic for us at Mettupalayam. He is a highly experienced doctor, is a qualified Ophthalmologist and surgeon, speaks excellent English, is patient, listens well, is good humoured and he is totally committed to the project. What an asset to the community! He is also very gracious in accepting thoughts and ideas from visitors, which we realise cannot be that easy, as we often do not properly understand the customs and differences that exist. Recently, we took over an electronic medical recording system, which has been developed on a charitable basis by a group of doctors in the UK and is already operating in different projects around the developing world. Dr P. was very interested in the potential benefits that it may bring in being able to securely record patient details and then allow reporting and the identification of patterns over the longer term. We are also indebted to Anand who has committed to work with the doctor to enter data and develop the system. There are already more than 100 patient details and consultations on the system. We will keep you advised on progress.
We have also benefitted from UK visitors helping to improve our medical room facilities, which now include a much-improved stock of medicines and better patient examination area. I hope you agree it is looking pretty smart.

Serpakkam

6Our support of the nearby village continues, with weekly provision of fresh vegetables provided to the families at minimal cost. We are in the process of reviewing this initiative, before we decide on how best to move it forward. A full review will take place in January and we are planning to promote a kitchen garden initiative, providing seeds, expertise and encouragement for the villagers to start to grow their own!
Our longer-term aim is that we mirror the health improvements that are now so visible in Mettupalayam. Here we see Anand with UK visitor Ray in Serpakkam surveying and recording various health measures.

UK News

7Whilst we have had a number of volunteers over in India, others have been working hard back at home – raising funds and spreading the good news about the project.
Our Friends Nikki and Chris ran the Great North Run (with photo to prove it!); Hannah and her friends at Path Head fundraisers had an Indian day with all sorts of themed events; Trustee Adele, organised a ceilidh; Karen and Ray hosted a very successful garden party, and Karen has introduced us to Artison, near Masham, who have taken our work to heart, selling Indian fabric and stamps to their clients. These events alone have raised well over £3000!

We are also in the middle of a series of coffee mornings which will bring people together over coffee and cake and raise money at the same time. The Christmas Fairs season is also now upon us, with the first fair this week. Hopefully we may see some of you over the course of the next month or so, and you will have the opportunity of buying from our extensive stock of both Indian and UK made goods.
Our link with local schools remains strong and important. Our trustees Rosie and Francis have recently made visits to Bedale Primary School to talk about connections as varied as the weather in Tamil Nadu and on the theme of Charity itself and have further school visits scheduled. It is always invidious to mention individuals, as so many people contribute in so many ways. To you all, many thanks indeed.

Support for our work comes from many sources, Venkat always talks about the power (and as he sees it the duty) of providing service to others. Thank you all for doing this in one way or another.

Facebook

Just to mention again that we regularly post updates on our dedicated Facebook page which you can access very easily. It isn’t necessary for you to post personal details here if you would rather not, just ‘like’ our page and join in with around 230 others who support us in this way.

Website

Finally, a request for help. Does anyone know someone who would be interested in revamping our FOM website? We have lots of ideas on what we would like…

Any suggestions on this or ideas or requests on any subject, please do get in touch with any of the contacts at the top of this newsletter.

With our thanks for your support without which the project could not exist and our very best wishes for a peaceful and happy Christmas.

July 2015

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

We start this newsletter by remembering our joint-founder, David Eldridge. As many of you will know, David died from cancer earlier this year. He showed immense bravery during his illness and he never lost his unique ability to inspire others to go out and do things, to go places and to help those less fortunate than ourselves. He was simply amazing. I talked today with Venkat, our project leader in Tamil Nadu. He told me that David is always with him. “He is in the school with the children, he comes with me to the farm, he lives with all of us who knew him”. Our photo here shows Venkat leading a celebration of David’s life.
We could fill this newsletter and many more with stories of David and with first-hand accounts from the many people whose lives he and his wife Adele touched in the UK and in Tamil Nadu. But we know that he would insist that we talk about the project he set up with Venkat. We are so fortunate that Adele now continues to provide her direction and wisdom as we move on.
In these tough times, we thought it fitting to attach a piece David wrote a couple of years ago entitled “Charity starts at home”. Thank you David for all you have done and thank you all for supporting his work and the ideals he held so strongly and which are embedded in the project.

School News

With the new school year come new students and a batch of new teachers at both Nambikki and the Crakehall School at Mettupalayam. One of those Crakehall teachers is Mary Mathilda, who has been supported by IRDT thoughout her schooling and college. She lost her hand in a childhood accident and in the past we have provided funds for a prosthetic hand, helped with other expenses and with moral support. Having now graduated as a teacher, we are all very excited that she is joining our Crakehall School and will be able to give back to the children in her care. She is the lady here in the red churidhar.

School numbers remain constant with over 100 pupils at both schools. One of the many changes sweeping India is that there are fewer large families. Four or more children was commonplace until recently, but a combination of socio-economic factors has meant that many parents are now stopping at two children, supported and incentivised by the government.. Fortunately in terms of school numbers, this is counterbalanced by a much greater attendance at school, as parents realise the crucial difference education has on a child’s future prospects. This is even more true with the local gypsy (Kuruvi) community.

