Set out below are the ‘current projects’ for the year April 2014 to April 2015. You can read about the projects carried out in 2013 / 2014 by going to the bottom of this page and clicking on the ‘previous projects’ box. At the end of the descriptions on the projects which are set out by each geographical district, there is a final section headed: MARCH 2014 – BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO THE VISIT MADE IN FEBRUARY. We hope this gives a bit of ‘context’ to the way in which the grants have been made for 2014/2015. Please remember to look at the ‘photo gallery’ page to see more photos of the districts and their projects.
The four types of schemes that have been running for several years will continue and one new, specific project is being added.
The 4 types of regular projects are:
-The forum Jane and I attended the February 2014 meeting and 25 people were present with most coming in family groups. Each family openly shared the problems they faced and seemed to take strength from the support given by comments and encouragement provided not only by other Group members but also by the volunteers who delivered short training sessions on issues such as practical coping strategies.
The Forum serves as a regular date-in-the-diary to meet, talk, learn, take encouragement, and share a lunch together.
-Cost of medicines: contributing toward the cost of medicines will continue and the number of people to receive support has been doubled from 5 to 10.There is finance only to repay part of the person’s medication cost; they must find the amount needed and then the K.P. grant is given on production of the receipt given by the ‘medicals shop’.It was very clear that none of the 10 would manage to get the full prescription without the K.P. grant.Indeed three of them also receive from the volunteers a rice-packet each month (see below).
About 5 people will receive up to £5 per month (the number and the amount will vary as this ‘fund’ is for short-term, non-chronic illnesses), and 5 suffering with long-term, chronic conditions will receive £10 per month.
Deepu continues to do well and it was good to say ‘hello’ to him and his brother Dilip.
The photo on left shows three of the new people (Mohanan, Saraswathy and Rajamma) to receive grants; all suffer with cancer.
-The regular monthly grants given to assist with the payment of school fees and allied costs will continue and will be extended for 2014 / 2015 so that monthly grants will be made to 10. We learned that those youngsters who had received support in 2013 / 2014 had been ‘monitored’ by MGM volunteers and Mr George through the reading of school reports and by regular ‘pep talks’! All the young people attended the forum meeting and all presented as bright, happy and personable young people – wonderful!
The grants will be £5 per month to each of the 10 students, and will be provided for the 10 months that make the academic year.
Jysha and Jithin (now a keen cricketer) continue to do well.
Photo below shows two of the younger students.
-Rice packets are given monthly to 8/9 families (about 25 people). About half are elderly who live in simple, small dwellings with few possessions. The rice is purchased by MGM, packaged and handed direct to the person. This direct approach works well and Mr George gets a better price per kg by purchasing in bulk. The package supplements the ‘BPL’ (below poverty line **) subsidised rice allowance.
Although the cost of medium quality rice has increased since our last visit in April 2013, the £2 per month per rice-packet still provides sufficient for about 10 days meals. We considered increasing the allowance to £2.50 per packet but the finances would not stretch to this in view of the extensions made to other projects in this village area.
The photo below shows distribution starting at the Forum meeting of the rice-packets (yellow bags!)
(** See ‘background info’ section at the end of this report for details about BPL)
– General welfare ‘Housing benefit’ grant. The volunteers brought to our attention and introduced us to Ernesta, a lady who cares for her adult son who has a learning difficulty; her husband is in prison. Ernesta cannot work due to her caring responsibilities for her son, and she has borrowed money from a Bank in order to keep the two of them in food etc. The small house she owns was given as security and in recent months she has not been able to make the monthly repayments. The Bank has foreclosed and given her notice to quit as it will take the home from them. The volunteers asked if K.P. could grant money for food and possibly rent-money (as they faced the prospect of having to find elsewhere to live).
With no funds and if no-one were willing to take the two of them into their home, then Ernesta would face the option of entering a ‘government hostel’ but her son would have to go to a hostel for men; on meeting the son it was clear he would neither understand nor cope with such drastic changes and upheaval.
We had a special discussion with Mr George and the volunteers and Ernesta and as a result K.P. has guaranteed £120 for George to use in the best interests of Ernesta and son. The main plan is for George to go with Ernesta to the Bank to renegotiate the terms of the loan by offering up to £10 per month for 12 months to stabilise the repayments.
This seemed a more positive approach and one giving far less disruption (if any at all) if it is successful. George was very willing to take on this supportive role and the volunteers will look for ways to help with food etc, and maybe something might be done in terms of a ‘rice-packet’.
