20th September 2016 – news and events since May.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

This is an update on the schemes you are supporting and some general news on how things are going along in the villages and districts where Kerala Partnership (KP) is active.

It is four months since the last newsletter and the ‘postings’ on the new website www.keralapartnership.com   All the schemes have been running as planned and expected with a few problems and minor crises along the way – just as happens in any setting really.

 

You may remember that that way and the extent to which we are we are supporting the people in Kundara  through  the MGM projects changed in February; we limited the monthly benefit to a maximum of Rs500 (about £5) per person/family, with a monthly grant of Rs 10 000 (£100) . This has been running smoothly under the stewardship of MGM Chairman Mr George, and 20 grants are being  made at each of the regular Forum meetings where 30 or more MGM/KP supporters come together once a month on a Saturday. At the meeting there is a chance to discuss personal problems and give and receive mutual support, as well as the personal financial grants being distributed.

Many have been receiving Rs500 regularly each month since I last wrote, although Mr George has also been making special grants to individuals in critical need. George sends a monthly report of the Forum meetings with details of who has been provided with a grant. The focus is on helping those who have a need for cancer-related drugs; mental health medications; and individuals who have long-term chronic conditions.

 

In Neyyattinkara District the KP schemes concentrate on helping  to meet some of the needs of the elderly by funding the ‘day centre’ (Pakal Veedu), and funding six pension schemes in six different villages (each scheme having 10 persons, each one receiving £2 per month).

The pension schemes make a real difference despite the sum being simply £2.The ‘pensions’ are given once a month at the different villages on different days and this gathering of the 10 gives the volunteers who manage the schemes (all of whom are part of KP’s partner organisation N.I.D.S.- Neyyattinkara Integrated Development Society) a chance to chat with the individuals and any family members who may come with them. In this way problems may be shared, and there is the possibility for the volunteers to discuss and plan other forms of help and assistance.

(NOTE: The National Government does have in place a National Old Age Pension Scheme – NOAPS – which should pay Rs200 (£2) to anyone aged 60 year and over and who could not look after themselves or have any other means of subsistence, but implementation is patchy (that’s the best term we think we can use!). A small number of the KP pensioners may receive some rupees sporadically under this National scheme but they know that the KP amount is regular and can be relied on)

The Pakal Veedu you will remember has been running this year in an extended way – more are now attending; over 30 per week. A few weeks ago it enjoyed its 2nd birthday and there was a party in celebration! The scheme is much loved and appreciated by those attending (nearly all of whom are ladies) as it helps to combat loneliness; most are widows or carers of disabled relatives and their levels of contact with others outside the home is low. The Pakal Veedu therefore gives a ‘regular date’ that is looked forward to as a chance to socialise with new friends. We have said before that those running the activities not only provide a happy social setting with a good lunchtime meal and other snacks, but also seize the opportunity to promote health and wellbeing by including in the day’s programme a range of physical exercise, dance, song and general discussion on local news and current affairs.

Having been to Pakal Veedu Jane and I came away not just impressed by the way your donations are being used but also tired out as we were ‘required’ to join in the activities!

Before ending the update on Neyyattinkara, we think you will be please to hear that the ‘goat project’ continues in its success! This two-year old project funded a number of goats that were given to families for them to use / sell the milk but a condition was that each family must rear one kid-goat within one year, and give the kid back to the volunteers so it could be given to the next family waiting for help. We are now into the ‘third generation’ of goats!

 

The third major scheme is at Kattakada – the D.M.T. Charitable Trust Old Age Home. This is home to 22 people who have generally been referred by Police or ‘local authority’. The individuals are destitute, typically the elderly person will have been homeless living either in the forests or on the streets of the major towns nearby. They generally have no identification papers, no possessions, and no references are evident of family background or relatives.

Peter (Danam) and his small team provide for them and their full range of needs.

I reported last time that the overall finances of the Home had become shaky and this remains the case. The whole cost of the Home each month is about £750/800. It varies according to: how poorly any of the residents might become and so require hospital care and medications; whether there is some kind of maintenance / building problem. (Remember we recently had to make an emergency transfer of funds to pay for a new water pump for the well!)

For many years KP had given £250 – 300 per month (it has varied across the years). A group of three German people has been giving £300 per month, and Peter’s local collection of donations has usually covered the balance of cash required each month.

However since the start of 2016 the donations from Germany have dropped to £100 as one donor has died and another has become so unwell that all their financial arrangements have had to change. Further, the cost of running the Home has particularly increased as a new ‘night warden / care assistant ‘ had to be employed (no such post previously existed) at £2.30 per night (£70 per month). Since the Home opened Peter has slept in the Home and has single-handed looked after the residents during the night-hours. Now he has moved into his own place with his wife MaryBeena and small daughter Ananya, a new ‘post’ has had to be created; for all these years Peter has undertaken this work on a voluntary basis.

Thus, the home’s finances have moved into a deficit of around £350/370 per month. KP reacted in February and have since then been providing an extra £100 per month but strictly for a fixed 6 month period (April to September) to give Peter and the DMT Trustees some chance to plan and introduce change and a solution.

