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
We start this newsletter by remembering our joint-founder, David Eldridge. As many of you will know, David died from cancer earlier this year. He showed immense bravery during his illness and he never lost his unique ability to inspire others to go out and do things, to go places and to help those less fortunate than ourselves. He was simply amazing. I talked today with Venkat, our project leader in Tamil Nadu. He told me that David is always with him. “He is in the school with the children, he comes with me to the farm, he lives with all of us who knew him”. Our photo here shows Venkat leading a celebration of David’s life.
We could fill this newsletter and many more with stories of David and with first-hand accounts from the many people whose lives he and his wife Adele touched in the UK and in Tamil Nadu. But we know that he would insist that we talk about the project he set up with Venkat. We are so fortunate that Adele now continues to provide her direction and wisdom as we move on.
In these tough times, we thought it fitting to attach a piece David wrote a couple of years ago entitled “Charity starts at home”. Thank you David for all you have done and thank you all for supporting his work and the ideals he held so strongly and which are embedded in the project.
With the new school year come new students and a batch of new teachers at both Nambikki and the Crakehall School at Mettupalayam. One of those Crakehall teachers is Mary Mathilda, who has been supported by IRDT thoughout her schooling and college. She lost her hand in a childhood accident and in the past we have provided funds for a prosthetic hand, helped with other expenses and with moral support. Having now graduated as a teacher, we are all very excited that she is joining our Crakehall School and will be able to give back to the children in her care. She is the lady here in the red churidhar.
School numbers remain constant with over 100 pupils at both schools. One of the many changes sweeping India is that there are fewer large families. Four or more children was commonplace until recently, but a combination of socio-economic factors has meant that many parents are now stopping at two children, supported and incentivised by the government.. Fortunately in terms of school numbers, this is counterbalanced by a much greater attendance at school, as parents realise the crucial difference education has on a child’s future prospects. This is even more true with the local gypsy (Kuruvi) community.
At the Crakehall School, things do not stop once our primary children leave each day – because the local high school students are encouraged to use our school facilities to do extra study. This is especially helpful for 16 year olds wishing to go on to College. As well as using our classrooms and electricity, Venkat and his two children Ramya and Anand are on hand to provide specific support. With Anand now back at the project, he has been providing Maths and English tuition. We are now planning to purchase three laptop computers – and Anand’s degree is in computing! This will enable basic computer awareness for year 6 primary students and invaluable support and more advanced computing development for the returning high school students.
Here we see Anand with some of the high school students.
This year has seen the first student from the Kuruvi Community graduate from College! Vijayan has satisfactorily completed his B Tech in Business Studies and is now working for an insurance company. Two further students studying computing should finish at the end of the current academic year.
Karen’s tailoring unit have also been busy again, making all the uniforms for the new school year. Besides being a cheaper alternative to buying , it provides the tailors with additional income.
At Nambikki we have some great news which takes us back to the school’s inception after the devastating tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. By opening the Nambikki School close to the relatively poor fishing village of Pazyanadukuppam your project enabled young children to attend school, who otherwise would not have done so, due to the distance from the nearest government school. Now, ten years on several of our first students have just graduated from high school.
This is a school photograph of S Shalini, who is 16. She studied at our Nambikki School, and then went on to study at a large Government high school. In her final year exams, she scored 469 marks out of 500, gaining 100% in her science and social science exams, 93% in Tamil, 91% in Maths and 85% in English! She was the second best pupil in her year group of over 100 students! She is now starting higher secondary school studying Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science at the equivalent of ‘A’ level. We will of course, continue to provide support and encouragement and hope that Shalini will progress to college or university in due course.
Two other ex-pupils, both girls, achieved 420 marks and are also going to higher secondary school and another three students have also completed their high school education. None of this would have happened without the tireless work of Venkat and the team who not only responded to the emergency but also identified the opportunity to provide education to a group who were not receiving any, particularly girls.
