The Irular, a Tribal Caste in Tamilnadu, noted for their traditional skill in catching snakes and extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs, have had a very difficult time obtaining basic required identity and property documents from local government officials. Without these documents they are unable to obtain subsidized government commodities like rice and oil, gain admission to colleges, qualify for special reserved seats in colleges or highly desirable Government jobs, permanent employment or subsidized rural employment schemes. Qualifying for basic Government Identity documents is a human right; a person does not fully “exist” without “papers”. South Asian Village Empowerment has a long term commitment to supporting Irular efforts to acquire these identity documents. On Monday, September 28 2015 we accompanied Jagatha, a leader of the Irular Women’s Rights movement, along with over 70 Irular women, men and children, to the capital of Kanchipuram District to submit to the Collector 265 documented demands for Community Certificates, Land Registration deeds, and Ration Cards. Following this they took the Collector’s receipt for these petitions and went to the local block office and resubmitted the demands to the office actually responsible to issue these documents. In the past these submissions have been subject to inordinate delays, claims the documents have been lost or misplaced, repeated demands for extralegal fees, and other technical obstructions. We will be following up on the official’s actions and will support Jagatha and the many families she represents to make sure the demands are addressed in a timely and correct manner. The demands were noted in articles that appeared in at least three Tamil language newspapers. We have attached separately copies of these articles as well as photos of the day.

SAVE-Intl welcomes a new long-term volunteer

Valeria and two Irular Tribal Women in our Embroidery Workshop

We want to introduce our newest long-term volunteer, Valeria Pavlova from Moscow. Valeria’s educational background is in journalism  with four years of experience as a news editor back in Russia. Some time ago she decided to take a different career path in community development and women empowerment. Before arriving to India, Valeria had spent one year in Kenya volunteering as a co-director in a children’s home for children from one of the most deprived and marginalized tribe in the country – the Pokot. Valeria hopes to stay here in Mamallapuram, Tamilnadu until February helping with our spoken English language program for primary school children, our women’s hand embroidery project and anything that strikes her fancy! Welcome Valeria!

Wilson Manoharan Appointed Director Of Education

We are pleased to announce that Mr. Wilson Manoharan has been appointed Director of Education of Tamilnadu Village Outreach, South Asian Village Empowerment’s immediate partner in Tamilnadu, South India. Mr. Manoharan has spent 14 years working in education in the U.S.A. and earned his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Virginia. Originally from a small village in Northern Tamilnadu, he returned to his native country a few years ago and is focusing his skills and talents to improve the educational levels of rural village students.Wilson Manoharan Ph.D.


We are please to announce that Walter Thinfen has accepted our invitation to serve as Vice President of SAVE-INTL following the resignation of Christine Whitman. Curt Degler and Walt have known each other since the 80’s and both now call Livermore CA home. Walt possesses a special understanding of the problems facing poor rural third world people as he grew up in Yap, an island in  Micronesia. Currently Walt works in an executive capacity for a technology company in Pleasanton CA. It is hoped that Walt will find an opportunity in the near future to visit Northern Tamilnadu India to become better acquainted with the grass-level community development programs sponsored and directed by SAVE-INTL for the benefit of the socially disadvantaged rural poor. Welcome!

Presentation October 4th 2013 in MillBrae California

All are invited on October 4, 2013, a Friday, to see and hear a presentation by me in Millbrae California (on the Peninsula South of San Francisco) with images from my career as a professional underwater photographer combined with photos and discussion of my charitable community development work for the last 8 years in village South India. There will also be portions of the presentation that deal with scuba diving opportunities in India and also plenty of unusual images of traditional life in South India (firewalking and more). Refreshments will be offered and it should be a great get together for many of my past and present friends in the Bay Area.
Here are the details:
PLACE:New Vision United Methodist Church (Gymnasium)at 450 Chadbourne Avenue, Millbrae
TIME: October 4th, Friday starts at 7:30PM (refreshments) with formalities scheduled for 8:00Pm and ending at 9:30PM with a break in between.
Curt John Degler

Report On Dalit Atrocities in Tamilnadu in 2012

Atrocities against Dalits touched their peak in 2012 

Study conducted by Madurai-based NGO reveal Villupuram, Virudhunagar, Dharmapuri and Theni among districts topping the list
April 10, 2013

In the last 15 years, atrocities against Dalits touched their peak in 2012 across Tamil Nadu, with Villupuram, Virudhunagar, Dharmapuri and Theni among districts topping the list.