At the Crakehall School, things do not stop once our primary children leave each day – because the local high school students are encouraged to use our school facilities to do extra study. This is especially helpful for 16 year olds wishing to go on to College. As well as using our classrooms and electricity, Venkat and his two children Ramya and Anand are on hand to provide specific support. With Anand now back at the project, he has been providing Maths and English tuition. We are now planning to purchase three laptop computers – and Anand’s degree is in computing! This will enable basic computer awareness for year 6 primary students and invaluable support and more advanced computing development for the returning high school students.
Here we see Anand with some of the high school students.
This year has seen the first student from the Kuruvi Community graduate from College! Vijayan has satisfactorily completed his B Tech in Business Studies and is now working for an insurance company. Two further students studying computing should finish at the end of the current academic year.
Karen’s tailoring unit have also been busy again, making all the uniforms for the new school year. Besides being a cheaper alternative to buying , it provides the tailors with additional income.

At Nambikki we have some great news which takes us back to the school’s inception after the devastating tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. By opening the Nambikki School close to the relatively poor fishing village of Pazyanadukuppam your project enabled young children to attend school, who otherwise would not have done so, due to the distance from the nearest government school. Now, ten years on several of our first students have just graduated from high school.
This is a school photograph of S Shalini, who is 16. She studied at our Nambikki School, and then went on to study at a large Government high school. In her final year exams, she scored 469 marks out of 500, gaining 100% in her science and social science exams, 93% in Tamil, 91% in Maths and 85% in English! She was the second best pupil in her year group of over 100 students! She is now starting higher secondary school studying Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science at the equivalent of ‘A’ level. We will of course, continue to provide support and encouragement and hope that Shalini will progress to college or university in due course.
Two other ex-pupils, both girls, achieved 420 marks and are also going to higher secondary school and another three students have also completed their high school education. None of this would have happened without the tireless work of Venkat and the team who not only responded to the emergency but also identified the opportunity to provide education to a group who were not receiving any, particularly girls.
This story has also hit the North Yorkshire press! Please go here the to read more

Serpakkam

Our nutrition and healthcare initiative at this village close to Mettupalayam is going well. Our targeted approach is providing regular health camps and vegetable deliveries to each family at nominal cost to them. Venkat believes this is a very cost effective way for the project to spend its money as the benefit goes straight to those who need it. And this photo seems to support that view! A full review of the health improvements will be undertaken in October, at the end of the first years programme.

The Farm

We now have a three cow herd, with a new calf for our milk cow and a sister to Caramel! And despite the poor rainfall, these youngsters are eating the fruit from David’s Mango tree – we know how much David would love that photo. Beautiful.

UK News

After the heat of summer (in India, not here!) a number of UK visitors are planning trips to support the project over the coming months. These connections are a great psychological boost for the project team in Tamil Nadu and ensure a close and ongoing understanding for us all back here in the UK.
We have an amazing set of people in the UK who do all sorts of great things to raise the money without which the project’s work would not be possible. Sponsored bike rides, coffee mornings, fairs and lots more. It is also marvellous that school children connect with the project and raise money too. Bedale High school and Caedmon school in Whitby are just two shining examples. To them and everyone, thank you! And if you have any suggestions or ideas for fundraising please do get in touch with any of the trustees listed at the top of this newsletter.

One event happening shortly is a repeat of last year’s garden party at Karen and Ray Wards, Mayfield House, Exelby on the 9th August, from 1pm. everyone is welcome. We are also planning another global coffee morning on the 25th October, when trustees, friends and supporters all hold events to raise both funds and the profile of the work being done by Venkat and his team.

Just a reminder, donations should now be forwarded to our treasurer, Mr Chris Riding, Violet Bank, Cumwhitton, BRAMPTON Cumbria CA9 8ER. However, any funds sent to Francis will still be banked!

We hope you have found this newsletter informative. If you have any questions we would love to hear from you. In the meantime, have a lovely summer and we will provide another update towards the end of the year.

Thank you for all your support.

Please see below for David’s thoughts on charity.

Charity Starts at Home”

The old saying, ‘charity starts at home’ is one that we are all familiar with. Some 30 years ago whilst working a night shift on the railway, I was talking to the then Bishop of Carlisle, David Halsey and in the course of conversation he said … “You do realise that charity starts at home … but it doesn’t have to end there.” I have always found this comment to be warm and encouraging.
We support charity because we want to help to do good. Charity does not have to be conditional; indeed I feel that to give freely is uplifting. In a sense we become children again, we have a simple desire to do help, in the same way a child might put a coin onto a lifeboat appeal box and watch the coin rock into the RNLI boat.
Politics is hugely complicated and we all hold our own views. Friends of Mettupalayam is a non-governmental organization (NGO). We are non-political and indeed inclusive of all people of different faith and those with none. Our aim has always remained the same. We seek to help to enhance the life chances of very poor people. We strive to help improve people’s health experiences and the quality of their educational experience; we have been very successful.
People sometimes say India is rich, they have a space program and nuclear weapons; however there are also 400,000,000 desperately poor people in India and that represents 400 million reasons why we shouldn’t walk on the other side of the road. I’m sure all faiths have a story similar to The Good Samaritan and the message to help those that need help, is clear and true.
There is a lovely Buddhist story about two monks walking along a beach, a massive wave comes in and when it recedes from the beach there are millions of stranded starfish everywhere. The first monk bends down and he picks up a starfish and throws the starfish back in the sea. “What’s the point of doing that?” the other monk asks, “you can’t save them all!”
“No I can’t, but that starfish appreciated my help.”
So we continue our work after 25 years because it helps people to help themselves. We focus as far as possible on people such as the elderly, young and the disabled knowing that our support is appreciated and makes a tremendous difference.
Local Indian government has always been helpful, as have many Indian friends that have provided their laboring and medical services free of charge over the years.
Our job is to worry about achieving the successes and objectives that are so important to both donors and recipients.
Charity does indeed start at home and then it spreads like love, like a smile, like human kindness. Supporting the work of Friends of Mettupalayam is hugely rewarding and I know that maybe all the people that help us also support possibly cancer charities, children’s hospices, shelter and RSPB.
I rejoice that I am part of a group of people that care so generously about so much and find time to care and make a difference.
Thank you. David

