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
Our two primary schools continue to provide an excellent education, now both in wonderful school buildings and with a dedicated teaching staff. However, visitors often comment that the curriculum is somewhat restricted by UK standards, with little art, music or sport. It is a joy therefore to be able to promote these subjects during our visits. Currently we have two retired teaching professionals working at the project and they are also incorporating these into the children’s daily study. The standard of spoken English continues to improve and with much more classroom space to display their work, the teaching environment is much enhanced. The teachers have readily taken on board some of the ideas and techniques which were introduced to them by David, Adele and Liz in July/August and further teacher development continues. Teacher training is more problematical at our Nambikki School but we have recently learnt that a new lodging house has opened nearby and it will therefore be possible for visitors to go there for extended stays. Above all else, the children at both schools are an absolute delight, full of enthusiasm and really working hard.
Our Crakehall School building will shortly have its own water supply as the builders have just completed the new 40,000 litre water tower. This is connected to our nearby well and should be able to supply year round drinking water. The school toilet block is also being built and a new sports ground is planned on land behind the school.
We have been involved in provision for the disabled for some time, and continue to look for better ways to help those disadvantaged by learning or physical disabilities. After consultation, and in order to coordinate this aspect of IRDT’s work, we have appointed some village based healthcare and community workers. As these are mature married women with children, we hope that the training and support that they receive will enable a more effective and lasting system to be developed.
In January, during our visit, we were delighted to take Rajeshwari (pictured) back to the Sylvia Wright School for the Deaf where she is receiving fantastic help, so much so that she is now starting to lip read and speak! It was a very moving experience visiting this marvellous charity-run school, teacher training school and hospital. Whilst Rajeshwari receives a free place at the school, each month we are paying around 600 rupees (£9) to enable her parents to visit and to pay for those little extras that all children need! We are also giving Rajeshwari’s family some additional financial support as her father is recovering from a serious stomach operation following a cancer diagnosis .
It is always interesting to meet the women who take part in the Sanghams (Self-help groups) and to see the various ways in which they are improving their family’s economy. Social development is also a very important aspect of this work. We were accompanied during this year’s visit by Hugo and Jean from York, their second visit. Jean was very keen to use her nursing training and experience to benefit the villagers and took part in a very productive discussion with Sangham leaders about general healthcare, childbirth, and hygiene issues. We are now advised that nearly all village women go to the government hospital to have their babies as they receive a childbirth grant for their first two children. This is a big improvement as previously there were significant problems with birthing difficulties and consequent disability and infant mortality.
Whilst at the project, Jean also met with Dr Paramasivam, who runs the weekly free clinic in Mettupalayam, and she helped to reorganise the medical supplies and storage.
Over the years, IRDT have made remarkable differences to people’s lives. There are so many examples but one which comes to mind concerns Chandrasekhar, a student at the local Higher Secondary School. He is a tribal boy and many years ago, whilst he was at our primary school, Venkat noticed that he couldn’t run around like the other boys. Venkat took him for a health check and it was discovered that he had a life-threatening heart condition which necessitated open heart surgery. He fully recovered and is now in his first year of A level equivalent exams. It is remarkable for a tribal boy to progress so far in the education system, as nationally only around 5% of tribal children receive any schooling. We will continue to encourage and support him and his friends in their ambitions.
Quarry Community and Farming news
Our small community of former bonded labourers continues to inspire, with our first new baby. Mari gave birth around May last year after a c section. At only 14 years old, with a husband who couldn’t live with her as he was still bonded, this must have been very traumatic for her. However, we have now managed to pay off the debts that tied her husband Masi to the quarry owner, and he is now living and working at our farm settlement. It is sad that the other quarry children choose not to come to school but at least they are now receiving good nutrition and are free from having to break rocks all day! We will of course try to encourage them back to school. They were a great help with the sugar cane planting whilst we were there, and Venkat gave them all some “pay” and lots of sweets. Hugo also had some toy mouth organs which were very much appreciated!
This year, Tamil Nadu has received an excellent monsoon and Venkat plans to increase food production from our small farm. The first post-monsoon rice crop is ready to harvest, and sugar cane has been planted along with vegetable crops. The percolation lagoon has been stocked with around 500 small carp which should be harvested later in the year. Venkat has also introduced 4 ducks and is looking to buy a drake!
This year has seen an increase in UK volunteers visiting and working at the project. This really enhances Venkat’s work, bringing new insights and skills, and plans are in hand for further visits later in the year after the summer heat. There are two brief reports on our IRDT website) from Hugo and Jean, and Ian and Lynn who are there at the moment www.irdt.co.uk
Fundraising has been effective again this year with many talks, Christmas fairs and sponsored events. We remain very grateful to the many long term supporters who give monthly donations, and to the many schools which also help with our work. There are however some concerns regarding future funding. General inflation in India continues at around 8% per annum, but food price inflation is particularly high at around 16% this year- this obviously has a disproportionate effect in a poor rural area such as Mettupalayam where wages are very low. In addition, the amount that we can claim through Gift Aid falls by around 10% from April when the Government’s temporary top-up funding ceases. Monthly running costs last year amounted to around £3000, and we have yet to agree this year’s increase. Whilst we keep a small contingency reserve fund, we very much believe in using donated funds to best effect. We would therefore be delighted to hear from anyone who wishes to make a regular donation or increase an existing donation. We still cover all UK costs from our own donations, so every penny that we receive is received in India to promote IRDT’s work.
Once again, many thanks to you all for helping us to make such a big difference.