Providing local employment is an important contribution to the development of the local rural community. The project provides direct employment on our farm, in our schools and around the project area.
Our farm provides fresh, nutritious crops and dairy for our school meals and for sale at cost to local people. In recent years it has provided around 1800 days of direct work each year to local people. Our team is working, with local government support, to develop initiatives which will increase this in the future. These initiatives include a groundnut pressing plant and a joint cooperative with local farmers to maximise sales and efficiency. Both these are now up and running.
Our schools at Mettupalayam and Nambikki provide employment (and in-depth training) for ten teachers, plus local work for staff who provide teaching support, cleaning and cooking.
We organise and coordinate local womens’ groups (Sanghams) and support the provision of government loans for the development of small local businesses. Empowering these local groups has enabled micro enterprises like the purchase of milk cows to sell milk to our cooperative and the development of a local tailoring unit, currently consisting of seven local women who make clothes for sale, including the supply of our school uniforms.
We can also provide financial support to local people, where agreed, to help them set up their own employment. A recent example of this is Angelatchi, who was a teacher at our Mettupalayam school but then tragically had a stroke during childbirth. After initially providing speech and physical therapy to Angelatchi, we have now given her some limited financial aid so that she can set up a local roadside café/hotel. Despite severe speech and other physical impairment, she is determinedly making a success of this.
Providing local opportunities is particularly important with the advent of large multinational factories around the local capital city of Chennai. These jobs attract through higher wages, but involve significant travel and very long hours, disrupting family cohesion, especially where young children are concerned.
All these initiatives support the key focus of our project, education, which we know has a direct influence on the future employment prospects of the children. Our schools provide a quality and diversity of education which means that our pupils consistently go on to perform highly at secondary school with the resulting improved prospects of good employment. This is no better illustrated than by the three local former pupils who became the first gypsy children in the whole state of Tamil Nadu to graduate from University and who have now gained good employment in Engineering and Technology.