February 2015

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
I have just come off the phone to Venkat, our project leader in Tamil Nadu. Our first subject of conversation was his country’s crushing victory over Pakistan in the Cricket world cup! We agreed how good it was that sport could be a positive channel for “friendly” rivalry and not for the first time, thought about how we might introduce more sport to our curriculum. In the meantime, we have plenty of activity and good news to share with you. As always, Venkat takes this opportunity to say thank you all for enabling him and his team to improve the lives of so many people in the rural areas we support

School News
1Our Nambikki primary school at Pazyanadukuppam on the east coast of Tamil Nadu was built after the devastating tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 and made possible by the amazing support we received from the appeal we made at that time. Thank you. Many of our pupils at the school are from the poor but fiercely proud local fishing community who would not otherwise make the journey to government primary school. These young children have gained all the benefits of a quality primary education and many have also gone on to high school with the development and opportunity this can bring in a developing Indian economy. There are over 100 pupils regularly attending Nambikki. On a recent visit, our senior trustee Francis noticed a significant deterioration of the buildings. The premises have not had as much investment as our primary school at our project centre in Mettupalayam, so we have asked Venkat to provide us with proposals to rejuvenate the school buildings, in order to demonstrate our commitment to a quality education environment.
Our Crakehall School at Mettupalayam continues to thrive despite the regular turnover of teaching staff. We currently have 5 teachers and are in the process of recruiting two more. Although losing established teachers is in some ways disappointing, we recognise that this is inevitable. There is growing competition for labour with companies near Chennai offering free transport and higher wages for factory work. But in some ways we see the positives – our teachers receive a multifaceted approach to learning, supported by regular and varied teaching visitors from the UK. Craft, art, music, teaching English using phonics – these are skills and knowledge which we hope will be taken on to new roles in government schools where teachers receive higher salaries but teach class sizes of double or more. Our pupils love the variety – just look at this recorder group for example, and of course we are now able to develop the new set of teachers, who are settling in well.

Serpakkam Village

2In our last report, we told you about Serpakkam. Many of the poverty-related issues which were the catalyst for our project in Mettupalayam are still evident here just a few kilometres away. So, our plan is to support Serpakkam using the lessons and experience gained in Mettupalayam.
Our initial focus is on nutrition and healthcare. There is some severe malnutrition, especially with the children, many of whom have been relying almost solely on rice. Every Sunday we now take a bulk vegetable delivery into Crakehall School. This normally includes onions, potatoes and other seasonal vegetables. The local children then help to share out the vegetables into cloth bags (handily made by our tailoring unit!) one for each of the 55 families in Serpakkam. Each bag supplements a family’s meals for one week and they are sold in the village (at a much reduced cost). It is important that the value of this nutritious food is recognised and the families also feel that they are investing in their own and their children’s future. This support costs around £1 per week per family, a very small price to pay for the improvements to health that we expect.
We are now also holding regular health camps in the village, supporting access to a doctor and gathering base medical records so that we can monitor health improvement. Our most recent visitors, Karen and Judy (an experienced nurse) have also just completed a series of first aid training sessions here and in other surrounding villages.
3Education is complicated by the fact that the transport links from the village are poor and as a result some parents do not send their children to school. This is exacerbated by the cost of uniforms and books. We are looking at a variety of ways of alleviating this situation.

Five personal stories
We often focus on the big picture stories at the project, but in the end it is all about each individual. Here are some recent stories about local children.
Pictured here is Gunnasekhar, a Mettupalayam village boy who almost dropped out of secondary school at age 12, as his parents couldn’t afford the fees and costs. Thanks to a donation of 1000 Rps (£11) by a UK family, he returned to his studies and satisfactorily completed year 8. He is now employed as a drivers mate, earning 200Rps/day. With his education certificate, he will now be able to apply for a driving licence and can then expect to earn up to 800Rps/day as a driver. It just shows how a relatively modest sum in UK terms can make such a difference.

4Monisha, a charming 14 year old Kuruvi (gypsy) girl who attended our primary school, was forced to leave high school by her stepfather to earn money for him by selling beads. She is desperate to return and finish secondary school. We have agreed that Venkat will provide both moral and financial help to facilitate this. Local gypsy families still do not value education for their daughters, preferring early marriage, often at just 14 years of age. Venkat has already made huge inroads with this community and will continue to do so. Currently, over 50% of the local gypsy children attend our school, against a national average of around 5%!

