This visit was unplanned! For the past 2 years, thanks to work by Ewell Rotary ( headed by Derek Povey, ex Brundall resident) we have had an International Rotary grant application in process. Not only did this involve a lot of paperwork and planning, but also the ﬁnding of a Rotary club in Madurai that could be monitoring partners. It ﬁnally all came together, and the grant has been approved. My visit was to be the "bridge" between the funds arriving, the Madurai club and signing of cheques for pre ordered goods, Muthukumar having put in hours of work to get invoices. I also needed to address the Rotary club, who were until the application unaware of our existence!.
It has all come together on this visit, and the grant will not only allow us to fence in our farm land, build huts for chickens and goats, sink ( in hopefulness) a new bore well, and also to purchase 2 vehicles to enable us to enhance and extend our current work with children with cancer and those suffering from leprosy. It will make an immense difference to our work, and make our already purchased land productive and most important of all help us towards at least some self sufﬁciency - vital for our long term future.
So, we are about to purchase 750 chickens, 30 goats, 2 cows and 2 vehicles!
This is going to help a lot, not least in the production of food( organic), but will also give our young people a chance to experience the rudiments of animal and plant Care. This will be under the tutorage of Ranjith and Karthik, our own 2 boys, who have been with us since the ages of 6 and 9 years respectively as part of our education scheme with both now hold Masters degrees in Rural Development - real harvesting! So the ﬁrst stage is to fence in the land and build the animal sheds. The other really important factor was to have permanent workers on site. This has been solved by "rescuing" a family from bonded labour in a brick factory- the ﬁfth family we have managed to free. Their story is that as rag pickers they accrued a debt of about £300. As they had no way of paying this they had to almost sell themselves to a brick factory. The deal was that the debt is paid, then the family have to work for 12 years, without pay, just getting basic good and rudimentary accommodation to pay back the money.
It's not uncommon, and WHO estimates that there are 2 million children in bonded labour in India. Normally to free a family the debt would have to be paid to the factory, but in this instance concerted pressure over several months by Muthukumar got them free.
Thanks to sponsorship we were able to build a one room hut on our land, and they are now housed.
They had no possessions so everything they need has been purchased for them. So they are free, have a job, a home and will hopefully work with us for the foreseeable future.
The vehicles we are able to buy will have 2 purposes. One will replace our old daily used vehicle. This transports food and elders between the slum and our shelter home. It also plays an increasing role in the work we have with our leprosy colony and the nearby leprosy home. The main issue for these people is being able to get to hospital when they need treatment. The nearest bus stop is 4 km away and inevitably there are issues about hem even using public transport. On average we have been making at least a dozen trips to hospitals every month. We also continue to spend time on the streets where there are still do many destitute elders living. We also continue to take food supplies to rural villages where there are isolated elderly living at risk of starvation
The second will be speciﬁcally used in our increasing work with children who have cancer.
Continuing our link with the Regional Cancer Centre we now have 50 children under our care. We were able to take so many because thankfully sponsors of children in Mavelikara who no longer needed our help were prepared to maintain their offerings for these children. Undoubtedly lives have been saved. 20 of the children are in Kerala, the other 30 in Tamil Nadu. We provide the funds to Care Plus for the Kerala children, this is given as bus fares , food allowances and meeting needs seen by the Care Plus team (Care Plus is totally staffed by volunteers working with the paediatric oncology department at the Regional Cancer Centre).
Our second vehicle will be used for children from Tamil Nadu, who live in poor rural villages, the majority of the villages will be drought affected and most will not have sanitation. Children from these villages are most likely to be too sick or poor to reach ongoing treatment at the Cancer Centre. It is not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of children in rural Tamil Nadu have died because no one was there to help.
Now for those referred to us - considered the most at risk, we start a bank account and deposit £8 monthly. This is for medicines ( which are not free) and transport costs. For those too sick got public transport the vehicle will be available, it will also be used for regular visits from our staff as a monitoring and emotional support effort.
Thank you to those supporting this work it really is life saving
Finally another vehicle, but this is nothing to do with the Rotary grant but ones from our own funds. For 16 years now we have been providing, running and paying drivers salaries for 2 ambulances to visit adults suffering from cancer who are too ill to reach hospital. The majority will be need palliative care. Well over 500,000 home or clinic visits have been made in that time. I have been out on the ambulance several times and to see someone at the end of their life in a small shack dependant on the ambulance for pain relief and care is humbling. The emotional reassurance of visits is also priceless.
This work has become so important, so much so that at a recent meeting with the hospital director he suggested that having a doctor available on at least one of the ambulances would mean that morphine therapy would be permitted. There are of course strict controls on the use of the drug, and nurses often many miles from the hospital have not been allowed to administer it, which has often meant moving a terminally ill patient from their home. So we have a doctor now, he is semi retired, but happy to work with us. Now there is no need to move patients, which solves a major problem for families of getting the patient back to a rural village should they die. No funeral directors here.
We have supplied 4 ambulances to date, but now we need a new one, and we have the funds available thanks to those who have been supporting this oroject. It will be purchased within the next month. Again, life saving and deﬁnitely life enhancing work.
The rest of my time has been spent on our projects which are running so well. Today I spent lunchtime with over 70 of our elders from our shelter home and slum drop in centre.
What a joy, and to see the change in them is wonderful. When we pick them up from the streets we ﬁnd cases of cancer, tuberculosis, leprosy, elephantiasis and other malnutrition related illnesses. I wish you could see them now! Thank you to all our sponsors.
I have also spent too short a time with our leprosy colony, and with the children, and a quick visit to our tailoring unit - heat stopped me On my way! making the 3 hour trip to the rural elders where our wonderful staff still deliver monthly good bags. And food bags is another thing we see developing - but ﬁrst we need to get the farm up running!
The Vidiyal Trust is registered in the UK and India. Pat visits at least twice every year. We promise that 100% of donations go to the projects in India, our limited overheads are met by a proportion of Gift Aid repayments. For further information please contact:
Rev.Canon Pat Atkinson, 32, Berryﬁelds, Brundall, Norwich NR135QE Email. firstname.lastname@example.org. or. email@example.com