FRIENDS OF METTUPALAYAM TRUST

Registered Charity No 1054673

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

Francis and Rosie Muncaster
‘The Rowans’
Exelby,
Bedale. DL8 2HF
01677 425961
Email: fmuncaster@hotmail.com

November Newsletter 2010

Schools update

We are delighted that our new Crakehall School, Mettupalayam is open! Pictured above, Venkat, the teachers and children send their greetings and thanks to all their friends in the UK who have supported them over the years. The new facilities are a much appreciated improvement over the old school buildings, the first of which was built nearly 25 years ago with funds raised by David and Adele whilst at teacher training college. The new classrooms are spacious, light and airy, with large windows to catch the breeze, and lovely furniture made locally using timber from our own teak trees. Venkat is now having a new toilet block built, completing the water tower and planning the courtyard area. He has asked for the children’s ideas and will let us know what they decide. They have already planted some trees to provide shade in the playground, and relocated the play equipment which was paid for by Bedale Primary School many years ago and which is still enthusiastically used.
Turning to the old school buildings, Venkat plans to renovate and repair these and to use them for community facilities. Having sought various ideas, he would like to open a day centre for the elderly where he could provide an improved nutrition and healthcare programme, as well as some daily activities suitable for their skills and abilities. Many local elderly people have little to occupy themselves with once they are unable to do the farm work which is all that their limited education allows.
The Nambikki School, set up following the tsunami, has now expanded to around 78 children and recent UK visitors were able to see the wonderful progress being made. Thanigai, the head teacher, is a former Mettupalayam School pupil, and he provides excellent support to Venkat.
Following Becky Bell’s 5 months spent teaching in Mettupalayam, the standard of English has improved and we hope to build on this with further visits by volunteer teachers early next year.

Venkat’s visit

In September, Venkat spent 3 weeks in the UK, visiting schools and meeting many supporters. As always, he took lots of new ideas back with him and we are already seeing photos of these being put into action. It is wonderful to see the strong links being forged between the children here and in India. We also held our usual open afternoon and are grateful for the interest and support that we received. We now have a Friends of Mettupalayam Facebook Group and intend to post regular pictures and brief updates.

Community work

Venkat can tell many uplifting stories about his work in this very poor, rural area and we always look forward to hearing how our friends are getting on. We are delighted and very much moved to hear that Rajeshwari, the little girl who was born with congenital deafness, has settled in well at boarding school. She has now started to speak and is making excellent progress. Our disability worker, Siva, takes her parents on the bus each month to visit her as her mother is without speech and hearing, and her father is blind having worked for a welding shop owner who didn’t provide goggles!
At a recent health camp, attended by over 600 villagers, many health issues were addressed including organising another 14 cataract operations.
Gomathi, Venkat’s assistant, continues to very effectively organise and support the women’s groups. IRDT are now involved with over 250 groups, facilitating micro credit and small business enterprise which makes a significant difference to the local economy. Regular meetings also provide IRDT with the opportunity to address some of the many social problems.

Future plans

Increasingly, we are being approached by volunteers wishing to provide practical help to Venkat and his team. At the moment, this is constrained by the lack of suitable long term visitor accommodation at the project. Venkat has plans to build additional facilities above the new Crakehall School, and we are looking at ways to fund this. Meantime, we continue to use the two bedrooms in the multi-purpose building. During the coming year, Venkat also hopes to open a day centre for the elderly, as already mentioned, and set up a small dairy unit.

Finally, as usual, we wish to thank all our supporters, friends and helpers- you are really making a difference- also all the UK visitors to the project who contribute so much. Venkat, Gomathi, staff and children have just celebrated Deepawali, the festival of lights, and join with us in wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.