5Here is a lovely photo of Rajeshwari with her mother and grandma at the Rangammal School for the Hearing Impaired. Many of you will remember Rajeshwari, from Mettupalayam who, supported by the funding from Ashfield School in Workington, is progressing really well, top of her class for some subjects, and starting to speak in both Tamil and English. To meet her, as one of the Ashfield teachers was able to do recently, is to know you have met a real star!
6Boubadi has made tremendous progress over this last year. He suffers from a form of cerebral palsy and, when he joined school in 2013, was only just able to walk, and had no speech at all. He now has much improved coordination and speech plus a very positive and smiley attitude. He is a credit to all his school mates who welcomed him so warmly and to the teachers and staff for their work with him.

Finally, a photo of Logeshvari, a minus class girl, who recently joined our Crakehall School, and who we have discovered, is tongue-tied. Thanks to an introduction from Dr Paramasivam, we are organising an operation in a local hospital, covering the cost from our healthcare budget.
7Just five examples of lives improved beyond measure thanks to your support.

The Mettupalayam Farm
Very poor monsoon rains will unfortunately curtail planting again this year, but the sugar cane crop has been successful and will raise good returns at the market. Our milk cow is again pregnant which may be good news for our local dairy…and Caramel, her female calf, is growing strongly. The children have been helping to plant vegetables in both our school garden and in the adjacent field and lots of chillies, okra, tomatoes and white radishes are eagerly awaited!

UK News and visitors to the project
The project has benefited from UK visitors from early December right through to mid-February, with all sorts of highlights – perhaps the most notable being Susan Sands celebrating her 80th birthday at the project! But massive thanks go to Martin, Susan Francis, Mhairi, Jess, Isaac, Janet, Barry, Michelle, Karen and Judy for all your great work. Visitors add so much and also bring so much back with them from their experiences. We would also thank all those “back home” who help so much by raising funds and awareness at all sorts of events.
Over the Christmas period, we have been to various fairs and coffee mornings and given talks to raise money and sell goods. With the expansion of our work into the Serpakkam area, and the associated increase in cost, we would love to hear from anyone who has ideas, or who wishes to help, regarding future fund raising events.
We hope you have found this newsletter informative. If you would like to know more about any aspect of the project, please do not hesitate to contact us by email, phone or social media.
Your support and interest keeps us going, thank you all very much.

November 2014

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

1Welcome 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-ch2anging – 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.

3Twenty 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.
4In 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
5This 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.
6We 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!

School News
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.

7Community News
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.

UK News
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!

July 2014

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

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.

School news

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!

UK News

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.

February 2014

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

It is not that long since our last update, but we are already into another year and there has been a lot of activity at the project, which has been particularly busy with visitors. We really do welcome visitors as they invariably bring new ideas, fun and lifelong friendships. And of course the project staff, the teachers, the local people and perhaps most importantly the children gain immensely. And it is perhaps worth just making the point that visitors go at their own expense – we are proud that all the money that you give and we raise goes to the project in Tamil Nadu, not to administration or costs incurred here in the UK.

School news

Both our schools are doing well with some 200 pupils between them. Nambikki School, situated on the Bay of Bengal coast, was set up by us after the Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. Our Mettupalayam ex-pupil Thanigaiarasu is the head teacher and Francis visited in January and was pleased to meet the teachers and to see first-hand the quality education the school is providing. The majority of the children come from the nearby village and are fisherfolk children. Now they have ambitions to be construction engineers, computer engineers, doctors or teachers. Here are some of the Nambikki children with 19 year old Mhairi who has spent the last three weeks giving to the project.

At Crakehall school in Mettupalayam an increasing number of the children come from the nearby tribal village. This is great news as many did not used to attend any school at all. As the gypsy community are nomadic we do however have a continuing battle to ensure continuity of schooling for some families. We have seven teachers, all women at present and although some are relatively new we are really delighted with the sense of team-work and commitment they demonstrate. They are proving to be good role models and I think you will agree look really smart in their Sari uniforms. It is great to welcome back Indumathy, who worked for us before she married, and who has returned as her children are now in full time education.
Two retired teachers from the UK, Lynne and Ian Godwin have recently arrived for another visit to the project and we know this will be a big support to Venkat and to the continuing development of the teachers. They are also introducing the children and staff to English phonics!

Community News and Healthcare

Sometimes we have occasion to reflect on the impact our project has had. This was true recently when we visited a dear friend and ex social worker Gomathi in her village, Serpakkam, which is only a few kilometres away. Gomathi has had two miscarriages, is pregnant again and we are keeping a special watch on her, providing money for her medicines. During our visit, several villagers came to ask advice from Jean who is a nurse. She came across some unexpected and serious health issues and so we organised a special open-air clinic with our good Friend Doctor Paramasivam. On this day Jean and the doctor saw 117 people in two and a half hours, with diagnoses from HIV, to severe liver failure and many cases of significant malnutrition. Many of these cases were in young people. Just a week ago, another clinic was held and again 85 people came for a free consultation.
The weekly health clinics that we now have in Mettupalayam mean that we no longer see such severe and untreated illnesses. We are planning to add a monthly doctor’s visit to Gomathi’s village. This will not be a solution in itself. It is a long-term task, which will require education, improved nutrition and treatments. We have asked another UK visitor to look at the process of nutritional education by way of the Women’s groups.

