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 dave@eldridge.demon.co.uk
Charity website address www.irdt.info

It’s been an exciting start to the year. Our long standing friends Martin and Susan Sands have made a visit to Mettupalayam and have once again returned with a most useful report. Much of this newsletter draws on information that Martin and Susan have provided.

Education
The school continues to offer a good quality of education for the children. As always there are some staff changes but other teachers remain, like Gana Sundari who has been working at the school for nearly ten years. We were interested to hear that Venkat had taken on a male teacher called Murugan, and of course we wish him every success. We are also delighted to hear that we have taken on a PE specialist, whom the children adore. He visits weekly and the school has done very well in local competitions since he arrived.

It is a delight to find out that the children’s playground (sponsored by Bedale School North Yorkshire), is bringing great pleasure and the merry-go-round is eagerly awaited!

Health
Once again Venkat has sent news of further health camp activities. This time he arranged for a dentistry camp. This is a system that brings health care to people who otherwise  would have little access to medical facilities. The school is to be provided with toilet facilities for the first time. Two units for the boys and two units for the girls. Venkat has the plumbing materials and now needs to organise the implementation.

Agriculture
The Chicken farm is up and clucking! This is a facility that has been supported by Bedale and Colburn schools in North Yorkshire, and individual friends. It is great to be able to see international children’s contact slowly developing, we hope that this is maintained and that it grows. The hens (around 160) are laying 700 eggs per week.  About 300 are consumed in the school and the rest sold.   Martin has indicated that organisation of the end product still needed some improvement.  We hope that by now Venkat will have been able to obtain some industrial trays for storage.  It is too early to say how successful this aspect of the project is going to be, but the early signs are encouraging. We would hope to expand this venture when its viability is proven, subject to finance being available.

This photo shows local people constructing the chicken shed. The bricks are locally made by hand. Friends of Mettupalayam provide the funding for labour costs. The chicken farm should be self-sustaining and make a significant contribution to the school children’s diet.

This photo shows the chicken shed developing further. The straight timber is an item that has to be bought in. We have named the project ‘The Bedale – Colburn’ chicken farm. These are the two schools in North Yorkshire, where children have raised substantial funds for the chicken  project.

The carpenter looks as happy to be building the shed as we are to it being constructed!

The employment the project provides is a very important aspect, when helping the community.

At the moment about two acres are being devoted to mango, coconut and guava trees. Unfortunately most of the limes died due to drought, but it is hoped to get them established once the rains come… Of the other twenty acres or so 60% is groundnuts, 20% sugar cane and 20% fallow. At this time it is not possible to irrigate more land.  It is expected that most of the land now fallow or in groundnuts will be planted with padi later.
The tractor continues to be invaluable, and is being regularly serviced. We continue to provide seasonal labour to a significant number of people. Susan and Martin have kindly contributed a portable diesel pump set mounted on a wheeled frame, which is being used as required for all three wells.

Social Development
The meals for the old people are naturally very popular, they are provided free to approximately 22 people in the village and 3 from a nearby village. These meals cost approximately 4p per day per person. Thus the cost to us is around £12 per person per year. The meals for the elderly will need to be monitored carefully as there are probably upwards of 500 people who could fit the criteria in the wider local area. Currently we focus on Mettupalayam due to financial constraints. It might be that we would not wish to extend the programme beyond Mettupalayam. We would appreciate people’s comments with regard to this aspect of the project.

This is a lady receiving dinner on the first day of the midday meals provision programme for elderly people.

The new kitchen has been built. This is a concrete room, rather than a dilapidated hut, and this has improved both the health and fire safety situation.  The stove is still to be fitted and will be powered from the bio-gas plant which is nearing completion.
Accommodation has also been developed within the multi-purpose building.   This comprises two bedrooms with attached shower and western-style toilets, a training room, kitchen, small dining area and an office for Venkat.
Uniforms.
Tracey McNab, mother of a child at Sydenham High School, for Girls, in London, Susan’s old school (!), has collected up redundant summer school uniforms which Susan and Martin delivered to the school.   Many thanks Tracey and Mrs Risk, Head of the Junior School, and all the donors – they were much appreciated, even by the boys!

www.irdt.info

www.irdt.info  is the web address of our web site. We have a gallery of interesting photos, that are accompanied by some simple background notes. There are copies of our most recent newsletters. There is background information and a visitor’s book. Also in the top left hand corner of the screen there is a ‘contact us button’. I hope that the site will develop and will be of interest to people. There are always challenges to overcome with technology but this is an exciting move forward and is not costing us anything as Rob Ives kindly does the things we can’t do ourselves! Again ideas of what supporters would like to see would be welcome. I have noted that some people find it difficult to access the photo gallery and yet others find it a speedy feature, again more feedback welcome. I hope to be posting up some new photos shortly.

Fund raising
Fund raising continues to be effective.  We’d like to say a really big “thank you” to all of you who provide monthly standing orders. We are now able to meet the monthly running costs with these payments. Gift aid by standing order is an extremely efficient form of donation as we can claim an additional 28% in tax rebate and it enables us to plan with greater certainty.

We raised £500 on a snowy day in February shaking buckets at Catterick Racecourse Sunday market.  Francis was responsible for collecting about £499 of thisJ
We also have a new fund raising venture; we are about to start printing our own cards to sell on stalls and after evening talks. We are very grateful to Jill Wann who designs, paints and produces the cards and who has set this particular fund raising ball rolling.

Our leaflet about the school has recently been updated and reprinted too.

A message from Martin and Susan.
It was a pleasure to see how the health and happiness of the children has developed over the last few years. The dental surgeons commented on their unusual confidence and vivacity when they came – a tribute to improved diet and Venkat’s teaching. It was also nice to meet some of our old friends who are now doing well at secondary school. For the Trust to have provided some accommodation on site and better facilities for Venkat, is a real achievement. Until now he has been sharing his office and domestic life with piles of rice and eggs and numerous other things that need storing. Due to various initiatives by Venkat the gipsy community has become much more integrated and provides some of the brightest children. Our occasional visits to Mettupalayam are always enjoyable, for the openness and welcome we receive, and the tangible evidence that Venkat’s tireless endeavours, with your support and encouragement, have made a huge difference in this small rural community.

David Eldridge
(Director FOM).