This story has also hit the North Yorkshire press! Please go here the to read more
Our nutrition and healthcare initiative at this village close to Mettupalayam is going well. Our targeted approach is providing regular health camps and vegetable deliveries to each family at nominal cost to them. Venkat believes this is a very cost effective way for the project to spend its money as the benefit goes straight to those who need it. And this photo seems to support that view! A full review of the health improvements will be undertaken in October, at the end of the first years programme.
We now have a three cow herd, with a new calf for our milk cow and a sister to Caramel! And despite the poor rainfall, these youngsters are eating the fruit from David’s Mango tree – we know how much David would love that photo. Beautiful.
After the heat of summer (in India, not here!) a number of UK visitors are planning trips to support the project over the coming months. These connections are a great psychological boost for the project team in Tamil Nadu and ensure a close and ongoing understanding for us all back here in the UK.
We have an amazing set of people in the UK who do all sorts of great things to raise the money without which the project’s work would not be possible. Sponsored bike rides, coffee mornings, fairs and lots more. It is also marvellous that school children connect with the project and raise money too. Bedale High school and Caedmon school in Whitby are just two shining examples. To them and everyone, thank you! And if you have any suggestions or ideas for fundraising please do get in touch with any of the trustees listed at the top of this newsletter.
One event happening shortly is a repeat of last year’s garden party at Karen and Ray Wards, Mayfield House, Exelby on the 9th August, from 1pm. everyone is welcome. We are also planning another global coffee morning on the 25th October, when trustees, friends and supporters all hold events to raise both funds and the profile of the work being done by Venkat and his team.
Just a reminder, donations should now be forwarded to our treasurer, Mr Chris Riding, Violet Bank, Cumwhitton, BRAMPTON Cumbria CA9 8ER. However, any funds sent to Francis will still be banked!
We hope you have found this newsletter informative. If you have any questions we would love to hear from you. In the meantime, have a lovely summer and we will provide another update towards the end of the year.
Thank you for all your support.
Please see below for David’s thoughts on charity.
“Charity Starts at Home”
The old saying, ‘charity starts at home’ is one that we are all familiar with. Some 30 years ago whilst working a night shift on the railway, I was talking to the then Bishop of Carlisle, David Halsey and in the course of conversation he said … “You do realise that charity starts at home … but it doesn’t have to end there.” I have always found this comment to be warm and encouraging.
We support charity because we want to help to do good. Charity does not have to be conditional; indeed I feel that to give freely is uplifting. In a sense we become children again, we have a simple desire to do help, in the same way a child might put a coin onto a lifeboat appeal box and watch the coin rock into the RNLI boat.
Politics is hugely complicated and we all hold our own views. Friends of Mettupalayam is a non-governmental organization (NGO). We are non-political and indeed inclusive of all people of different faith and those with none. Our aim has always remained the same. We seek to help to enhance the life chances of very poor people. We strive to help improve people’s health experiences and the quality of their educational experience; we have been very successful.
People sometimes say India is rich, they have a space program and nuclear weapons; however there are also 400,000,000 desperately poor people in India and that represents 400 million reasons why we shouldn’t walk on the other side of the road. I’m sure all faiths have a story similar to The Good Samaritan and the message to help those that need help, is clear and true.
There is a lovely Buddhist story about two monks walking along a beach, a massive wave comes in and when it recedes from the beach there are millions of stranded starfish everywhere. The first monk bends down and he picks up a starfish and throws the starfish back in the sea. “What’s the point of doing that?” the other monk asks, “you can’t save them all!”
“No I can’t, but that starfish appreciated my help.”
So we continue our work after 25 years because it helps people to help themselves. We focus as far as possible on people such as the elderly, young and the disabled knowing that our support is appreciated and makes a tremendous difference.
Local Indian government has always been helpful, as have many Indian friends that have provided their laboring and medical services free of charge over the years.
Our job is to worry about achieving the successes and objectives that are so important to both donors and recipients.
Charity does indeed start at home and then it spreads like love, like a smile, like human kindness. Supporting the work of Friends of Mettupalayam is hugely rewarding and I know that maybe all the people that help us also support possibly cancer charities, children’s hospices, shelter and RSPB.
I rejoice that I am part of a group of people that care so generously about so much and find time to care and make a difference.
Thank you. David