Many of you will remember the distressing situation of the quarry people who we subsequently managed to buy out of bonded slavery. Our picture shows Meena, Selvi and Valerasi, three of the quarry girls who completed their primary education with us. Unfortunately they are now wandering aimlessly until marriage, so Venkat is trying to persuade them and their fathers that they should come to our tailoring unit and learn a trade. We will cover their training costs and then pay them a small wage for the work they do. It is great to report that the tailoring tutor, Sameem, has returned to work for us again and he is working with more village women. They will shortly start to make next school year’s uniforms.

The Mettupalayam Farm

Not such good news to report on the monsoon rains which have again been unkind to this part of India. Venkat says we have only 40% of the rain we need. This will certainly limit our farm work this year, the yields we get and the price we pay for vegetables at the market. However, a crop of rice, groundnuts and pulses has been harvested recently, and around 1 ½ acres of sugar cane has been planted. Venkat is also growing a trial crop of wheat for the agricultural centre who have provided the seed.

UK News

We would like to thank all the Friends, individuals and schools who were involved in fundraising in the period running up to Christmas. At Middleham Primary School, a great long standing supporter, the children designed and sold Christmas cards, making over £350. Here is one of their designs.
All your passion, support and encouragement keep the project as vibrant and life-changing as it is. A big Thank you from all in the UK but mostly from Venkat, staff, villagers and children in India.

August 2013

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 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.

School news.

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!

Photo: The joy of new clothes! Even if they are school uniforms. 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!

Farm news.

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.

UK News.

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.

February 2013

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 newsletter of 2013. As always, it is a pleasure to be able to write about the many and varied aspects of our work in Tamil Nadu, at our schools and in the wider community. This year, trustees were again visiting Mettupalayam during Pongol, the main South Indian Hindu festival, and this gave us the opportunity to join in with the celebrations, and also contribute by handing out new clothes to the elderly poor. Along with the mid-day meals which we also provide, this support to one of the most vulnerable sections of the community really does make a difference. Many now receive a small monthly state pension of around 1000 rupees (£12) and we also provide access to healthcare through Dr Paramasivam’s weekly free clinic. Venkat is always looking to improve and add to the facilities for the elderly and it is his long term dream to provide a more comprehensive service through some form of sheltered accommodation.

School news.
Both schools regularly have around 100 pupils coming each day, from local villages, tribal groups and of course, the gypsy community. The Crakehall School now has 6 full time teachers and a part time teacher who is also a tailor. Although the Government curriculum is quite structured, and based on the texts provided, we are always looking to extend this into other areas such as art and crafts, music, dance etc. Pictured is teacher, Siva with the year 5 class and their fantastic model of the Crakehall School, playground and surrounding buildings. There were also marvelous displays of art and craft work in most of the classrooms and the children took great pride in showing this to us. Despite the staff turnover, with 4 new teachers, standards remain high and the children’s enthusiasm is infectious! We continue to provide a nutritious school dinner and morning and afternoon snacks, although increasingly, children also bring food from home.
306.smTurning to the Nambikkai School, managed by head teacher Tanigai, this is an English medium school, meaning half the lessons are taught in English. Due to the distance from Mettupalayam, and lack of suitable accommodation, visitors are generally unable to provide much by way of sustained input, and we are looking at ways of addressing this in future. Sadly, the playground equipment is very badly corroded by the sea air, and is in desperate need of replacement. Venkat is to look for plastic or fibre glass alternatives, and we have also authorized the purchase of a significant amount of indoor play materials. We are also looking to improve the school grounds and unfortunately need to wall the entire compound to stop the rubbish dumping from the nearby village.

Community news and healthcare
It is only whilst at the project that one is able appreciate the many and varied ways that IRDT benefit the community. It seems that Venkat and his staff are the first port of call for those daily emergencies that happen, whether minor injuries, social problems or advice. With the support of the local court, Venkat has arranged a free legal advice camp later this month and he has persuaded one of the top judges from Chennai to attend. Another eye camp is also scheduled in February, and this will no doubt lead to more cataract operations. Sometimes there is little that can be done, other than provide support. Murugan, who lives in a village near to Mettupalayam, was involved in a serious road accident some 6 months ago, and he has now been sent home. He is in a coma, and there seems little hope of recovery. We were able to provide a wheelchair so that his wife can take him out into the fresh air and also facilitate some support so that she can take a break now and then.
Rajeshwari was home again for the holidays and it was fantastic to see her progress at the special school for the hearing impaired. She is now learning sign language and can also articulate some simple words. Although it is a free school we have to provide funds for her everyday living needs and also pay travelling costs for her family. Her hearing aid batteries also need regular replacement. Thanks go to Ashfield Infants School who raise the funds for this support.

Our education fund continues to encourage children in further education, either at secondary/higher secondary school, or at college. The 3 gypsy boys at college all seem to be progressing well and the two tribal girls, Selvi and Patchyammal continue at the high school. Some of the younger gypsy and tribal boys remain a real challenge, but Venkat always seeks ways to incentivise school attendance!

