FRIENDS OF METTUPALAYAM TRUST
Registered Charity No 1054673
c/o David Eldridge
The Coach House, Bainbridge
N Yorks DL8 3EE
Tel 01969 650618
Francis and Rosie Muncaster
Bedale. DL8 2HF
Due to the very hot and dry weather in the Mettupalayam area, building progress on the new Crakehall School has been slow; however, the foundations are now complete although we have to bring 4000 litres of water down every day from the farm well to make the concrete. Venkat is still optimistic that the building work will be completed by October. With 10 men, 12 women, 2 masons and an engineer, there is no shortage of labour on site! Now that the foundations and support pillars are in place, the block work will go up much more quickly. Meantime, numbers at the Mettupalayam School remain constant, around 145, and the Nambikki School has now expanded to 63 with the possibility of another 10/15 joining at the month’s end. We are employing another teacher at each school, as we try to maintain class size to a maximum of 20 children. Having bought all the children chappals (sandals) last December, we are providing them for the new children in the minus group (nursery class) and also for some older children who have joined from the gypsy colony.
There is some very disappointing news-having fought long and hard to try to keep Mari at secondary school, she has decided that she wants to get married and has therefore left to join her future husband’s family. I believe that she is about 13 years old! Marriage at this age is very common in the tribal community and changing these social mores will take more education, however, Venkat is very persistent and thankfully child marriage is now very much an exception in our project area. There is better news of Nadhia who passed her higher secondary exams this year. Her mother has sold the family’s small goat flock, borrowed a further 16000Rps from the Womens Self Help Group and managed to pay for Nadhia’s first full year at the Government Teacher Training College. She will continue to live at the project, travelling daily and we are paying for her travel and food expenses. Venkat will try to arrange an education loan for her second year’s fees. Once qualified, Nadhia will be able to work in a government school, earning around 10000Rps (£120) each month.
Amongst the many other regular activities organised by Venkat, on Friday 26th June, IRDT Mettupalayam hosted a farmers gathering, sponsored by the Nabard Bank, the Indian Bank and the local Block Development Officer. As well as the inauguration of another 6 farmers self help groups, this was an opportunity for the 250 farmers attending to learn about the government finance schemes available to encourage them to bring fallow land back into production. Although traditionally a very rural and productive farming area, irregular rainfall, high land values and low crop yields due to poor farming practices have meant that much land is uncultivated, local people are left with little work and the poverty cycle continues. Our small farm enables us to demonstrate how these difficulties can be overcome.
Women’s Self Help Groups
Many development activities are organised through the Sangams- a recent example is linked to our introduction of litter bins in our project areas. Previously, little thought was given to rural environmental considerations- in an economy where very little is wasted and rubbish disposal is minimal, there are still problems with plastic which cannot readily be reused. In the towns, local government organise regular daily rubbish collections but this does not extend to the villages. In Mettupalayam, the local council are now paying one SHG to empty our bins and recycle wherever possible. This provides some paid employment and equally importantly, keeps the area clean. We also involve the schoolchildren, they were already keeping the playground clean and they now monitor the villages.
Disability and Healthcare
It is very heartening building links between our two communities, and the link between Ripon Rowels and Uthiramerur Rotary Clubs continues to inspire and motivate us. With very generous local Rotary support, we are able to expand our disability work for the coming year, meaning that many more disadvantaged villagers and children will receive help, physiotherapy and equipment to make their lives that bit easier. We are always looking to build upon past achievements and will be looking at ways to continue and extend this work into the future.
Many of our supporters will be feeling the effects of the recession, and perhaps have less funds available for discretionary spending. It is therefore even more appropriate to thank you all again for your continuing financial support. The steps that some Friends take to help raise funds are highlighted by Stuart who is running/walking the Lyke Wake Walk on the 18th July (www.justgiving.com/stuartdingwall1). The normal challenge is to complete the 40 miles in 24 hours- Stuart is committed to completing it within 12 hours- Good luck, my friend.
Finally, trustee representation is expected at the opening of the Crakehall School in October, a further newsletter with photos will be sent in due course.