We are waiting to hear how the discussions / negotiations are progressing with the Bank and we will provide updates as news emerges – look out for such news in ‘news update’ page.
We have given detail on this single ‘grant’ to provide an example of how the volunteers and K.P. indeed try to ‘make a real difference’ to individuals.
In the report on last year’s projects at Kattakada (click on the ‘previous projects’ link at the bottom of this page) you may remember that K.P. made funds available to start a basic ‘district nursing service’ for about 10 domiciliary patients. The nurse was to work three days each week spending most of her time ‘in the community’ in patients’ homes, and the balance of the time spent attending those residents in the Old Age Home who needed assessment and nursing care.
We met with Peter several times in Kattakada, visiting the Old Age Home, looking at the home based bakery that Peter got K.P. to support to help a widow have some level of independent income, and accompanying the nurse on one of her domiciliary visits.
These are the three confirmed projects (bold type above) for 2014 / 2015.
A fourth project is being considered by Peter: expanding the service at Old Age Home to provide a sort of ‘day centre’ facility for a small number of lonely, elderly local people. I will write more about that a little later on.
– Nursing Service: The funds have been increased so the nurse is able to work 5 days each week. (Salary of £50 per month). We discussed with Peter and Nurse about how to use these days in the most effective way. For example, having looked at the monthly expenditure statements for Old Age Home, it seemed clear that the cost of hospital care / treatments had decreased since nurse’s appointment, and her starting to attend the residents. So, if a resident became ill ( unless ‘critically so’) the nurse was available to call rather than immediately taking the resident to a government hospital where, inevitably, some direct or indirect costs would be incurred.
The broad agreement is that two days equivalent will be available for Old Age Home, and three days for community / domiciliary patients. The nurse will communicate with the person’s local Doctor / G.P.
We talked about how to use these three days – might it be something like the ’15 minute visit’ approach used at times in NHS / Social Care?…. No.
On the visit we made with nurse the patient was a lady in her 50s who had suffered a stroke. Her speech was lost and she had paralysis down one side; she is bedridden and needs someone to wash,feed,toilet her, and to provide companionship. Her husband is now unable to go for work as he provides this care. When we arrived at the house (nurse was there already) the husband had gone out and we realised that nurse was taking a lot of time to carry out the ‘basics’ and she was talking to the lady a lot. Nurse’s plan was to stay for several hours and try some simple therapy with the lady and make her some food as well as carrying out eh essential nursing tasks.
This was as much a ‘respite’ visit as it was a care / treatment visit; it provided the full-time carer (the lady’s husband) some much needed time to go out.
We have asked Peter to speak with nurse about how many patients can be on her caseload in the three days; it needs to be a balance between providing some ‘respite’ service and delivering more intensive / rapid treatments and care services.
We wanted to give this detailed report as another example of how we work with the volunteers to try to ensure your donations are used to ‘best effect’.
(NOTE: no photo available – as it was clear the lady could not communicate and her husband was not present, then securing permission to take and use a photo was not possible.)
– Home-based bakery: We referred to this ‘self-employment’ project in a recent newsletter; one widow had been working in a bakery earning about £1.50 to £2 per day of work, but the bakery was some distance from her home (meaning bus fares to be paid), and also she had started to become harassed by some of the male workers. The lady approached Peter as she believed she could use her skills to bake simple items in her home that she could then sell locally (direct to neighbours and local people, and to small, local shops). To do this she would need to buy the cooking utensils and have a small ‘working capital’ sum (cash-in-hand). The lady felt she could make £1 per day profit.Total sum required to start the small business: £60
In mid-2013 K.P. made this grant via Peter as a ‘petty business’ scheme. It was good to arrange a visit and to meet the lady. Her circumstances are very poor; she eagerly showed us the ‘sweets’ she bakes, wraps in cellophane in packs of 6, and then packs into carrier bags to take around to sell.
The shops take them on a sale-or-return basis and while there is no guarantee of fixed sales every day, she is indeed earning an average of about £1 per day.
But she supports three family members – a 14 year-old son, her elderly father and his elderly sister. All live in the house which is an old style mudbrick wall construction with a concrete slab roof, although its surface has not been properly ‘sealed’. The result is that the walls are crumbling though age and weathering, and the roof absorbs and leaks during the rainy season. In the kitchen where the cooking takes place over an open fire there is no proper chimney or escape for the wood smoke. This means that when she cooks / bakes the small house fills with smoke, and when it rains the rainwater comes in through the ceiling and the upper part of the crumbling walls. (See photos in ‘photo gallery ‘ Kattakada – bakery).We had to wait for smoke to clear before we took some of the photos and in the shot above you can see a bit of a haze!
