August 2003

Friends of Mettupalayam Trust
Registered Charity No. 1054673
C/o David Eldridge, Director
The Coach House, Bainbridge, North Yorks, DL8 3EE
Tel 01969 650618 E Mail [email protected]
Charity website address

wellNewsletter / Update September
We have been lucky this summer to have received a visit from
Mr. Venkatachalam (Venkat) and his daughter Ramya. They arrived July 12th and will return home on August 12th. Venkat expressed a wish to thank as many supporters as possible, and has thus had meetings in London, Pembrokeshire, Cheltenham and North Yorkshire. I certainly learnt a great deal at these meetings and I hope that those people who managed to attend, found them as worthwhile and enjoyable as I.
The project in Mettupalayam is now 21 years old and FOM involvement stretches back some 17 years. It is possible now to see how the project has matured. The project covers four principle areas; education, health, agriculture and social development. I hope that a brief update for these areas might be of interest.
The school continues to provide education for around 150 children. They travel to school from up to 6 km away. There are now 25 Adarvasi (tribal) children attending the school as well as a Hindu, Christian and Muslim children. This cultural mix is something that lends a calm atmosphere to the school and is highly valued. Children start to attend at age 3, being looked after by brothers and sisters. At age 5 they start more formal lessons. It is interesting to note that the Tamil alphabet has 247 characters. This the children generally master by 7!
The level of literacy for people in the area under 25 has risen to 100%. In 1982 when Venkat started his input there were no people who were literate. Many of the Mettupalayam children move on to higher school and they have established themselves as being amongst the most able children. This is a credit to the staff at the IRDT school. We are now seeing children move on through the education system and grasping work opportunities that would never have been available to them before. This is one way that cycles of poverty can be overcome. It is worth noting that the Adarvasi children have no alternative education available to them as they suffer from serious cultural discrimination. In a similar way, girls who now have an established opportunity for education with IRDT, they would not in many cases be allowed to go to Government schools by their parents. It is interesting to reflect that for 50% of the girls their education ends at age 12, when they finish at IRDT.
FOM have as yet never had a supporter in UK with a background in health, if there is anyone out there who’d like to step forward with some words of wisdom you are sure of a warm welcome. Venkat himself has some practical experience of organising health provision in rural areas and we have been excited to learn of the developments made in this area. During the last year Venkat has organised a range of health camps. One outstanding example of this was a series of “eye camps”, held for the older people in the area. 800 people attended and 207 people had cataract operations as a result. These were carried out by surgeons from the eye hospital at Karanguzai some 35km to the east. Venkat arranged the transport and the follow up support from the local health workers.
The midday meals which now consist of 1 egg per week and vegetable rice, are also supplemented by milk and groundnuts for all the children. We are going to increase the egg provision to 2 eggs per week and improve the vegetable content. This has had a significant impact on children’s health and physical development. There has been a near complete eradication of scabies, a contagious irritating skin disease affecting the whole body. The symptoms of malnutrition affecting all aspects of growth and well-being, have been dramatically reduced.
There is a health check provision for the people in the area twice a year. This has resulted in the early identification of leprosy, tuberculosis, throat infections and cancer. Twice monthly a doctor comes to check for typhoid, malaria and diarrhoea. Where symptoms are identified, Venkat tries to arrange appropriate follow up support, which might be paying for medicines or providing bus fares to hospital and a health worker to accompany the patient.
In order that this work can continue and develop we are now going to provide an additional £70 per month to our monthly contributions.
The development of agriculture is of great significance to the project as a whole. It is through farming that the project is able to make financial contributions towards its sustainability. In this last year of complete drought, the farming aspect of the project created a small profit, as well as providing provisions for the school and 1200 days of labour for local people. Currently we own 16 acres of land and rent 8 acres. This land is going to be purchased and will create a strong foundation for the project to develop. The monsoon season has started this year and so we look forward to good returns in the coming year, generated by local people. We will be helping to provide appropriate irrigation facilities to maximise the productivity of the land.
Another interesting development at the project is an attempt to create a chicken farm, initially with 100 hens. If successful we can increase this to 500 hens. This is the type of venture that is in sympathy with local practice and hopefully will lead towards an increase in the level of self support that the project provides . Further information on this will be available in the November newsletter.
Following the severe effects of the drought, the Indian Govt. have launched a water supply plan to pipe water from a river source some kilometres away. They are covering most of the cost, but individual villages have to contribute , in our case Rps 10,000. This like for like style of funding is most useful and we take advantage of it whenever possible, making best use of hard won funds.

Social development
Something of a catch all section, but very much an identifier of progression at the IRDT project. A new kitchen building is being constructed and this will have a set of bio-gas stoves purchased with like-for-like funding with a government grant.
We are starting meals for the elderly. These people are uniquely women as the oldest man in Mettupalayam is 54! Twenty-five women will be entitled to a free meal each day provided by extending the school meal facility. Venkat acknowledges a further 90 people in the local area who would also benefit from such a provision, currently funding does not allow this, but it is something we aspire to.
Night school classes and health worker input continue as does the tailoring project. Bedale school in North Yorkshire have agreed to raise funds for some permanent, fixed playground equipment . This is very exciting as it will provide a unique play / learning opportunity for the children and underlines the importance of children within the community.
Working alongside the women’s group, Venkat plans to provide female calves for some of the group who keep the calf and later pay back in kind, leaving themselves with a source of income.
Fund raising
It has again been a very successful year that we have passed through from the point of view of fundraising. We now have a monthly commitment to raise and send approximately £775. We have a series of regular fundraising ventures from which we make the majority of our funds. It is of great benefit when people make donations on a monthly basis in the form of a standing order as that enables a higher level of planning certainty. However in the case of standing orders and one off gifts we are able, with the donor’s permission to claim back 28% tax, this is always a welcome boost.
If anybody would like to make a standing order to the project, or to organise a fund raising event for Mettupalayam, obviously we would be more than happy to get involved. Below is a reply slip you might wish to use and send to David Eldridge at the address at the top of this letter.
Warmest thanks for your continued support.
David Eldridge
(Director FOM).
Please tick any of the choices below that apply

  • I would like help to run an event for Mettupalayam.
  • I would like to host a coffee and cakes event and have a speaker providing a talk and showing slides about Mettupalayam.
  • I would like to receive forms so that I can make out a standing order for Mettupalayam.
  • I would like more information about…………..(aspect of the project).
  • I no longer wish to receive a newsletter concerning Mettupalayam.