wellFollowing on from newsletter number one, for which I am indebted to Martin Sands, here is issue number two.

Venkat sent a short letter that I received at the beginning of August. Mettupalayam is now in the most stable financial position that it has ever enjoyed. IRDT(Institute for Rural Development Trust) has “no loans or debts”. The land is fully paid for, as is the multi-purpose building

Venkat’s son Anand is in his final year at matriculation school before he goes to college for higher studies. Ramaya, his daughter, is in grade ten with two more years of schooling to follow.

The accounts have been finalised, audited and sent to the Government of India. I have a copy of these accounts if anyone wishes to see them. They show that the UK contributions plus interest amount to £9,880 , year ending 31-03-00.

During the above year some of this money went to purchase land. The monsoon season has arrived and they are planting up a sugarcane nursery.

We have identified an area of funding that we have been failing to meet, that of supplying diesel for the irrigation pump. We now send an additional £40 per month to cover this cost, for which Venkat has expressed his thanks; “You have dealt with a major expense for us”.

Our accounts are currently quite healthy. We have a balance of £5000 of which £2,500 has been identified as being available for expenditure on capital projects. Monthly payments have been paid, up to and including, November . We have approached Venkat, regarding his priorities and await his reply. We are now sending £470 per month to Mettupalayam , including diesel costs. In addition to this private support outside of Friends funds, has been obtained to allow Venkat to meet the costs of his children’s further education and his life insurance policy. He is paid £60 per month and it would be impossible for him to meet his own children’s basic educational needs without further support. This benefits Mettupalayam firstly because Venkat is relieved of a natural worry and a potential need to find additional employment for himself and secondly because Anand is likely in future to be able to give valuable support to the project.

The leaflet that Suisan and Martin Sands put together for us has been very well received. We have had donations amounting to £200 as a result.We have also had a new covenant request, in addition one school in York and one school in Richmond (N. Yorks) have expressed strong interest in supporting our work. If anyone would like a supply of leaflets to give to friends or potentially interested parties, please contact me.

I have been busy with Rob Ives, a long standing supporter of the project, constructing a website. This is completely virgin ground for me but Rob has already a great deal of experience with his own site flying-pig.co.uk The website will be completely managed by Rob, and this will be done in response to ideas and initiatives that are put to him through me. Initially we are starting to put a series of downloadable photo’s on the site. I have yet to create appropriate text to go alongside them, hopefully they will generate interest and be of particular value to people in schools. There will also be educational resources created, to be available for downloading. Venkat has seen the site and is very excited about it, as it provides a point of reference for him and a source of evidence which he can use for others to refer to.The cost of the site is being met by Rob, the cost of slide to cd transfer(65p per slide) by the project.I am personally very enthusiastic about this development and believe that it will significantly improve our communication capacity and also our fund rising abilities.

Sian has again organised a successful sponsored walk in Wales, I believe that this was the seventh one! Thanks go also to Sally and Jack and all the other regulars who always get involved and make it such an excellent community day!

I have now found out that in the village of 137 houses where I live there are three India based projects! One is based in West Bengal , run by a very experienced worker called Vishwanath , although distant from Tamil Nadu, I have passed his details to Venkat. There is also a school project for orphans based in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu. The people who run this are very dynamic and it would seem we might at least share knowledge and interests together. That the project is near to Mettupalayam is of particular interest, because it may offer an opportunity for Venkat to share his problems and find some brotherly support close at hand. Possibilities of sharing training opportunities spring to mind. I will write more about the possible connections in a future newsletter, again I have made Venkat aware of the situation.

A further development has sprung from an approach that Sian has made to the Henry Doubleday Organic Farming Association (Tropical).We have been put in touch with a lady called Vanya Orr who is seeking to set up a college for sustainable farming in Tamil Nadu. She appears to have many links and is full of ideas that may enable us to help Venkat to make the best use of the land he has available. Our discussions touched on biodynamic regeneration of land, perma-culture, fertilisation methods, traditional medicine and the sale of oils to a company in Madras that may look favourably on a project of our scale. There was also the suggestion that people with expert knowledge based in India may be available to offer advisory support.

Clearly there are many questions to ask, but as best use of farming land and its relationship to sustainability are currently key questions for us, this seems like a good place to start gathering ideas and knowledge.

Thanks for all your support, hard work and enthusiasm,

David Eldridge.

D. Eldridge,
The Coach House,
Bainbridge,
North Yorkshire
DL8 3EE
Tel: 01969 650618
E-mail: dave@eldridge.demon.co.uk
Friends of Mettupalayam
website : www.irdt.co.uk
Registered charity number 1054673