January 2006

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A Happy New Year to you all.


GomathiRegistered Charity No 1054673

c/o David Eldridge
The Coach House, Bainbridge
N Yorks DL8 3EE
Tel 01969 650618
E-mail [email protected]

Website www. irdt.info

January 2006 Newsletter/Update from Francis and Rosie Muncaster

Rosie and I have recently returned from spending 3 weeks working at the project and we were both impressed by the progress which has been made since our last visit in August 2004. Whilst the main aim of our project work continues to focus on Mettupalayam and Nambikki schools, in the wider area, we now make a positive impact on around 15000 villager’s lives! This is mainly achieved through the work initiated by Gomathi and her two assistants, organising the women’s Self Help Groups and through provision of health camps. The SHG’s are established for both economic and social reasons: economically they can make an immediate impact on the family’s income; socially over the longer term, they help to empower women and facilitate access to rights and entitlements which would otherwise be out of reach (many older women still being illiterate and innumerate). It is also encouraging to see integration within the groups- including women from tribal and quarry families.


Mettupalayam school numbers remain around 140, although some tribal children are still irregular attendees, accompanying their parents on seasonal travels. It is a concern that as some of the older tribal children move up to secondary school, there is a high drop out rate frequently related to bullying. This is unacceptable, and in response we have decided to increase school provision at Mettupalayam school to include year 6, starting from June 2006. This can be achieved with minimal capital outlay, however, it will increase monthly running costs, with additional resources being required, as well as the extra food costs for the 25 children. Longer term we would like to expand provision up to year 8, however this would mean a new middle school being built on a separate site. With the long term aim of rebuilding the original school on our own, rather than Government land, the joint capital requirement will be around £25000, and we are now looking at ways of raising this finance.


Rosie and I were privileged to lay the foundation stone for the new school at Palayanadukuppam and to be called Nambikki School. Since June, around 17 children have been attending a temporary school, and we were impressed with standards already being achieved. The first of the 3 school buildings is being built, and we will have 2 classes up and running by the start of the new school year in June. It is intended to gradually expand to full primary provision over the next 4 years. It was upsetting to see the nearby scheduled tribal children living in dreadful conditions and, as at Mettupalayam, the school nutrition programme will be important.

Quarry people.

Since August’s visit, much progress has been made, and the hostel and 6 houses are now nearing completion. The 3.5 acres land nearby has been bought, and whilst there, we saw the men working at clearing unwanted vegetation. Around 7 families are now living here permanently and they have been provided with new blankets and sleeping mats, metal cooking pots and eye protectors. It was extraordinary to witness the difficulties even the very young have to cope with. Pachiyammal, a five year old quarry girl, was found to be suffering from severe Pneumonia. She needed to go urgently to hospital and Venkat was on hand to take her immediately in his car. This instant support she received was a direct extension of your kindness. At the hospital, we were advised by the doctor that an hour later would have been too late! Mari, another, older quarry child, has now been attending our school for over 15 months; she has progressed from being totally illiterate, and is now up to 3rd standard and gaining in confidence every day.

Pachiyammal and family receiving blankets, sleeping mats and cooking pots (cost £3.50 per family!)

In addition to the paid agricultural work we provide to these families, Venkat continues to buy stone from them at twice the rate received when they were bonded to the quarry owner, and we also provide supplementary food provisions. All the children also benefit from the balanced school meals programme, which now includes carrots twice weekly!

Health and Disability

Our strong link with the Indian based charity The Association of People with Disability (Website www.apd-india.org) increasingly provides significant support in all areas of our work relating to disability. This charity was founded by a disabled couple over 40 years ago, and it works with disabled people in over 250 villages. Based near Bangalore, the centre has facilities for training young people in many skills, leading to employment. They also run a school and provide physiotherapy and support. We were very fortunate to be able to meet one of the founders, Hema who is inspirational. APD very kindly agreed to accept three of our health workers on a 14 month training programme which will be completed early in 2007, by which time we plan to have a Health centre. APD are also building a new horticultural centre, and we hope that Murali, a 10th standard disabled Mettupalayam boy, will be able to go there for training. Meantime, a UK donor has provided the money to buy him a bike so that he can manage the 6kms trip to school more easily! APD also provided us with the services of a technician, and manufactured some disability equipment for Mettupalayam and Nambikki people. This included foot lifts, leg supports, and special chairs/worktables for children.


Health education camps continue and it was very encouraging to see a mix of people, including young men, attending our HIV/AIDS awareness training day.









The good news, and the not so good news! During our visit, we were able to experience at first hand the heaviest North East monsoon for 50 years (Kancheepuram district received more than twice the normal rainfall, at 147cms in 3 months!). This unfortunately restricted the extent to which we could travel around, which was frustrating. However, it means that there should be no shortage of water for agriculture for at least the next two years! Full farm production can make a significant contribution to the projects’ running costs, give increased employment opportunities, as well as improving the supply of locally grown organic produce. We were also provided with some spectacular photo opportunities and these should enhance our forthcoming slide show presentations! (Please let me know if you would like us to visit your town, school, college or workplace to share our experiences).

I started this newsletter by wishing you all a Happy New Year. Your donations and encouragement have ensured that the 15000 or so villagers benefiting from IRDT support will indeed have a happier New Year than would otherwise be the case. On their behalf, many, many thanks- your help is greatly appreciated and continues to make a significant difference.

Francis and Rosie Muncaster

Hon Treasurer and Trustees

Friends of Mettupalayam

Donation information: e-mail [email protected]. or phone 01677 425961