Amuur Computer Center getting a coat of paint from our High-Tech volunteer painting crew
In India, as in most places, business is often conducted between friends and acquaintances and those to whom we are personally introduced. So it is with getting institutional support for our slowly developing Computer Center in Amuur. One of the American Directors of SAVE-INTL had some years ago developed a friendship with a colleague at work who was on temporary assignment from India. Time passed and they lost contact but were not forgotten. My Director mentioned this past contact to me and through the miracle of Internet social networking I was able to locate her and, surprise, she worked for a major Indian technology company in Chennai, Tamilnadu. I wrote to her, rekindled an old friendship with our American Director, and also found a corporate sponsor willing to help with launching and maintaining our long-awaited Amuur Computer Center.
Anitha Rajesh addressing the friends of the Amuur Computer Center
C. John Degler and Anitha with assembled friends and supporters in Amuur
First a visit was needed to Amuur to verify that the SAVE-INTL Computer Center was a potential reality more than some mere imagination. So on July 22, 2011 Anitha and a colleague, Augustin, came down from Suburban South Chennai to Amuur Village to meet me and take a look at the Amuur Computer Center. More than 30 people were present to greet Anitha during her inspection of the facilities, and cookies and tea were served. Anitha made a well received speech about the support she would try to organize for the Center through her employer, HCL Corp of India. She said she would try to organize some volunteers through HCL to help paint the Amuur Computer Center building and also work to provide qualified teachers and computer instructors to help make the Center a thriving reality of benefit to the community.
Subsequently on August 20th, 2011, 15 young volunteer painters from HCL, most of them computer and software engineers, who work in Chennai but came from all over India, joined myself and my SAVE-INTL assistant, “Kutti”, in painting the interior and exterior of the Center with paints purchased by SAVE-INTL but with brushes that the volunteers brought with them.
Siva and Pyush mixing paint
After demonstrating that they possessed the computational capabilities to mix paint (name the two ways you can get exactly 4 liters of water by adding and dumping water from a 3 liter and a 5 liter bucket!), they all set to work on a fine partially cloudy day with lots of youthful energy and camaraderie. A lot was accomplished and everyone agreed that it was a fun and useful way to spend a Saturday. As noon time approached we took a break and ordered parcels of rice and sambhar and enjoyed a meal.
We took a lot of photos, too numerous to display on this page but I have included a link to a gallery of the best images I took for the downloading pleasure and enjoyment of the volunteers. Let me say, again, a BIG THANK YOU to all who participated: Sumit Kumar, Vinod Kumar, R. Venkateraman, Ayaskanta Mishra, Sivakumar Tallari, Ankur Kumar, Santiago Martin, Sivakumar Shanmugan, Piyush Mathur, Jetwin, Kannan, Ch. Royal Appaji Rao, Venkata Ramana A, Ugandhar Sheela, (apologies for any misspellings) and of course Anitha for making this all possible.
The Malar Trust, based in Northern Italy, and dedicated primarily to increasing the availability of Higher Education in Tamilnadu among the poorer and socially disadvantaged classes and communities, has been the partner of SAVE-INTL on several projects in 2011. Together we funded and managed the rebuilding of the toilet facilities for the 200 students in the Amuur Panchayat one through eight grade government primary school, a project now successfully completed. Additionally we together sponsored, funded and managed a pilot program of free coaching for the crucial Secondary School Leaving Certificate Examination given statewide in Tamilnadu and India at the conclusion of the 10th grade. The latter was such a success that the project has been expanded to approximately six more free coaching centers starting in September 2011.
A report from the Malar Trust on our joint activities can be downloaded here:
Cataracts, a clouding of the optic lens in the eye, are common among the majority of the older people who live in rural villages in Tamilnadu, and the most common cause of non-congenital blindness. Villagers, who have labored most of their lives since they were children doing field work, planting, transplanting, and harvesting rice and preparing fields by plowing, repairing irrigation works etc., do so without any eye protection from the strong, hot solar rays of the long summer in Tamilnadu. The result is a high incidence of cataracts and blindness among the aged. While easily treatable with modern opthalmic procedures, the condition often goes uncorrected among the older residents of Tiruporuur Block in Tamilnadu India, where our project is located.
The costs of private cataract surgery are ordinarily far beyond the means of most landless villagers in the district where SAVE-INTL operates. However the Government of Tamilnadu has a social welfare program whereby private and charitable eye hospitals and clinics receive a fixed amount of reimbursement from the government for each cataract surgery that they perform. With this government assistance, plus private donations, eye clinics are able to offer free cataract surgery to the poor rural population of Tamilnadu.
But this is not enough to solve the problem of the prevalence of rural blindness in Tamilnadu. Suspicion of those offering free allopathic medical care is widespread due to previous bad medical outcomes experienced by themselves, relatives and friends. Additionally, illiteracy and ignorance are widespread. Many cataract sufferers do not know the cause of their declining vision, are unaware of the availability of the free eye surgery, or are afraid there are hidden costs. Some are fearful of being away from their homes and village for a night under strange circumstances, concerned they might be experimental subjects, or not certain how to go about obtaining the sight saving procedure.