It is very sad to report that Gomathi, our former social worker, who married last September, has suffered a miscarriage, losing twins. We hope that she soon recovers and that she will return to work shortly.

With funds provided by the Harrogate Soroptimists, we are arranging for a full time health worker and also hoping to send Anjalatchi, a former teacher, to Bangalore for specialist speech therapy. She suffered a major stroke at the age of 28 and this has left her unable to speak. She still manages to run a small medical supplies shop. This week, Venkat has provided her with a bicycle and physiotherapy help and she is now able to ride to the project for further treatment! Additional training for the 4 village health workers is planned, along with improvements to our free weekly health clinic. The records cards introduced by Friends following a visit last year are still in use, and the dispensary and medicine storage area remains well organized and neat!

Turning to community news, Venkat has started a small tailoring class for village women and gypsy girls. Our Friend Karen is going out next month and plans to build on the tailoring work that she undertook last year, as well as taking out a suitcase full of craft and art work for the children.

The tribal families, who normally reside on our land, all travelled to Kancheepuram where the local government are suggesting setting up a tribal settlement and plan to give out free houses. Failing this, Venkat is discussing provision of free house pattas (building plots) with the local council and we are committed to helping with funding as appropriate. We would prefer that these families remain near Mettupalayam so that we can continue to provide good education, employment, access to healthcare and social support. The change in these tribal people over the last 9 years is astonishing- from bonded labourers (effectively slaves) to an independent, flourishing and confident community, taking a full part in society and sending their children to school!

Farm news
Our premonition in the November newsletter has turned out to be true and the monsoon has failed this year. There is likely to be a severe drinking water shortage later in the year, and there is insufficient water to plant much paddy. Venkat has therefore planted dry season crops, such as ground nuts (peanuts) and is planting banana plants and a small crop of chillies. He has also arranged to sell the duck flock whilst prices remain reasonable. Plans for a small dairy herd remain on the shelf, as does replacement of the hen flock.

UK News
This last 12 months has seen more visitors to the project than ever before. Everyone who goes contributes in their own way, bringing specialist knowledge, encouragement and support to Venkat and the staff. The children really enjoy meeting us, not least for the English chocolate that we take out. There have been visitors from Singapore, Switzerland and of course, the UK. Language skills are enhanced, as is the children’s confidence. The staff also benefit from the support and interest that they see.

Recently, one of our Friends diverted on his journey from Northern India to Sri Lanka to spend the day in Mettupalayam. Whilst there, he designed and drafted out plans for a waste water recycling system, to utilise run off water from the new school toilets to irrigate one of our nearby fields. Thank you Malcolm!

Another of our supporters, Paul Huffinley, has offered to run a charity stall to raise funds for us at the weekly Bedale car boot fair. He would like donations of saleable goods, of any sort, and is happy for you to contact him direct re donations. His phone number is 01845 565500 or 07844 2537395. Thanks in advance Paul.

After many years running the charity, Francis and Rosie have decided to take a small backward step, and although remaining trustees and full supporters, are handing on responsibility for admin to Hugo Welsh and the treasurer’s duties to Chris Riding. Their contact details are as follows:-

Mr Hugo Welsh
16 The Avenue
Haxby
YORK
YO32 3EQ
Phone 01904 769248

Mr Chris Riding
Violet Bank
Cumwhitton
BRAMPTON
Cumbria
CA8 9ER phone 01228 562965

Francis and Rosie still intend to give talks to schools, social groups, church groups etc, when asked and to play a full part in fund-raising. Annual visits to India are very much a part of their life now and should continue. They ask us to pass on their thanks to everyone connected with the charity, either as supporters, Friends or colleagues, for the help, encouragement and wonderful support that has been forthcoming over the years. Your donations are what make all this possible, thank you for being both generous and consistent in your support.

And finally, it is impossible to summarise the impact that Venkat and IRDT has made to the community of Mettupalayam and district over the 30 years that the charity has been running. It is exceptional for a charity project to last this long, evolving and changing to meet the needs of the people that it serves. Venkat has devoted the majority of his working life to serving his people and it is a privilege for us to be involved in supporting him.

To you all, thank you for your support, you really have made a difference.

November 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

560686_10152188383610193_893390149_n[1]Dear Friends

Welcome to the end-of-year newsletter about our project and the people working there. We are pleased to report positive news from several areas of our work supporting rural development and those whose lives depend on it. With our own economic challenges and regular news of the “tiger” economies of South East Asia and India, we have decided to dedicate some of this report to the implications for our project. We have also produced a separate supplement with a personal reflection on this from David Eldridge, joint founder of the project. We hope that you will find this stimulating and useful.

A Changing India

Change is indeed sweeping India, with increased economic investment and development. Our project is situated in one of the poorest, rural areas of one of the poorest states in India, but we are certainly not unaffected by the changes. There are positive changes, such as improvements to transport and infrastructure and there is a gradual increase in standards of living, although this is patchy and gives benefits to some groups more than to others, generally in line with caste, religion and race.
There are many challenges too. Multinational companies are opening factories in the region near Chennai – within travelling distance of our projects. Salaries for basic factory labour can now be more than the salary we pay our school teachers and are particularly aimed at attracting labour from rural areas, although working conditions can be very unsatisfactory. Power supply in the region is also an issue as the government prioritises industry, resulting in power cuts for rural areas. This year, in Mettupalayam, we have regularly had only 6 hours power supply in every 24 hours! So, it is a challenging change!

