PROJECTS FOR THE PERIOD APRIL 2016 TO THE END OF MARCH 2017.
During the 12 months we have received regular news and reports from the project volunteer leaders about how each project, and during our visit in January and February 2016 we were able to see all the volunteers and take advice on how best to apply the funds raised on the 2016 schemes.
In summary, all except one of the typed of projects will continue through 2016 and up to 31/3/2017. The exception being the regular education grants that have been in place at Kundara for the last several years.
We made our visits and held the discussions knowing two important factors would significantly influence the range and ‘value’ of the projects that would be affordable. The two factors being:
- The total sum available for 2016 / 2017 was less than had been raised in 2015 / 2016 9not as much money had been raised by us in the UK unfortunately as had been raised in the previous year);
- The cost-of-living / inflation level in Kerala has increased and so ‘£100’ was not going to buy / pay as much as before.
We have agreed to fund the following important projects for the period to 31/3/2017 (note: Rs 100 (Rupees) is about £1):
N.I.D.S. (NEYYATTINKARA INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY): total of Rs 1,44,000/- ( all recipients will be ‘below-poverty-line’ registered – BPL).
- 6 PENSION SCHEMES – 60 persons receiving c £2.00 per month each.
The existing schemes will continue. We talked about the idea of increasing the monthly allowance to £2.50 given the increased and increasing costs of food and essential items, but the strong advice from the volunteers was to keep it at £2.00 for the present time rather than put other schemes / projects at risk.
In the ‘latest news’ section we will be posting shortly some brief ‘pen portraits’ and photos of some of the pensioners.
Although only offered as a guide, the rough cost for basic food items for one elderly person per day is about 40p, maybe 50p. About £3.00 per week or £12 per month.
- GENERAL FUNDS TO ASSIST IN THE PURCHASE OF ESSENTIAL MEDICINES – for individuals living with cancer, mental illness, and chronic illnesses. Total of Rs 25,000/-
This scheme will provide assistance for 4 or 5 individuals per month (the total number to receive help will be greater than 4 or 5 by the end of the year).
The National Government of India has introduced new ‘welfare schemes’ that enable BPL individuals to receive cancer treatments at no cost, and some of the cancer-medicines at discounted prices. This is helpful but even with the discounts the drugs may cost £5 – 10 per month. Somehow, that has to be found as well as food and living costs for the family.
- PAKAL VEEDU (DAY CENTRE FOR ELDERLY PEOPLE); total of Rs 1,50,000/- 15 people per day on 2 days each week (48 weeks in the 12 month period for this project). Total of 30 persons attending each week, and there are more than 30 on the ‘register’!
You may remember that this is a relatively new project and it is really successful. The feedback from the volunteers who manage and run it, and the elderly ladies themselves, was entirely positive with the ladies saying they ‘felt in better health, both mentally and physically’ since attending.
In the ‘latest news’ section we will soon be posting some photos taken at the Centre. We have had to increase the total grant above the 2015 / 2016 amount as the wages paid to those cooking and carrying out the supervision of activities were very much below the daily average wage in the area. Even with the increase the wages remain low but the folks involved are pleased with the increases.
- SMALL ONE-OFF GRANTS PAID TO HELP FAMILIES WITH START-OF-ACADEMIC-YEAR SCHOOL COSTS;
Please note the small grant of £100 in total made in previous years has not been continued.
Similarly, for the time being there is not enough to fund any further ‘petty business’ projects as part of the employment-creation projects. We will wait and see if there is any scope to fund one or two of these schemes later in the year, if special funds are donated.
You may remember that an experimental ‘agri-project’ was funded during last year; this is a success and again you can find out more soon in ‘latest news’ section.
(From left) 1. Dance-exercise at Pakal Veedu, 2 & 3. Pensioners (not Jane!) and one of their dwellings, 4. Another pension scheme
DMT TRUST (KATTAKADA OLD AGE HOME AND NURSING SERVICE):
- TOTAL OF Rs 25,000/- per month as a contribution toward the running costs of the home, including the full salary of Nurse (Rs 5,000/- per month). About £3000.
- SPECIAL NOTE: an additional grant has been agreed of Rs 10,000/- per month for the 6 months of April to September 2016.
The Old Age Home continues to provide a ‘real home’ for abandoned elderly individuals and there are 21 residents at the moment. Sadly, one very old lady died unexpectedly during our visit; we had seen the lady only a day or so before and it clear her life was failing through old age. She had become unable to eat and was being given some fluids by spoon.
The DMT trust is facing severe funding problems. Its routine funding has been coming from three sources: Kerala Partnership; a small group of donors in Germany; and some local collections of money. Circumstances mean the donations from Germany have dropped from about £300 to about £100. A loss of £200 per month. Rising costs of food and other necessary areas of spending means there is a further shortfall of between £75 and £100 per month. Total monthly shortfall is therefore about £300 making £3500 or thereabouts in a 12 month period.