A comprehensive study conducted by Madurai-based NGO ‘Evidence’ recently reveals that except in the Dharmapuri incident, compensation and rehabilitation had not reached the victims across the State till date as per the laws.

The study team, which had taken up 370 cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, last year alone, 106 figured on physical assaults and clash against the Dalits in different parts of Tamil Nadu. This apart, crimes grievous in nature and heinous ones accounted for 28 cases. Torching of dwellings stood at 36, executive director A. Kathir said.

Though Villupuram district accounted for the highest number of Dalit population in Tamil Nadu, towns such as Tirunelveli (which ranked seventh in Dalit population), Virudhunagar (14) and Madurai (28) witnessed several crimes.

As per official data, 2,048 cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act were pending investigation at various stages in the police stations in Tamil Nadu, with Virudhunagar topping the list (176), Tirunelveli (141), Madurai and Villupuram (with 136 cases each). While 318 cases (out of 2048) were disposed at the station level, in 885 cases charge sheets had been framed and in 75 cases final reports had been prepared for filing in courts.

The findings showed that across the State, of 94 murder cases which were pending in trial courts, only in three cases conviction had been achieved. Moreover, it was all the more shocking that though 62 cases of sexual abuse against Dalit women had been reported from different towns/districts, not even a single accused had been convicted. When such was the real status of the Dalit victims, some political parties and outfits conveniently blamed the Dalits for causing confusion and even charged that baseless complaints were foisted against their community youth. This was nothing but a false campaign, Mr. Kathir said in a press release.

The only silver-lining in the study was that after 24 long years of enacting the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, the compensation for victims had been enhanced from a meagre Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.

The Centre had listed as many as 22 types of atrocities as punishable, which include murder of a Dalit, sexual abuse of a Dalit woman, and so on. However, the team members found that the government had not rehabilitated the families of the Dalit victims in any manner, when there were options of providing jobs in government offices to one in the family, or offer a consolidated monthly pension of Rs 3000 or given them agricultural land with which they could survive and meet out their needs. Probably, less than one per cent of the victims’ families may have benefited from this rehabilitation.

The Evidence team has suggested as many as 17 recommendations to the government for implementation, which include stringent punishment to officials who failed to act in a fair and transparent manner in the event of a Dalit being victimised, to circulate the copies of Supreme Court directive on action against District Collectors/Superintendents of Police who failed to protect the Dalits, and to form core committees at taluk levels and identify villages which were prone for anti-Dalit attacks.

© The Hindu

Mon expérience avec l'association 'Tamil Nadu Village Outreach (TNVO)'

Sophie Marquet, teacher and students at Ellandoppu Village
Sophie Marquet, teacher and students at Ellandoppu Village, Tamilnadu India

J’ai participé pendant un mois (Janvier 2012) au projet communautaire de l’association ‘Tamil Nadu Village Outreach en ’Inde du sud. Ce projet créé il y a 7 ans par John(USA “South Asian Village Empowerment Intl “)  et Sonny (Inde), a été mis en place principalement pour aider les communautés pauvres, dites « intouchables », autour de la petite ville de Mamallapuram, près de Chennai, la capitale de la région.

Le projet vise particulièrement à aider les enfants des villages défavorisés en leur assurant une aide aux devoirs gratuite dans un local privé après l’école, et une préparation plus intense pour leur examens. Ici, l’éducation tient une très grande importance. Il faut avoir de très bonnes notes aux exams pour espérer être sélectionné à l’université, et aspirer à obtenir un travail décent. Dans ces villages, les parents sont souvent illettrés et ne peuvent pas toujours aider leurs enfants.