This is where SAVE-INTL and its local partner, Tamilnadu Village Outreach (TVO) are able to help. With our history of sustained involvement in local village social programs for over six years and excellent reputation, local villagers have a high level of trust in projects we undertake. To reach out and inform villagers of the one day event, we are able to utilize our local level contacts that range from village headmen to the teachers we employ to run our Tuition Schools and women’s vocational programs. Additional we paid for spots on local radio, distributed flyers announcing the time, date and location of the eye camp and finally hired a small sound van to go through the local villages and announce the eye camp on the day of the program.
We investigated several eye clinics and hospitals that offered free eye care and cataract surgery to the indigent and decided upon the Sankara Eye Hospital in Pammal, Chennai, Tamilnadu. They gave us a comprehensive tour of their large facility and were very impressed by the cleanliness, organization, attitude of the staff to patients and the overnight dormitory and cafeteria provided to indigent patients. Then it was the turn of Sankara Eye Hospital to inspect our clinic in Amuur and satisfy themselves that we could satisfy their space and amenity requirements. They also provided us with a list of items and provisions that we would be required to provide including food and snacks for their staff, tables and furniture, drinking water, and local staff.
On the day of the clinic, TVO used its small Omni Maruti van to help shuttle patients with mobility problems to Amuur or from villages that have no bus service.
The Eye Clinic was judged by all to be a resounding success.
A total of 124 separate patients were evaluated by an opthamologist and their vision tested for glasses by an optometrist.
Some basic eye medications for dry eyes and simple infections were distributed for free.
Ten cataract patients were immediately taken for free cataract surgery in the Sankara Eye Hospital bus and all subsequently reported on their return that their vision was restored and that they were treated respectfully and satisfactorily.
Some patients were asked to come to the Sankara Hospital at a later time for a more thorough examination including dilation, glaucoma screening, etc. The charge for this is only 100 Rs or a bit more than $2.00.
Some of the villages whose residents participated were Amuur, Siridhavuur, Panjanteertee, Mundiritoppu, Vellankadu and Kazhanipakkam among others. The cataract patients who have had only one eye repaired at a time will arrange for subsequent treatment of their remaining cataract.
If you would like to help, we need donations of old usable eyeglasses and frames and especially eyeglasses that can correct presbyopia or near sightedness, which are sold in the USA without prescription. Of course money would also help! We hope to sponsor future eye camps in other village networks where we have schools and programs.
About the Clinic in Amuur: In 2007 The Arbiter Samariter Bund of Kiel, Germany donated money for the construction of the clinic through SAVE-INTL and we SAVE manages the clinic with our partner, TVO. There is a paid staff nurse in attendance 4-5 hours a day, 6 days a week and also a paid assistant janitor. The clinic has two rooms and two toilets, two beds and basic medical clinic and a supply of medications, bandages, etc. All medical waste is promptly burned and used needles are destroyed in machine designed for this purpose. Emphasis is on treating women and young children, detection and preventive care. Our nurse evaluates all patients and either provides treatment or refers them to a local Doctor or hospital, such as Chettinad Hospital, with whom we have a liason relationship. All visits are free as well as medications suggested for treatment of such common ailments as joint and muscle pain, high blood pressure, the common cold. Cuts and scrapes are evaluated, debrided and dressed and we also provide initial screening for diabetes.
The students attending the Amuur Village School will soon see a large improvement in the sanitary facilities available to them during school hours, thanks to the generosity of the Malar Trust of Italy who have agreed to fully sponsor their rehabilitation, pledging one Lakh (100,000Rs).
The current Amuur school toilets have become virtually unusable and the facility entry wall is in serious danger of collapse, plus the currently facilities are not designed with separate areas for boys and girls.
The availability and condition of toilet facilities in Indian Public has long been a problem that affects primarily girls, especially those who are near maturity. Some of the consequences of substandard or non-existent facilities have been an increase in absenteeism or dropping out by girl students and an increase in urinary tract infections.
This problem is well recognized by the media in South India. See the article (link below) from The Hindu, an English language newspaper published out of Chennai and one of India’s oldest and most respected news journals:
Some photos of the Amuur School Toilet facilities.
Here some photos of the boys and girls attending the school whose access to education will be enhanced by the repair and remodeling of the toilet facilities.
After consulting with the Amuur school officials to determine their requirements, an estimate and plan to remodel and rehabilitate the Ammur School Toilet was provided by Mr. Viswanathan of VVN Construction who has previously worked with us on several projects. The new toilets will have four toilets each for boys and girls, the facility will be divided by a common wall and the entry way will be demolished and separate entry ways for boys and girls will be provided.
But before we could proceed further we required an official letter from the Amuur School Officials Requesting that we remodel the toilet and giving permission for same.
TVO and SAVE-INTL really needed some independent financial help to accomplish this project which brings us back to the beginning, namely our good friends at the Malar Trust, who after carefully reviewing the plans and my report have most generously agreed to fully support this project financially which should enable SAVE-INTL and TVO to ensure that the students of Amuur Elementary School will have with safe, sanitary and functional toilets and an improved educational experience.
Construction should begin in a few weeks at most once the winter Tamilnadu monsoon season is over. We will post the contract once that has been signed.