Saturday, January 06, 2007

How have they coped in my absence?

Rather well, I'm galled to discover, there have even been 2 meetings without me!

Since I left, Mathew and Kalaimanai - the two main movers and shakers of the project, have met a couple of times with the village women, specifically, the four self help groups, 2 from the main village and one each from the 2 satellite (lower caste) colonies. As Donald has not managed to build the kitchen (really no surprise), if we are to start the program on it's destined inauguration day (11th January), we need to enlist the help of village women to cook the food around which the program is based. RUHSA will subcontract to the women to provide food, but not for a very princely sum. Partly it's supposed to be a service in the interest of the community, but given the general poverty there is also a financial incentive.

All four groups were asked and, interstingly, the poorest two - from the lower caste colonies - were very eager to help and the self-help groups from the main village, who are in general better off, were not at all willing to help. This does present a potential problem with regard to higher caste villagers, not wanting to eat the food cooked by the lower castes, but we have to make do with what we have and come up with a solution.

The women are being given 10rs per day per person for food plus 500rs a month for firewood and this is supposed to be enough to provide rice, sambar (watery lentil water) and a small protion of vegetables. Whoever actually cooks the food will also get 30rs in payment. There are 85 rs to the pound. As mentioned previously, although the money has been sent, it is stuck between committees and not able to be released yet. There is some emergency money available for the women to buy the ingredients, but there is none for utensils etc. Plates and tumblers have been bought and "donated", which enables RUHSA to bypass the accounts committee. The sum came to £20 for 30 steel plates and 30 steel tumblers plus engraving. If anyone wishes to contribute £20 to buy these, it would be most appreciated!

Yesterday, we had a meeting with all the people eligible to come to the project and we were very happy with the turnout; 22 elderly people came and there were reports of several others who are intersted but were unable to attend. Of those 22, 21 stated categorically that they would attend the centre. It has a Tamil name which translates roughly as "Elderly Welfare Centre", which I think is a good title. Among the other ideas given to us regarding their needs, the elderly mentioned soap, dressings, clothes and other relatively simple necessitities. All of these will be taken into account and tried to be accommodated.

Preparatins for our inauguration on 11th January is also progressing well. The elderly will come to the clinic, as will other local bigwigs, RUHSA staff and anyone else who is interested. There will be posters outlining the process by which we arrived at this point, also about elderly needs and issues affecting the elderly eg diabetes, poverty, mental ill health. Also, I have taken many photos over the last few months of villagers during the meetings etc and there will be a display of these. I am hoping to use my new projector to run a slide show on the, hopefully, newly whitewashed walls.

There will be speeches (not from me), snacks for the bigwigs and then everyone leaves and the program starts. It's very exciting, because there is plenty of interest. The village has been engaged throughout and this may be a reflection of that.

Other exciting developments include the design and setting up of a website for RUHSA, so their work can be disseminated to a wider audience, as well as establishing a regular newsletter which may be linked to the charity which donates to the CMC and has a huge following. Of course, most importantly, is the progressive development of a primary care service to the village which is the ultimate aim of the project, of which this is but a tiny, tiny start.

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