The lady sleeps in the main room, son in an adjoining room, and her father and aunt in two separate lean-to areas attached to the front of the house. The aunt sleeps on the ground as there is no bed. There is an outside India-style toilet but it has no door.
We know this is not uncommon but it is sad to see a family with elderly relatives living in such conditions.
The lady was not complaining and in fact had gone out and spent some of her earnings on packs of biscuits to give us as gifts, as well as packs of her home-baking, because had told her we would be visiting.
The house needs extensive renovation but we did not have funds for that. Jane was puzzled why there were so many empty beer / drink bottles in a heap in front of the house. Peter explained the family go around the local area collecting them from the roadside as they can be sold for about 2p per bottle.
Peter is going to think about what more might be done to help this cheerful and resourceful lady keep her family together.
Note: you might question whether setting up a bakery project was a good idea in a house in such condition but on reflection the ‘new disadvantages’ are less than the the old ones; the lady is now free from unwelcome advances and is earning for herself.
Photo shows Jane learning about the type of sweets that are baked.
Creating ‘petty businesses / self-employment schemes’ is a great way to help a family / individual; £50 – £60 does it. Think about a donation perhaps next time you can’t think what to buy someone as a special gift! We can let you have full details of what project you have funded.
– Old Age Home: By the end of our two week visit we had agreed with Peter and the volunteers on three matters relating to the Home;
Monthly grant toward the running costs of the Home: This will remain at Rs20,000 (£200) per month. Typically, the total cost per month is £600 and for several years this has been provided by K.P. (£200), a group based in Germany (£300); and Peter and the volunteers getting about £100 from local people (normally more wealthy business people).
The Home cares for about 20 people so the average cost is £30 per person per month, or about £1 per day. This provides for everything including any costs for hospital care and medicines. As well as Peter and any volunteers there are three staff; only the three receive pay. Confirming the nurse’s position and continuing involvement with the residents means her services should relieve the ‘hospital charges’ bills in the coming year.
We feel the Home provides ‘value for money’ but more importantly it provides a loving and caring HOME for elderly people who essentially have been abandoned.
Special care annex:
In the January 2014 newsletter (see ‘News’ page for the link to the newsletter) we reported on the need to build a small annex at the rear of the main Home to accommodate either very ill residents and / or those suffering with incontinence. The plan is for a 4-place annex to be divided into 2 x 2 small rooms.
We saw the work completed to date which has been funded from local contributions. Each time Peter has secured some money he carries out the next bit of work; maybe a few courses of concrete blocks. The work had been at full-stop for several months as local contributions had dried up (remember Peter is still needing to get £100 per month to ensure the running costs are covered – that is the priority use for local funds).
The need for the annex is clear as those residents who are suffering have to remain in the dormitories, but sadly their condition does cause disruption and distress for the others.
While we were in kerala we obtained an extra donation to K.P. funds sufficient to comlete the project! This is about £600. The remaining work can now be carried out – watch the ‘news’ page for more updates and photos.
A good result.
‘Pakal Veedu’- a ‘day house’: We feel that elderly people are a priority-need group for K.P. Providing companionship and enabling volunteers and others to keep an eye on elderly individuals are actions that can make positive improvements to the person’s life.
With these thoughts and views in mind we talked with two of the volunteer leaders at Kattakada (Peter) and in Neyyattinkara (see further down on this page) about the idea of pakal veedu (translated from Malayalam into ‘day house’ – we don’t want to use the term ‘day centre’!)
In Kattakada the Old Age Home is quite a busy place with 20 – 23 residents, staff and volunteers there during the day, but it still felt like it had capacity to do more without becoming overcrowded. Remember that the completion of the annex in due course will mean several residents will move into this new space. So we have asked Peter to consider creating a pakal veedu on a small scale to assess its effects and benefits for those who would come as ‘day visitors’, and the effect on the Home’s residents.
Our thinking is that the day visitors will get variety to their present daily routines, and the residents will have ‘new people’ for conversation and so on.
The criteria for the visitors would be to invite those who are ‘below poverty line’ and in need of company, and who can reach the home under their own steam. We cannot afford to arrange transport to collect and return but maybe there might be scope for refunding bus fares if that was necessary – we’ll have to see.
The home will provide a snacks (tiffin) and lunch and nurse could review their general health when she is at the home.