Primary school students at Salavankuppam Village Government School
Primary school students at Salavankuppam Village Government School

Le projet TNVO a donc pour but d’aider les enfants à obtenir de meilleures notes afin qu’ils puissent continuer leur éducation à l’université, comme les enfants des classes plus aisées.

Il y a au total 22 centres d’aides aux devoirs, dispersés dans plusieurs villages. Les professeurs, également issus des communautés locales, assurent un suivi scolaire gratuit à une vingtaine d’enfants, pendant environ 2 à 3 heures après l’école. Environ 450 enfants par jour sont concernés par le dispositif.

A local teacher and I discuss a library book while some Evening school student look on
A local teacher and I discuss a library book while some Evening school students look on

La démarche a déjà fait ses preuves. Les résultats aux examens de ces communautés se sont fortement améliorés et les enfants se sentent plus valorisés. Peut-être enfin l’espoir de pouvoir aspirer à une meilleure vie future.


Durant la journée, ces centres sont utilisés par la communauté, les femmes viennent y apprendre à broder et coudre. L’opportunité pour elles de pouvoir vendre leur propre création de vêtements, plus tard, si elles le souhaitent.


Le projet est essentiellement financé par des dons privés et des Organisations Non Gouvernementales (NGO) européennes et américaines. L’argent reçu sert principalement à construire et entretenir les bâtiments pour accueillir les enfants. Il permet aussi d’acheter des batteries pour assurer l’électricité lors des coupures de courant qui sont très fréquentes ici. En général, il n’y a pas de lumière entre 18 et 20 heures (économie d’électricité oblige). Cela ne facilite guère les études.

Les dons sont également utilisés pour diverses raisons : sponsoriser l’installation de canalisation permettant l’accès à l’eau potable d’un village, l’installation de WC dans l’école, ou de balançoires dans la cour. etc..

Il est également possible de parrainer un enfant et ainsi garantir son éducation. En moyenne, l’éducation d’un enfant dans une école publique coute environ 35€ par an.

Mon point de vue

Pendant cette trentaine de jours passés aux côtés des enfants, et des villageois, possédant très peu mais pourvus d’une grande richesse intérieure, je me suis rendue compte à quel point la société indienne, basée sur le système des castes ou communautés, est injuste et ne valorise pas le mérite.

J’ai visité plusieurs centres d’études. Et le seul fait de voir le sourire aux lèvres de ces enfants et leur reconnaissance envers leur professeur m’a tout de suite assuré que le projet de TNVO est plus qu’un simple projet communautaire et qu’il a un fort impact sur la vie future de ces enfants.

Les volontaires à long terme sont les bienvenus pour apporter leur aide, notamment pour l’enseignement de l’anglais. Et pour ceux qui ne peuvent pas venir si loin, le projet recueille dons et subventions et fournira un rapport prouvant l’utilisation de ce don.

Local school teachers, volunteers, and C. John Degler from South Asian Village Empowerment Intl appear her with me at the Salavankuppam Government Primary School

John et Sonny sont vraiment dévoués à leur projet qui les passionne et qui leur demande beaucoup de temps personnel. Je n’espère qu’une chose : que le projet TNVO se poursuive et qu’il continue à ouvrir de nouvelles portes à ces enfants des villages.

Sophie Marquet

Photographs and English captions by C. John Degler





Volleyballs Distributed to New Nemmelli Volleball Team

John Degler presenting two volleyballs to the New Nemelli Village Team Leaders

As part part of SAVE’s and  TVO’s continuing program to support youth sports in the Tiruporuur block of Kancheepuram District, we distributed volleyballs gratis to the New Nemelli Volleyball team with the promise that when these balls wear out or are damaged we will replace them with new balls if the old balls are returned. We are hoping to sponsor some intervillage volleyball tournaments this summer when school is out of session, including the use of professional paid referees. Currently we sponsor Volleyball Teams with nets, balls and steel net standards in Ellandoppu, Panjanteertee, Edaiyuur, New Nemelli, Salavankuppam, Anandapuram, Vellankadu, Mullipakkam and Mundiritoppu.