Dates: 1992 – 2012
Related ACE Cultural Tours: Gujarat
Supporting local NGOs in sustainable development projects in India.
The project IVDT was initiated after Margaret & Mike Wright attended an ACE Study Tour in 1992. They had been assisting small-scale development projects in India since their retirement and decided they should formalise their arrangements by setting up a charity. The charity helps support numerous projects, mainly in Tamil Nadu. Their activities are varied, the aspects where ACE was involved are detailed below.
Project & ACE
The 1992 contribution was to enable a literacy programme in a remote area of Tamil Nadu, followed by a further grant for the building of a small training centre, which has now delivered training to thousands of individuals. In 1995, in memory of course director and trustee Tony Crowe, ACE made a large grant to IVDT which funded an AID (Alternative for India development) project building a training centre for women in the very deprived area of Pattireddipatty in western Tamil Nadu. By late 1998 the Tony Crowe Centre was finished and ready to use. Importantly, AID had received a pledge from the Tamil Nadu government to take on the subsequent running costs, ensuring its future success. Margaret and Mike visited the centre in 2001 and were very impressed by what they saw.
Villages in remote rural areas of Tamil Nadu ten years ago lacked, and to a lesser extent still do, the basic facilities we take for granted, such as electricity, telephones, public transport, shops, schools and medical facilities. A number of excellent health and education videos had been produced by government bodies, but there were no means of showing them in the villages. In fact, because there was no lighting and oil lamps were expensive, virtually all activity ceased at nightfall. With funding from ACE, IVDT purchased a jeep, generator, projector and screen, and hired a driver trained in operating the equipment. In the first year, 298 shows were given in Tamil Nadu, attended by over 32,000 people. A tremendous success and a great help in communicating guidance on such issues as malaria, HIV/AIDS and water contamination.
Once the Tony Crowe Centre had been running for a couple of years, it became clear that there were large numbers of women asking for help on simply how to access the resources in the way of grants etc., that were available from local and central government. AID and IVDT, supported by ACE, set up 50 self-help groups, each of about 20 women, and provided training over a period of 12 to 18 months. The result was much improved access to grants and funding that has helped overcome poverty and gender problems.
The southeast region of the state of Bihar (Jharkhand) is home to the Santhal peoples, the original inhabitants of India. Although there are government primary schools in this very poor region, it has always been a custom of the Santhal not to educate female children. AID discussed with local elders the possibility of setting up some schools for girls on a trial basis. A plan was agreed with IVDT and, with funding contributed by ACE, a total of 20 schools were set up, each providing education to about 30 girls. The girls attended for 4 or 5 hours each afternoon and were taught basic literacy, numeracy and other skills. Another unexpected development was that from the very start the mothers also came to the classes. The trial period was limited to 3 or 4 years, starting from 1998, on the basis that once the tribal leaders had seen the advantages of girls being sent to schools they would start sending them to the local government primary schools.
Travelling in western Bihar in 1996, Mike Wright was struck by the very real problem in remote villages of hundreds of children (mainly boys) aged 14 or 15, who had been “sold” into the carpet industry as bonded labour at 5 or 6 years of age. These children worked in remote villages, often out of reach of the police who were trying to stamp out this system. Few of the villages had electric power, so the children worked on intricate designs in semi-darkness. They were very badly treated, in many cases being chained to the loom and sleeping on a rug under it. They lost contact with their families and received poor food, no education or medical care. After 10 years or so, the loom owners would get rid of the 15 year olds and replace them with new 5 or 6 year old children. The redundant boys faced a very bleak future: a short life, earning what they could by casual labour. IVDT and AID raised the funds to build a residential training centre, where the boys would go for 6 to 9 months to received basic education, vocational training and decent food, medical and pastoral care. The school opened in January 2001 and ACE has subsequently funded the purchase of tools and equipment for some of the vocational courses.
With the economic developments in India, many unskilled workers have travelled from rural areas of Bihar and Jharkhand to seek work in Delhi, often living in shacks in slum areas, their children earning small sums of money by collecting tins, bottles and rags. To address the needs of these children the Kala Kutir project was set up, under the auspices of the Dr Baluga Memorial Trust, to provide a number of centres in the squatter areas at which the children could become involved in music, dance and art, and through these activities eventually become involved in more formal education. ACE helped IVDT fund expansion of the scheme in 2003 and each year Helena Nightingale of IVDT spends time working in the centres and helping the children.
More recently, ACE has supported IVDT’s work in the low-lying coastlands of Orissa. The terrible tsunami of December 2005 did not hit the area badly, but a few years earlier another tidal wave killed over 100,000 people in the region. During discussions between local villagers and IVDT it emerged that regeneration of the mangrove forests would be a major factor in saving lives and limiting damage in the future. A key element in the plan was teaching the local community about the value of the mangrove trees, many of which had previously been lost to other development objectives. In December 2005, ACE contributed to the funding of the Chale Chalo project to help protect the area from tidal waves by creating healthy mangrove forests to act as a natural shock-absorber.
List of projects supported by ACE
• Mass education and training by mobile communication – Tamil Nadu –1998
• Special schools for tribal girl children and their mothers – Tamil Nadu – 1998
• Skill training for weomen’s empowerment – Tamil Nadu – 2000
• Garhwa Community College – Jharkand – 2002
• Kala Kutir project – Delhi – 2003
• Mangrove forest regeneration project – Orissa – 2005
• Education in environment issues – Orissa – 2007
• MANGRO Recourses centre – Odisha – 2010-2012
In November we gratefully received a letter from the director of Chale Chalo with an update about their work telling us that they had been able to plant 60,000 mangrove trees and 140,000 locally useful plants. The uses for which are diverse: for fruits, fuel, fodder, agriculture and as house building materials. They had clearly learnt from the planting project and noted the environmental benefits of their efforts recognising that the planting they have undertaken will help to prevent coastal erosion, sea surge, storms, floods and cyclones, also helping local fishermen, farmers and agricultural labourers.
They have set up ‘environment, education and action’ programs in 60 schools in the form of eco-clubs to educate the teachers as well as the children. Ranjit Swain reported that these had become very successful and were having a great impact on the communities involved.
They also noted that they have formed and strengthened 120 women Self Help Groups and built up capacity to undertake community development works and income generation programs. They acknowledged significantly increased self-dependence and standards of living for over 1200 families in rural areas, due to the educational programs that focused on finance and business. Further news told us that their woman’s groups, previously sabotaged by the wider community, had now gained greater respect from related family members and were generally accepted in the wider communities too, including by the government officials and bankers who were previously causing them grief.
Most recently ACE has been supporting the Mangro recourses center project .
More information please visit The IVDT web page.
The MANGRO recourse centre is now up and running, we were delighted to receive a lovely report and pictures of the centre this week.
If you would like to see the report you can download it here.