We asked Peter to think in terms of perhaps 2-5 days per week, with 2-5 visitors on each of the days. peter is willing to do this as it will use the home to a better effect! Thankyou Peter and please watch out for news on whether this initiative gets off the ground, by looking at the ‘news’ page.
You will remember from the ‘previous projects’ report that K.P. began its partnership working in the district in 2012 with the N.I.D.S. voluntary organisation managing all the schemes.
We made three visits to the district to see how the chicken, goat, pension and ‘petty business’ initiatives were going along. All are working well and those people who are receiving support seemed happy!
Here are two special reports on projects started in 2013 and which we saw in action during the visit.
We went to two of the projects and saw how helpful this type of grant can be in assisting a family; the eggs can be eaten as part of the family meal, and those eggs not needed by the family can be sold and the money used to buy other food items. Clearly, the greater the number of chickens given to one family, the greater the benefit.
One family had been given 30 chickens; a mother and her 37-year old son. Son has been bedridden (paralysed from waist down as a result of a motor accident) for the last 20 years and mother has to attend to his needs – cooking, washing, toileting, and so she cannot work regularly. We understand that at the time of the motor accident the father deserted the family.
The mother has a small house that N.I.D.S. and the local Panchayath (Council) jointly funded but it has no surrounding ground. N.I.D.S. volunteers had approached K.P. in 2013 for a grant to give about 15 chickens and provide a ‘shed’ and it was fascinating to see what had actually been provided! The volunteers had developed a good working relationship with the Government ‘Animal Husbandry’ station (not the correct title but something like that) and as a result were able to buy small chicks for 75p each, instead of paying about £4.50 to £5 for ‘laying hens’. With sensible care the chicks will soon become ‘laying hens’.
30 chicks could be afforded plus the construction of the ‘shed’ and a supply of feed, although we suspect the volunteers raised some local money to add to the K.P. grant given the way the shed had to be built! If you look at the photos you can see a front view of the house; the two rooms and kitchen are ground-floor and the first floor concrete block structure is the chicken shed!
As there was nowhere to put the shed (no land) the volunteers made a ramp on the side of the house (see other photo) then used the house roof for the shed and chicken-run. In UK we talk about ‘living over the shop’, but this is a case of living under it!Actions like these do not solve a families problems but they deliver some relief from the real hardships, and perhaps enable the family to carry on with hope and resolve.
Petty business – vegetable selling:
In the January 2014 newsletter (see ‘news’ page) you can read the details of the 9 schemes started in 2013. Three of these grants, each of £50, were given to three ladies who decided to sell vegetables and to operate collaboratively in the villages of Manickapuram. We travelled for about an hour and a half from our base to this rural village. Interestingly, it is close to one of the forest ‘tribal’ areas where the people choose not to have much contact with those outside their community.
The three ladies are Leela, Augers, Omana (Leela and Augers are married but their husbands are sick and do not work; Omana is a widow. All are BPL). On the days when they ‘sell’ they take a bus in the early morning to the wholesale market which is about an hour away and then carry the purchased items back to the village where they will display and sell between about 9.30am and noon.
The two photos shows how the ‘market’ is simply set up on the roadside with no stall or table. While we were with them sales were good and there was no competition from others. Please take a look on the ‘photo gallery’ page (Neyyattinkara – petty business’) to see other photos, and do look out for the one other business that was at the market – two elderly fellows selling tapioca using the old-style weighing scales!
On the days when they sell, each lady usually makes a profit of £1.50 and of course has ready ingredients for their own meals. It was great to see a sales-technique that all three were using: variety packs! Each lady had made a pack of different vegetables that they considered would be the basis of a good meal (the veg part), and that was available to buy; add a fish portion plus rice for a full meal. Next step ‘ready meals for one’?
End of the special reports.
Schemes in the Neyyattinkara District – 2014/2015.
You will remember that 4 pension schemes (for a total of 40 persons) and 2 nursery school ‘free meals’ schemes (for about 60 children) received ongoing grants last year, as well as the one-off grants for the goat projects, chicken projects, and 9 petty businesses.
For the year 2014/2015 grants will be made to the ongoing schemes as follows:
Photo (left) shows ‘egg and milk’ break, with a trainee classroom assistant handing round the milk! Photo (below left) shows 3 lady ‘pensioners’ and a volunteer.
We have asked the N.I.D.S. organisation and the volunteers to look into starting a ‘pakal veedu’ (‘day house’) in a village in the District. An explanation of ‘day house’ was given earlier in this report under the section for Kattakada; we will keep you posted on any progress using the ‘news ‘ page.
