On October 13th, 2011 I had the opportunity to spend a few hours visiting several facilities supported by SAVE. This was my second visit to the area. In February of this year I attended the opening of the Mundiritoppu Village Community Center. Sonny Saravanan from Tamilnadu Village Outreach also showed me the SAVE supported Health Clinic in Amuur and a crèche, or pre-school feeding and child care center known locally as a Balwadi or Anganwadi.
I also had the chance to visit with the women at a few Community Centers including Mundiritoppu. These Community Centers, established and built by SAVE in association with Tamilnadu Village Outreach, are used for many purposes including after-school tuition centers for students, meetings of women’s organizations and other associations, to host small wedding, engagement, and other village ceremonies, and as sewing and vocational training centers.
I was particularly interested in seeing the skills being learned by the village women. Many of the centers which I visited serve as sewing centers by day, where the women are taught how to sew and embroider under the watchful eye of a skilled teacher. These skills are put to immediate use in making clothing for family and friends. As Deepavali (or Diwali as it is known in Northern India) is coming up, a time when, as part of the celebrations, wearing new clothing is traditional, many of the women were sewing for their own daughters and those of other community members. SAVE, by providing the physical space, sewing machines and the teachers, has given these women an environment where they are able to learn a useful skill ,giving them a sense of pride and an opportunity to contribute to their families’ livelihood. The accompanying pictures show some of their work. Thank you Sonny! It was a great day!
While I was in India last year, I was lucky enough to visit some of the rural villages that SAVE-INTL and TVO works with near Mamallapuram. I got to see first-hand many of their wonderful programmes and projects. One very special event I attended in May 2010 was the opening of a new library at the Kunnapattu-Irular Community Center.
This was a very proud day for the village, and both parents and children came along to celebrate the occasion and borrow their first books. Everyone was excited to have their very first local library.
After John said a few words to inaugurate the library, the children eagerly queued up to borrow their first books.
This library is a brilliant idea. It’s wonderfully simple, low cost, and works really well. It brings books to this very poor community and helps them to value the importance of reading and learning, especially for their children.
With a very small donation from supporters, John bought a variety of low cost books from suppliers in India. There are books to suit all ages, and they’re engaging as well as fun to read.
The local women covered the books in transparent paper to make sure they last as long as possible.
Then John bought a large sturdy tin box to store the books in. A local man volunteered to be the librarian and take responsibility for managing the library. He looks after the books, manages borrowing and lending and makes sure that the community takes good care of their library.
It was wonderful to see that the library is just one of the many uses of this small one-roomed community centre. During the day, local women have sewing classes here and in the evenings children attend classes run by local teachers.
SAVE-INTL and TVO do a great job. I was really impressed at how well they’ve helped these communities, and how they make the most of their modest budgets. The local villagers I met are very poor and disadvantaged. With their help, they are improving their day to day lives in many different ways.
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.
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.
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.
Due to the popularity of our Tuition School teacher and our offering of free S.S.L.C. exam coaching, the 15Ft X 25Ft Ellandoppu Village Community Center originally constructed by SAVE-INTL in June 2007 has grown too small to accommodate the upwards of 50 students who come nightly and on the weekends for supplemental educational classes. Therefore we have engaged VVN Construction to build a mandapam or portico in front of the existing building to increase the useable space by 150 square feet.
The design will be similar to the portico we previously constructed for the Karanai Community Center and will have a raised cement floor, cement sheet roof and provisions for two tube lights and one CFL bulb and be attached to the front of the existing structure.
The footings of the portico will be one meter below grade and the columns supporting the roof will be of steel reinforced concrete.
We will also have a blackboard on the left side outside wall of the building exterior so classes can be better conducted outside the building itself. The portico has been contracted at about 49000 Rs or about $1100 US and should be completed in another two weeks with a useful life of 30 years or more. The costs of the Ellandoppu Portico have been financed by SAVE-INTL but your contributions, no matter how small, are welcome in helping us make this small improvement in the lives of the rural poor of Tamilnadu.
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:
Scroll down to pages 4 and 5.
Curtis John Degler
Work is well underway for the inauguration of the long-planned Amuur Village Computer and Technology Center, located in a two room building constructed by TVO and SAVE-INTL with the financial assistance of the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund of Kiel Germany.
The Center is conveniently situated on the Main Road between Tiruporuur and Manampathi, just south of the Old Mahabalipuram Road in the Tiruporuur Block of Kanchipuram District, about 35 KM south of Chennai, Tamilnadu. Just adjacent to the Village Bus Stand, the building has a flat concrete roof with the computer center room about 5 by 8 meters in size. We have already brought three phase power to the building and wired the computer room for a minimum of eight computer work stations.
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.
On February 13, 2011, we officially inaugurated the Mundiritoppu Village Community Center, located in Amuur Panchayat, Tiruporuur Block, Kanchjeepuram District Tamilnadu India.
Present were the Tirupuur Block Union Panchayat President Ms. VijayLakshmi Krishnan, Mr. Kuppan, Amuur Panchayat President, Uscha Nagaranjan Union Vice Chairwoman of Tiurporuur Block, Steve Mills Of Prime Trust, C. John Degler, President of SAVE-INTL, S,V. Saravanan, Managing Director of TVO and other dignitaries, foreign guests, local officials and leaders and many Mundiritoppu Villagers.
In 2002 the International NGO World Vision constructed a Community Center for the Dalit Village of Anandapuram , located in the Manampathi Panchayat area of the Thirupporuur block. Since that time the Anandapuram Community Center, unsupported by either the founding NGO or the local Panchayat Goverment, has deteriorated to the point where it has become virtually unusable with damage to its flooring, no functional electrical, lighting or ventilation system and is also in very bad need of both interior and exterior repainting.
This is a pity since the building remains structurally sound with no leaks or cracks or serious problems with its doors or windows and would cost over $8000.(US) to replace, an amount which this poor community could simply not afford.
The Village of Ananadapuram, located in the Manampathi Panchayat, is within easy bicycling distance of two other TVO and SAVE-INTL sponsored community programs in the villages of Kazhanipakkam and the Kunnapattu Irular Tribal Hamlet.
Bulletin Board – 2010
1. Total Families: 77
2. Total Persons: 277
Male :140 Female: 137
3. Ages 0-5: 24
4. Ages 0-36 months, (No entry)
We have already initiated a free Tuition school for children using as our teacher an Ananadapuram resident with a BS degree in Zoology who is simultaneously taking a degree course in Education. However they are unable to meet at the Ananadapuram Community Center since there is no electricity to the building, possibly due to damage to a power pole, and in any case all the lighting fixtures are bulbs are either broken or missing.
We are determined to rehabilitate the Anandapuram Community Center and more fully use this facility for the benefit of the over 270 mostly poor rural people who make this village their home. This would include continuing support for the Tuition school, starting a women’s vocational program and a children’s library, support for the youth sports teams and more.
The repair estimate from our regular and trusted general contractor totals 57500 Rs or about $1270 and includes replacing the floor with glazed tiles, rewiring the room with two fans and four or more CFL bulbs, and repainting both the interior and exterior of the building.
Once returned to its original condition SAVE-INTL and TVO pledge to continue support for the children’s free tuition school, establish a women’s vocational program and more and make sure the Anandapuram Community Center remains in good repair.
But we need financial help with returning this valuable community resource to its original condition.