When Sonny Saravanan, my partner from Tamilnadu Village Outreach, and I went to inspect the finished electrical remodeling of the Anandapuram Community Center we were met by the informal so-called young men’s Youth Group of the village. They were very grateful for the work we had done to make their village community center useable again after so many years of neglect and were very appreciative of the professional quality of the rewiring, the high levels of lighting and the three high quality fans that we had installed.
As is quite common in the villages where SAVE-INTL is active, there is a youth volleyball team in Anandapuram, and it is our policy to support these teams with free volleyballs and nets when requested. The Anandapuram Youth Group asked me for some help with a new net and some volleyballs, as they had none, and I remarked that there was already a good net strung up on their steel volleyball net standards in front of the community center and wondered why they needed another one. They explained that the net I was looking at actually belonged to another village and that their own net was badly damaged. I asked that it be brought out. While the net was in bad shape, I said that it could be used as a practice net with the purchase of some fishermen’s string and rope and a little work but that we would immediately provide them with some quality volleyballs which I had in my office in Mamallapuram. A committee from the Anandapuram Youth Group soon came to see me in Mamallapuram just before my departure for a two month trip outside India.We gave them a couple of quality branded volleyballs (see photo) and I promised on my return to provide them with a tournament quality net. They then told me the following story which I feel is illustrative of the problems faced by India’s Amateur Sports Groups.
Their village fielded a youth volleyball team two years ago which participated in a Tamilnadu State-wide tournament of villages. In their own District of Kanchipuram, which has a population of over two million, they managed to attain the rank of SECOND best volleyball team, despite the small size of their village of just 274 inhabitants, and a handful of young men.
This is a truly remarkable achievement for a poor rural Dalit village, yet no Gov’t Sports Authority, Private Business or NGO has seen fit to help (at least to date) them continue to pursue their excellence by supporting them with volleyballs or nets.
I promised to help them with volleyball equipment as long as they continued to aspire to be the BEST village volleyball team in Tamilnadu. They also asked for uniforms/jerseys for their team, a request I promised to consider.
Work was completed today on the repair and remodeling of the electrical lighting and ventilation system at the Anandapuram Community Center.
We completely rewired the center using wall mounted conduit and copper wire, new fuse board, two new switchboards, three branded ceiling fans, six fixtures for 2o watt CFL bulbs, two 4o watt tube light, and proper ground or earthing capable of handling a computer or two (some day). In addition we installed three exterior lights, one over the staircase to the roof and two on the front of the building which faces a small plaza-like public area. Total cost was 19700 Rs or about $450. The work was completed and guaranteed by a certified electrician with whom we have worked before.
A gallery of photos of the completed work and also the final work contract and original estimate can be seen here.
The Center was originally constructed in 2002 by an Internationally known NGO but not maintained by them or the local government. In the past few years it had fallen into serious disrepair and became essentially unusable by the community due to the failure of the wiring system, and lack of lighting and cooling during evening hours. It has still been used to store some empty rice bags, athletic equipment and to shelter pre-school children during daylight hours who were eligible for the Government supplemental feeding program, but that is all. Besides the failure of the electrical system, the flooring of the center, just thin poured cement, has started to break up and leaving sandy patches, which will worsen, and both the exterior and interior paint have faded, peeled and been covered by black mold. The building is however structurally sound, with a strong foundation, walls and roof and of an expensive and desirable construction. Therefore SAVE-INTL and its partner TVO have undertaken to bring back to life the Anandapuram Community Center, and with it, the fallen esteem of this poor Dalit hamlet. Now that the building is illuminated from the interior and exterior we are currently holding and sponsoring a free after-school evening Tuition school with a local paid part-time teacher, who holds a B.S. degree and who is currently studying for his teaching certificate. Additionally, the building can now again be used for village functions such as marriages and engagements, birthday parties, community meetings, etc. In the immediate future we hope to begin women’s vocational programs, such as sewing and tailoring, and start a community library. We have already begun sponsorship of the villages championship volleyball team, see a subsequent post here. We still need to repaint the building and repair the flooring, preferably with quality glazed tiles, and for this would very much like some financially help and sponsorship from a private organization or individual donor. Please look into your heart.