MARCH 2014 – BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO THE VISIT MADE IN FEBRUARY
In some of these earlier newsletters etc the view has been expressed that although India is developing rapidly and successfully in terms of its industries and economy, poverty and hardship remains for huge numbers of its people.
In coming on this visit, we wanted to re-examine that view; at the end of the two weeks we felt that, sadly, we had to confirm that while the national statistics show ‘world stage’ growth at c 5%, ordinary village and towns-people have problems just subsisting.
We have seen that in areas previously supported with grants things are continuing to get better; Vizhinjam for example where we decided to shift funds from in 2013. But in going ,as we always do, to Vizhinjam and nearby Kalluvettankuhzi we have learned that such ‘improvements’ have intensified one issue into a critical social problem: alcoholism. This has been evident over the years but its effects are now being felt by more people – whether individuals drinking to excess, or their families and close friends. We are giving thought to how K.P. might work with others to start to address this.
In those rural areas supported in 2013 such as Neyyattinkara, Kundara and Kattakada the issues of poverty and hardship remain and are compounded by the effects of economic inflation. Oil prices (transport fuel and gas for cooking for example) continue to increase which of course pushes up the costs of food and other basic items.
Given these observations and the experience of visiting the schemes, we have felt the grants for 2014 should focus on –
HELPING TO TACKLE:
– POVERTY and
In terms of poverty we have taken into account the national statements and statistics issued on the proportion of India’s population who are BPL (Below poverty Line). The State Government of Kerala has developed and published its own set of criteria for determining B.P.L. We felt these criteria gave the basis for the volunteers to organise and distribute assistance in the various ‘schemes’.
For malnutrition the approach is not one of addressing ‘starvation’, although the volunteers regularly notify us that without the (small) support regularly given by K.P. (for example via the ‘rice-packets’; or the ‘pensions’), individuals would be on the brink of a disaster.The approach is more one of trying to support those on very limited incomes who require some extra funds to improve their diet from a heavy influence of starch (rice, tapioca) to one containing more vitamins.
Again, we felt the volunteers could take this on board when organising and delivering the ‘rice packets’ and ‘nursery school malnutrition projects.’ (The volunteers will try to provide not just rice alone as the content of the packets).
Background info on ‘poverty’ and B.P.L. (Below-poverty-line):
BPL is a benchmark used by the Government of India to indicate economic disadvantage and so identify individuals and families needing Government assistance and aid.
Kerala is one of only a few of the State Governments witihn India to create its own framework for assessing BPL; this framework has 9 factors and any family lacking access to 4 or more are classed as BPL. Once classified as such, that family should be able to access certain subsidies and benefits.
The 9 factors are;
– no land or less than 5 cents of land (NB: 1 cent is 1/100 acre);
– no house or a dilapidated house;
– no toilet;
– no colour TV;
– no regular employed person;
– no safe drinking water;
– woman-headed household OR presence of widow or divorcee;
– scheduled castes and scheduled tribes;
– mentally retarded OR disabled member of family (NB: wording used in framework…)
Above 9 factors are for urban households.
For rural households the ‘colour TV’ factor is replaced by:
– family with an illiterate adult member.
Background info on malnutrition in children: the 2011 Global Hunger Index Report showed India’s index as having increased (worsened) in the 5 years to 2011, while 78 of the 81 developing Countries decreased (improved) their position on hunger.
In practical terms when adults suffer from hunger / malnutrition then overall health declines not just for them through the possible onset of chronic illness but for others too; the health of newborn may be adversely affected due to the poor health of the mother and deaths in newborn can occur.
It has been assessed that 33% of the world’s malnourished children live in India, with 50% of those being underweight. Within these ‘all-India’ statistics Kerala is a ‘better performing State’, and UNICEF estimate the 27% of Kerala-children suffer malnutrition.
In June 2013 it was discovered that 30 small children had died in one village alone due to malnutrition in the period from January to June. Sadly K.P. is not operating in that area but this disturbing report indicates the poor position so many are living with.
The background to this report about the 30 deaths is as follows:
Om March 19th 2013 the Kerala State Government Comptroller and Auditor General tabled a report at the State Assembly meeting indicating that 37% children were malnourished, and that 56% to 66% were not receiving support due to them under the State’s ‘Supplementary Nutrition Programme’ that had been introduced under the ‘Integrated Child Development Services’ initiative launched in the 1980s.
The report went on to comment that implementation of the ‘Integrated Child Development services’ initiative and the ‘Supplementary Nutrition Programme’ had not been taking place due to poor organisation and under funding. So, less than 50% of eligible children were not receiving any due support.