FRIENDS OF METTUPALAYAM TRUST

Registered Charity No 1054673

Gomathic/o David Eldridge
The Coach House, Bainbridge
N Yorks DL8 3EE
Tel 01969 650618
E-mail davidweldridge@gmail.com

So much has happened since the last newsletter in February! As usual, I will start with School News. We began this year with the intention of starting a fund to rebuild Mettupalayam School. We looked at costing and location when we were there in February, and with a clear idea of how much of a challenge this would be, were astounded on our return when a very good Friend and his family donated enough to not only build, but also fully equip the new school. At our donors’ request, the new school will be called The Crakehall School, and we hope to start building within the coming year. Architects plans are currently being drafted and we are in the fortunate position of being able to continue Mettupalayam School in the old buildings until the new school is completed. We hope that the family will be represented at the inauguration of the new buildings in due course.

Other exciting news- 17 students passed their entrance exams to the secondary school and have now started their studies. Many of you will remember Mari, the oldest of the quarry children. She spent the first 9 years of her life breaking granite with her parents as bonded labourers. After 3 years studying at Mettupalayam School, she has also passed her exams and is now attending secondary school- a remarkable achievement. In the first instance we are sending along a member of staff just to ease her in to what must be a very disorientating challenge for her. Venkat has provided funds for her school uniform and we have bought her a bicycle. Venkat has also paid her annual school fees of 300 rupees (about £4!), along with those for 12 of the gypsy children. Having passed her 5th standard exams, Mari will also be entitled to a Government Dowry on marriage- around £200!

SL701147[1]Our Nambikki School is now complete, unfortunately we still await the Government licence. Whilst the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, we are still very hopeful that the licence will be granted shortly. Around 45 children are now attending the school and we confidently anticipate an eventual school register of up to 150. Following the great success of our first set of sandals some time ago, we have arranged for Venkat to buy all the children new sandals- thanks to funds donated by Principal Teachers in North Yorkshire.

Ghanasounderi, the Headteacher at Mettupalayam School, has now left to take up employment elsewhere. She has been a part of the team for over 15 years and of course, we wish her well. We are also losing Kahli, who is now betrothed and to be married in August. Everyone who has visited the project over the last 2 years will have been looked after by Kahli, and we will miss her smile, as well as her excellent cooking! Her fiancé is a secondary school teacher working in Dharmapuri where they will be living. Venkat has been busy over the summer school break training another 5 teachers ready for the start of term. This is despite having been into hospital for an operation on his lower spine to repair damage done last year lifting a 50 kg sack of rice. He is recovering well and has been comforted by the many messages of support both from Friends in India and the UK.

With global food prices increasing, our farm is increasingly important, both as a source of high quality food, and also enabling us to help other local farmers improve their efficiency. We continue to look at ways of diversifying and are considering starting a small dairy unit now that the farm building is complete. This will also provide more work opportunities.

We continue to work hard at developing our Disability provision for next year. Having recently rented premises near Mettupalayam village, new staff need to be trained and our systems for monitoring and supervision are being improved. We continue to work closely with The Association of People with Disabilities (APD) and the Worth Trust. Healthcare support also continues, with the excellent Doctor Paramasivam running the weekly surgery.

UK News- Our primary school education packs have been launched and have found immediate support. Thanks to Tiger Moon (www.tigermoon.co.uk) we receive a significant commission on sales. We will be promoting these over the coming years and continue to offer school visits. In my last newsletter I mentioned significant financial challenges that we faced. Someone must have been listening- despite the reduced tax rates, Gift Aid will continue at 28% for the coming 3 years! The exchange rate has also hardened in our favour and is now back to former levels. Unfortunately the Indian annual inflation rate continues to worsen and is now running in excess of 8%.

Our website has now been improved and re-launched, and includes a web log which we are updating regularly. New photos have also been added to the gallery. Last but not least, contributions from Friends using www.everyclick.com and registering their support for FOM now exceed £60 and grow daily.

Thank you all for your continuing support and interest.
You are all MAKING A DIFFERENCE.