School news

We are pleased to report good progress and healthy student numbers at our Crakehall School in Mettupalayam and the Nambikkai school on the coast. We currently have 7 teachers and 130 children on the register in Mettupalayam and 5 teachers and 105 children at Nambikkai. Pressure on staff salaries is becoming a major factor, for the reasons outlined in the section above. We are presently reviewing teacher salaries and believe we will have to increase them to keep the high standard of education that we stand for.
One group that we are increasingly supporting is the tribal community living close to Mettupalayam. This semi-nomadic group has traditionally had no standing in India and been treated as “out-castes”. We now have more than 30 children from this community at the Crakehall School. Plans to build a hostel for some of this group have had to be shelved as we were unable to get the promised State funding. We now provide these young children with an early breakfast before starting their daily education and have successfully integrated them into the standard classes. The success of 3 local tribal boys in gaining entry to Engineering and Arts Colleges to study for degrees, the first from our district and very rare in India generally has also provided a powerful motivation to the children and their parents.

Community News and Healthcare

332735_498383186855854_1776924577_o[1]As previewed in the last edition, Gomathi, our loyal support worker, got married to Mohan in September. Who can resist the beauty of an Indian wedding! We hope that she will return to support the project in some capacity. Meanwhile, Venkat has been fulfilling more than one job (nothing unusual there) supporting over 50 local women’s group leaders in various ways, gaining loans and also beneficial insurance policies through the Life Insurance of India. At present we have encouraged over 250 women to pay into a policy at the rate of 100 rupees (£1.25) per month over 10 years, with a life assurance payment and surrender payment of 22,000 rupees (£275). That may not sound a great deal to us, but it represents very good value and we were gratified to know that the family of our student Meena and her mother, who we reported had tragically died, will benefit from a payment from this scheme.
General health check-up camps, and our weekly free doctor’s surgery continue to improve access to healthcare and we are looking at ways to increase this much needed area of support.

Farm and Nutrition

409729_488102587883914_458829975_n[1]As we put this together, we have been suffering flooding at home and hearing of the effects of Hurricane Sandy in The US. Our projects have not escaped natural disasters either, though they don’t get the same prominence in our media. A cyclone struck Tamil Nadu at the beginning of the month. We are relieved to report that there were no serious injuries to any of those connected with our projects though it brought down trees and caused damage to buildings and crops. Unfortunately, although it brought high winds there was little in the way of much needed rain. We are hoping for rainfall over the coming few weeks, but it is looking like a particularly poor monsoon season – with an inevitable impact on what we will be able to grow next year and the related price of commodities and food. A good supply of drinking water is also likely to continue to be a problem.

UK News

430453_10152188404895193_447139462_n[1]We had several very successful visits to the project this summer. The Bell family returned, supporting the teachers and pupils and providing innovative learning approaches such as allowing the children to experience running a shop. They also took Venkat for a short break to visit the holy city of Varanasi on the river Ganges which we know was hugely appreciated. We hear that Rob (Dad) indulged in a fully-immersed dip – and lived to tell the tale! Also visiting in August were Olivia and Jo, two students from Newcastle University. They had a wonderful time and Venkat was highly impressed with their various contributions. Here are photos showing “the Mettupalayam Olympics” and a lovely mural on the school wall. We have two more evangelists for the project!

308090_10152188411460193_2118406384_n[1]Postal Costs

Following our request in the last newsletter, many of you agreed to accept emailed letters and this will save considerable expense to the trustees. Thank you and if anyone else wishes to accept updates by email, please let Francis have your address.
If you wish to keep regularly up-to-date, you can access the Facebook link via our IRDT website.
I hope you find supporting Friends of Mettupalayam as rewarding as we do and that our Newsletter is informative.. If there is anything in particular that you would like further information about or regular updates on, please let us know.

Meanwhile, we send you our very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

“Charity Starts at Home”

The old saying, ‘charity starts at home’ is one that we are all familiar with. Some 30 years ago whilst working a night shift on the railway, I was talking to the then Bishop of Carlisle, David Halsey and in the course of conversation he said … “You do realise that charity starts at home … but it doesn’t have to end there.” I have always found this comment to be warm and encouraging.
We support charity because we want to help to do good. Charity does not have to be conditional, indeed I feel that to give freely is uplifting. In a sense we become children again, we have a simple desire to do help, in the same way a child might put a coin onto a lifeboat appeal box and watch the coin rock into the RNLI boat.

Politics is hugely complicated and we all hold our own views. Friends of Mettupalayam is a non-governmental organization (NGO). We are non-political and indeed inclusive of all people of different faith and those with none. Our aim has always remained the same. We seek to help to enhance the life chances of very poor people. We strive to help improve people’s health experiences and the quality of their educational experience; We have been very successful.

People sometimes say India is rich, they have a space program and nuclear weapons; however there are also 400,000,000 desperately poor people in India and that represents 400 million reasons why we shouldn’t walk on the other side of the road. I’m sure all faiths have a story similar to The Good Samaritan and the message to help those that need help, is clear and true.

