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
It is not that long since our last update, but we are already into another year and there has been a lot of activity at the project, which has been particularly busy with visitors. We really do welcome visitors as they invariably bring new ideas, fun and lifelong friendships. And of course the project staff, the teachers, the local people and perhaps most importantly the children gain immensely. And it is perhaps worth just making the point that visitors go at their own expense – we are proud that all the money that you give and we raise goes to the project in Tamil Nadu, not to administration or costs incurred here in the UK.
Both our schools are doing well with some 200 pupils between them. Nambikki School, situated on the Bay of Bengal coast, was set up by us after the Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. Our Mettupalayam ex-pupil Thanigaiarasu is the head teacher and Francis visited in January and was pleased to meet the teachers and to see first-hand the quality education the school is providing. The majority of the children come from the nearby village and are fisherfolk children. Now they have ambitions to be construction engineers, computer engineers, doctors or teachers. Here are some of the Nambikki children with 19 year old Mhairi who has spent the last three weeks giving to the project.
At Crakehall school in Mettupalayam an increasing number of the children come from the nearby tribal village. This is great news as many did not used to attend any school at all. As the gypsy community are nomadic we do however have a continuing battle to ensure continuity of schooling for some families. We have seven teachers, all women at present and although some are relatively new we are really delighted with the sense of team-work and commitment they demonstrate. They are proving to be good role models and I think you will agree look really smart in their Sari uniforms. It is great to welcome back Indumathy, who worked for us before she married, and who has returned as her children are now in full time education.
Two retired teachers from the UK, Lynne and Ian Godwin have recently arrived for another visit to the project and we know this will be a big support to Venkat and to the continuing development of the teachers. They are also introducing the children and staff to English phonics!
Community News and Healthcare
Sometimes we have occasion to reflect on the impact our project has had. This was true recently when we visited a dear friend and ex social worker Gomathi in her village, Serpakkam, which is only a few kilometres away. Gomathi has had two miscarriages, is pregnant again and we are keeping a special watch on her, providing money for her medicines. During our visit, several villagers came to ask advice from Jean who is a nurse. She came across some unexpected and serious health issues and so we organised a special open-air clinic with our good Friend Doctor Paramasivam. On this day Jean and the doctor saw 117 people in two and a half hours, with diagnoses from HIV, to severe liver failure and many cases of significant malnutrition. Many of these cases were in young people. Just a week ago, another clinic was held and again 85 people came for a free consultation.
The weekly health clinics that we now have in Mettupalayam mean that we no longer see such severe and untreated illnesses. We are planning to add a monthly doctor’s visit to Gomathi’s village. This will not be a solution in itself. It is a long-term task, which will require education, improved nutrition and treatments. We have asked another UK visitor to look at the process of nutritional education by way of the Women’s groups.
Many of you will remember the distressing situation of the quarry people who we subsequently managed to buy out of bonded slavery. Our picture shows Meena, Selvi and Valerasi, three of the quarry girls who completed their primary education with us. Unfortunately they are now wandering aimlessly until marriage, so Venkat is trying to persuade them and their fathers that they should come to our tailoring unit and learn a trade. We will cover their training costs and then pay them a small wage for the work they do. It is great to report that the tailoring tutor, Sameem, has returned to work for us again and he is working with more village women. They will shortly start to make next school year’s uniforms.
The Mettupalayam Farm
Not such good news to report on the monsoon rains which have again been unkind to this part of India. Venkat says we have only 40% of the rain we need. This will certainly limit our farm work this year, the yields we get and the price we pay for vegetables at the market. However, a crop of rice, groundnuts and pulses has been harvested recently, and around 1 ½ acres of sugar cane has been planted. Venkat is also growing a trial crop of wheat for the agricultural centre who have provided the seed.
We would like to thank all the Friends, individuals and schools who were involved in fundraising in the period running up to Christmas. At Middleham Primary School, a great long standing supporter, the children designed and sold Christmas cards, making over £350. Here is one of their designs.
All your passion, support and encouragement keep the project as vibrant and life-changing as it is. A big Thank you from all in the UK but mostly from Venkat, staff, villagers and children in India.