Even with this additional sum of £100 on top of the usual £250 per month a debt has been accumulating. Peter has persuaded some local business people to give extended credit for food items and so on in their shops, and one or two others have given one-off donations to cover some of the debt, but…..there simply is not an easy way to achieve a balanced position. Under Government regulations an ‘orphanage’ such as the DMT Home should receive a monthly sum of £70 to help with the costs but this has not been forthcoming despite Peter’s repeated visits to claim this fully justified sum. It is not clear where this money is, and no adequate explanation has been given about the failure to pay it. Peter registered the Home for this allowance more than one year ago and if the back-payment were paid, that sum would provide enough to clear the current deficit and give a ‘cushion’ for the recurring shortfall for something like 12 months.**

So the underlying problem is that the amount needed to operate the home each month is more than the average income from donations etc. Having spent time at the home and also looking closely at the accounts it is clear there is no scope for ‘efficiency savings’ and so forth; there are four paid members of staff plus volunteers at no cost to cover the 24-hour day, and the food /home items are as you would expect. Peter will not compromise on hospital / healthcare costs and quite right too.

We have been talking with Peter for the last six months about the future and these conversations are continuing. At this stage we cannot say what will happen but we will keep you posted.

Overall KP can forecast a healthy prospect for the rest of this funding year, and for the next funding period of 2017 into 2018. Of course this is based significantly on the assumption that the levels of donations  will continue at about the same level as now. We know this is a bit of an assumption but we have our fingers crossed! KP will be able to continue the schemes currently in place at Neyyattinkara, where just under 100 people are receiving help which means that about 120/130 will derive benefit. KP trustees will need to discuss the extent to which the MGM schemes (supporting 20 people with contributions toward their medication bills) may continue if the current and regular monthly sum provided to Old Age home were to be increased.

Any plans for change will be passed on to you before our next visit which will be sometime in the period December to February 2017. (I think I will be going for 6 weeks or more again to work in the School and also on the KP schemes).

A number of one-off fund-raising events have taken place since the last newsletter – donations from another sale of paintings and artworks; donations received from sales at a number of craft-fairs and antique sales; a special collection made during Lent by the parishioners of Our lady and St Kenelm’s  Church, Halesowen. Such one-off events have taken place over the last 18 years and they ensure we can cover the running costs of all the schemes when these sums are added to the monthly donations from ‘regular supporters’ (you all!) If you can think of any one-off events that could be organised in your area then please make contact to explain the idea – all ideas will be gratefully received!

Although earlier in this letter I referred to poor implementation arrangements  concerning one Government welfare programme, you will be interested to hear that another element of the social reform programme is proving to be successful in its aim of providing employment to people who are living BPL (‘below the poverty line’). In an earlier newsletter we have outlined the ‘work for all’ scheme in which BPL individuals are guaranteed over 100 days paid work per year.

(NOTE: Part of the local implementation of the National Rural Employment guarantee Act – NREGA) This has been rolled out and in the Neyyattinkara districts for example the daily pay is about £2.00 / £2.30. This is manual / labouring work but it is guaranteed as is the wage payment (payments are made directly into the person’s bank account and a requirement is for the person to open an account.)

We were recently developing a one-off funding scheme to pump-prime a  ‘women’s  co-operative’ in which 8 – 10 women (the bread-winners for their families) would make/market/sell  6 – 8 different types of domestic consumables (the type of item that all households use and can afford, such as soap, incense sticks, candles). However in three of the villages where the N.I.D.S. volunteers introduced the idea, so that the most suitable village could start to plan for this, all who were approached said ‘no thanks’ as the government scheme seemed more attractive.

This is good news in that your help over the years,  through the welfare support schemes KP has funded, has enabled such families to keep their heads above water, and now the government programmes will ‘take over’ that type of support through a productive social venture. We have seen this happen before (think of the CHILLA Children’s  project  and the mental health community rehabilitation project both in the capital city Trivandrum,  for example) when, as  a small charitable venture, we can assist in localities in small practical ways until more formal and structured arrangements come about.

The volunteers are still looking at the potential to introduce a ‘co-operative’ scheme.

The elderly who are supported by KP are unable to take part in these employment programmes due to their frailty, and at present their overall needs remain unfulfilled by the government; we will have to consider if indeed a priority for KP needs to be to focus on the elderly. The approach put in place for 2016 you will remember has been to structure schemes on three levels of care for elderly people: first, those who have a place to live and somehow manage to get by, but who are lonely and feel a real sense of isolation (Pakal Veedu); second, those who have a place to live (however inadequate that might be) but who struggle to eat enough as they have insufficient money (the ‘pension schemes’ and, when we can afford a one-off £50 to £100, the ‘petty business’ / self-employment initiatives); and then third, those who have been destitute, have had nothing at all to their name in their advanced years (a place in the Old Age Home).

We will work toward keeping these schemes in place as the ‘central activity’ for 2016 – 2018 and we hope you will be able to continue to support. Thank you for all your support and we’ll certainly keep the information flowing to you!

Best wishes,

David and Jane.

** News arrived just before printing this – Peter has again been to the ‘Social Justice’ department in the Government Offices and will be attending on Tuesday, 27th September when he has been told a sum of Rs30000 (about £300) will be paid over. It is a start and should mean the bulk of the current accumulated debt can be paid off.

More news in due course!

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