There is a lovely buddhist story about two monks walking along a beach, a massive wave comes in and when it recedes from the beach there are millions of stranded starfish everywhere. The first monk bends down and he picks up a starfish and throws the starfish back in the sea. “What’s the point of doing that?” the other monk asks, “you can’t save them all!”
“No I can’t, but that starfish appreciated my help.”

So we continue our work after 25 years because it helps people to help themselves. We focus as far as possible on people such as the elderly, young and the disabled knowing that our support is appreciated and makes a tremendous difference.
Local Indian government has always been helpful, as have many Indian friends that have provided their laboring and medical services free of charge over the years.

Our job is to worry about achieving the successes and objectives that are so important to both donors and recipients.
Charity does indeed start at home and then it spreads like love, like a smile, like human kindness. Supporting the work of Friends of Mettupalayam is hugely rewarding and I know that maybe all the people that help us also support possibly cancer charities, children’s hospices, shelter and RSPB.
I rejoice that I am part of a group of people that care so generously about so much and find time to care and make a difference.
Thank you.

July 2012

FRIENDS OF METTUPALAYAM TRUST

Registered Charity No 1054673

1C/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 this mid-year update on the key developments at our projects in Tamil Nadu. The team there have asked us to send you their heartfelt thanks for making their work possible. We have a number of good news stories to share at this time and it is quite humbling to think that none of them would have happened without your support.

School news
3Our Crakehall and Nambikkai schools are both performing well with healthy student numbers and continuity of teaching staff. This is quite remarkable when you realise that we are only able to pay a fraction of the salary of Government school teachers. The support, training and teaching environment provided by Venkat and the project plays a significant part, as well as enabling a beneficial learning environment. Our Crakehall teachers are pictured here in front of a rather special mural map painted by our Friends Jordan and Jen who visited earlier this year.
In Mettupalayam, our Aspire school plans have been affected, as the promised government financial support has not been forthcoming. As a result we have put on hold plans to build a hostel. In the meantime, Venkat has found government accommodation for seven gypsy children, attached to a government school. Three more of the gypsy children have progressed to high school and the others are continuing at Crakehall School on a day basis with the project supplying them a nutritious breakfast. We continue to support this marginalised section of the local community, and this cannot be better illustrated than by the remarkable success of three of our tribal boys, who have just passed their College entrance exams. Chandrasekar and Tamilarason have applied to Engineering College, with Vijayan applying to Art College and Venkat has organised student bank loans for their fees. This is a first for our tribal community and fantastic news. These boys have worked so hard, often late into the night under the lights of the project building before returning to the gypsy village.
4On a similar vein, we have a lovely photo of two of our special children from the quarry community, Selvi and Patchyammal, who have just progressed to 7th standard at high school. Eight years ago these girls were still “tied” to the quarry owner, breaking rocks with hammers and making nets to catch rats for food. Wow!
On a sad note, those of you who visit our Facebook page will know that we reported the tragic death of one our Mettupalayam schoolchildren, Meena, who drowned with her mother at a local well, when washing clothes. Inability to swim is a real issue, especially for girls and we are talking to Venkat about ways that we may be able to support swimming teaching through the schools.

Community News and Healthcare
5Our very best wishes to Gomathi, our support worker, who is to marry Mohan on 23 August- photo attached of the happy couple. They plan to rent a house in nearby Utherimerur which means that she will be able to remain linked to the project – terrific news, we are delighted. Gomathi has been busy supporting local women, with another 82 families taking out loans to enable the purchase of milk cows.
On the healthcare front, we are pleased to advise that our local doctor, Dr Paramasivam, has commenced extra services for our Mettupalayam village focusing on diabetes and cataracts. We have sent a further 10 patients to Chennai for cataract operations, provided free of charge through collaboration with the local Lions club.

The Mettupalayam Farm
2We are waiting for rain before new planting, while the three acres of sugar cane has provided useful income of around 130000Rps- £1500.
Many of you will remember one of our ex-students Mari from the quarry community. At the age of just 16 she has two young daughters and had moved with her husband Masi to live beside the quarry works again, we think lured by the potential for extra income. However, this was not working out and she and her children were not eating well. We are very pleased to report that the family is now living back at our accommodation on the farm and quickly restoring their health through good food. Mari has responsibility for our 300 strong flock of ducks and Masi drives our tractor and tends the milk cows.

UK News
We have more UK visitors heading for the project in July and August. Two students from Newcastle will spend a short spell helping in the school and it is brilliant to report that Becky Bell, who spent six months teaching at the project in 2009\10, is returning for three weeks with her parents.

Postal Costs
We have reached a stage with the price of stamps, where we think it is prudent to ask that those who can, to receive future newsletters by email. With over 200 envelopes at 50p a time, you can work out the maths and although all admin costs are covered by the trustees’ own donations, we think that, where possible, this money is better invested directly in the project. May I ask therefore that you let me have your email address so that we can take this forward from our next edition. Please send this to fmuncaster@hotmail.com We will continue to send paper copies to those who specifically request this or do not have email. Please continue to share this newsletter with friends and family and we are always pleased to receive contacts from new Friends. Once again, if you wish to keep regularly up-to-date, you can access the Facebook link via our IRDT website.

Thank you all, once more, for your support. I hope the information in this newsletter is as inspiring to you as it is to us.