Malar Trust helps orphan children from the Poonjeri Irula community: a new day care project started
The children taking part to the project
Last February, after a couple of Italian volunteers spent a few weeks in the Poonjeri Irula community an anomaly caught our attention: there was a group of children wandering through the village streets during the day, apparently without attending school and unsupervised by adults. The investigations unveiled a critical situation. Coincidence has it that within the timeframe of a couple of months, a number of children aged two to thirteen lost one or both parents, leaving them in a state of semi-abandonment.
After this discovery, Malar Trust India staff organized a meeting with the community. This resulted in the decision to launch a project similar to the day care center Panjartheerthi: a meeting point where an assistant welcomes the children in the morning, checks that they are clean and have school uniforms in order, prepares breakfast and sends them off to school.
Malar Trust has rented a small room with kitchen and hired a second shift teacher from the kindergarten Malar Trust has run for years as a chef and supervisor. A second woman in the village bathes the children and accompanies them to school.
The day care center for orphans of the Irular community of Poonjeri was inaugurated in February. This center welcomes about fifteen children with family problems plus two girls who have been granted access to the canteen even if coming from families with both parents on the advice of the pediatrician who reported symptoms of malnutrition.
Children ready to go to school after breakfast
All the children received a backpack, exercise books, school uniforms and clothes. Since February, members have started to regularly attend school and even follow the Malar Trust afterschool program .
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Malar Trust helps the poorest elders of the Poonjer village: 20 free meals distributed each day.
Following the initiative brought forth by the Malar Trust India staff, Malar Trust launched in early December 2015 a daily soup kitchen for needy elderly of the village of Poonjeri in early November.
For some time now, the poorest elders of the community had asked the Indian association’s coordinator Mani G. Rupakanthan help for food. Action was taken by opening a soup kitchen: there are currently about 20 enrolled senior citizens, mostly women, widows without family support, some in poor health.
Meals are prepared in a small local restaurant that provides the typical Indian meal, a plate of rice with sambar and a side dish. The monthly cost is estimated at about 15,000 rupees.
This “catering service” is the work of a poor but smart Indian woman who makes a living for her family by cooking street food in a hut a few meters from the headquarters of Malar Trust India. The self-help group of Poonjeri women brought up her name to the association as an ideal collaborator for the canteen: by allowing her to take care of the food service we are actively helping one more person.
The free lunch is offered every day of the week on the Malar Trust India premises in Mettu Street in Poonjeri. The initial plan was to house the soup kitchen on the terrace of the center, but many older people have trouble walking up the stairs, so now the participants gather on the square in front of the office, sheltering under an old bus stop.
The teacher of the Center receiving the laptop for our secretary Gaja
We are continuing with our project to supply each Tuition Center with a laptop that teachers can use to introduce children to computers. Poonjeri is the sixth out of the eight Centers which now have a laptop, all of which have been donated from friends who bought a new one.
The Mettu Street is one of the four Poonjeri Centers welcoming children from the dalit area of the village. These are mainly younger children from first to fifth grade, even though occasional older children from the surrounding re still allowed in.
Suganya, one of our ex students, teaches here. She is a very poor girl whom we supported in her studies for three years with a scholarship. She is studying for a bachelor’s degree in business studies. She now attends the second year of the two year integration correspondence course to earn her.
Students having their first lesson
Our Tuition Centers teach computer science (if we want to call it that, with a touch of optimism!) on Saturdays, the day of the week dedicated to recreational activities, game playing and creativity (singing, dancing, drawing). Teachers can however decide independently for their classes how much time to set apart for computer studies; this depends on their own experience levels, unfortunately often quite limited. But all these children have never even seen a computer in their lives and often don’t even know what one is, so for the time being our teachers’ knowledge is enough.
We are considering the possibility of planning a computer course for our teachers and a small computer school for our older students in the near future.
And please, if you have any used desktop computers or laptops to give away, please let us know!
To the Tuition attend about 30 children
From the beginning of October MTI runs a new Tuition Center in the Irula Community of Poonjeri Masima Nagar.
The Tuition Center had been operating for years by a local association that for unknown reasons stopped funding the project and paying for the teacher salary. The place remained closed for months until the local community, a group of Irula families living in the neighborhood of Poonjeri, asked MTI to include their Center within its projects.
Poonjeri, Masima Nagar Tuition Center
Masima Nagar so becomes our fourth Tuition Center in Poonjeri, after the two dalit Centers inTKM Street and Mettu Street and the Irula Education Center on the ECR but the small building is not enough to accommodate the over 30 children that attend, especially during the rainy season
Paula and Frederik Paula Weerkamp attending the inauguration
At the inauguration, where two tourists attended, we distributed notebooks, pen and pencils. A new teacher has been appointed, she is the daughter of a woman that we already know, she received a small loan from us to develop her small business, 15.000 rupees that she used to buy a second hand weel cart to sell fruits and vegatables on the road.
About 30 Irula children will benefit from the project.