Today, the "Team" of myself, Mathew, Kalaimanai and Jebaraj went to the village to begin the evaluation officially. All the elderly folk were there, it was a busy time. Mathew and Kalaimanai interviewed everyone individually, asking seven open-ended questions for feedback:- what do you thing the role of the centre is, what do you like about it, what do you not like about it, how do you think you can contribute to it, what do you think the future of the centre is, do you have any ideas for income generation plans and how can we make the centre more efficicient.
In a separate room to maintain confidentiality, Jebaraj carried out the WHO-Bref questionnaire which is a validated questionnaire measuring four domains - physical, psychological, social and environmental. We carried it out last year and are repeating it to see if there is any improvement. Meanwhile, I finished measuring their skinny arms and legs.
Whilst the others were busy with their quesionnaires, I watched the elderly people doing their activities. It was a pleasing sight. One man patiently and meticulously completed the jigsaw puzzle of the world. It was fascinating to see how he did it. There are only about 30 pieces and they are roughly 4-5inches, so I think it would take an adult in the UK, who would have been doing jigsaws since a toddler, less than 5 minutes to do. This gentleman, Rathinam, who reads the newspapers out to the others, quite quickly completed the outside and then, with great care took each piece and methodically tried to fit it in all the spaces, turning it round several times and only giving up when he had tried each spot twice or more. Then he would pick up another one and do the same. Each piece to be fitted took a good few minutes; the concentration was fierce. Once it was completed, which took a good half an hour, the others sat round whilst he pointed out all the countries. In a sea of Tamil could be heard th words, Austraia, Japan, India et cetera. I sent the jigsaw in May or June last year and it is still giving enormous amounts of pleasure. I am going to scour the country when I get back for other suitable puzzles.
A quiet man, leaning against a water barrel, read the newspaper, whilst next to him two men squatted, chatting busily, waving the hands to illuminate their points. One of them, on his feedback questionnaire, said that before the centre started, he had felt like an orphan. Two women sat on the floor playing a local version of Baduki - the game where you pick up stones and drop them off going round a board, in order to collect as many as possible. There seemed to be a bit of a tournament going on because as soon as the game was over, the winner played someone else.
A woman, called Vimala, sat chopping onions in a very efficient manner to help the women cooking. She has always struck me as being quite an impressive, dynamic person. We will have to consider her as a leader of men when we start the income generation schemes. Some fo the elderly people still feel helpless, as evidenced by their asnwers to some of the proactive questions like how they feel they might be able to help the centre, but some have been very positive. One man used to be a mechanic and he seemed keen to contribute his skills. When the kitchen was opened he stood up and told us how having his hernia operation made him feel so much better that now he could work again, so there is clearly a force to be utilised here.
Once the individual questionnaires are finished and analysed, we will have a focus group discussion to try and find some solutions to the ever thorny issue of self-sustainability. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I will cycle to the village daily along that lovely road as I listen to my MP3 player. Today, appropriately, I was singing aloud to Queen's "I'm going slightly mad".