We held several discussions with Peter who runs the home and is chairman of Trustees asking what steps he and the trustees might take to reduce and eliminate this gap in funding. Given the average monthly cost for running the home is about £700 – £800, a monthly shortfall of even £250 means a known 30% ‘structural deficit’ – not really a manageable budget to start the year with.
Peter has an extended credit facility with a local food store that supplies a lot of the vegetables, rice and so on but that cannot go on for much longer, and there also is the mounting debt to clear.
To act as a temporary ‘buffer’ we agreed to increase the regular monthly KP grant from £250 to £350 for a fixed period of 6 months. Also, I have said that I will transfer funds on a monthly basis (no advance-grants).
We had to stop other grants for other projects to free this £600 (6 months x £100), and it cannot be guaranteed beyond September.
We have urged peter to get the Trustees to think how to raise further resources on a regular basis – either in the form of money / cash, or the supply of (say) food free-of-charge. The alternative is to reduce costs but we cannot see how this can be achieved given the small number of key staff, and the essential need for food and some medical costs.
It seems the home, and its residents, have an entitlement to small ‘Government pensions’ amounting to about £70 per month. Peter lodged this claim many months ago and the paperwork has been cleared as correct and in order but despite repeated visits to claim the payment and the allied back-payment, no funds are being released. While £70 would not clear the ‘structural deficit’, the back-payment would mean the mounting debt could be cleared. Peter continues to go regularly to the government Offices ‘demanding’ this approved payment now be given to him.
More news on this important matter will be posted in ‘latest news’ as the issue unfolds.
Residents at the Home.
Third from left: shows Nurse in centre.
Second from left: Jane with the lady who died a day later.
MGM TRUST (KUNDARA AND SURROUNDING DISTRICT): total grant of Rs 1,20,000/- (c £1200 for the 12 months).
- In 2015 there were three main types of projects funded by KP and operated by MGM Trust: education and general welfare grants to about 20 families / individuals; contributions toward the cost of medicines for people suffering mental illness 9about 8 people); contributions toward the cost of cancer-care medications (11/15 people). In addition KP made a monthly grant of £15 toward the cost of the ‘Forum’ lunches.
Following discussions with MGM Chairman (Mr George) we had to inform him that for 2016 / 2017 the KP funding would have to reduce significantly to just over half of the 2015/16 total.
We said that £100 would be provided per month for the trustees to grant to people living with severe illnesses especially mental illness, cancer and chronic medical conditions. Again, all beneficiaries should be BPL unless there are special circumstances, and the general aim should be to support 20 people each month.
Sadly, we had to say that the education / general welfare grants would have to stop. We arranged for two months notice to be given to all the 2015/16 beneficiaries of the changes so they might at least have some limited chance to prepare for the change.
We receive monthly reports from Mr George and we will keep in contact about the impact these changes have on those people who are in contact with the Trust.
The focus for 2016/2017 is the care of the elderly. We have commented in previous reports and newsletters that many old people have serious difficulties and some become destitute. Some may be entitled to ‘state pension schemes’ but may not receive it due to bureaucratic problems or the lack of the relevant funds in their local government office; others are simply ‘not on anyone’s radar screen’ other than the volunteers who are active in their area.
The projects supported by KP in the coming 12 months seek to help elderly people who face a range of needs; there are three types of project;
- For those who have a place to live and who can get-by in terms of daily food, but who are alone mostly and feel lonely and isolated – Pakal Veedu; a day centre where there will be companionship, activity-for-healthy-living, newspapers to read, something that adds ‘structure’ to the otherwise ‘long week’.
- For those who have somewhere to live but who are struggling to get by in terms of finding enough to buy food or other essential items – Pension Schemes. (Note: the condition of some ‘homes / dwellings’ is awful….there will be more comment on this in a future ‘latest news’ item – we need to find small sums of money to help rebuild a few dilapidated and tiny houses; the costs of materials and labour means that it probably is now beyond our means to build ‘new’).
- For those who have nothing and usually no-one – DMT Old Age Home.
The previous regular support given in the Kundara area for education (and general welfare) small grants has been stopped due to a lack of funds and an assessment that the schemes and projects agreed have a greater priority this time.
Additional news from David:
Not so much as part of this short report on ‘current projects’ but nevertheless connected to the comments above I can let you know that before Jane and I visited the projects and met with the volunteers, I spent 3 weeks living and working in a large secondary school (1200 pupils) on a voluntary basis. I had been asked in 2015 if I would give my time to help to improve the ‘communicative English’ skills of those pupils aged 10 to 14 years. ‘Communicative English’ is an established subject and is all about learning how to speak and talk in conversations.
I had an ‘easy’ time of it taking only 4 classes each day on my own for the 5-day week, each class of about 40 pupils, but the preparation did take time and imagination as I got to understand their needs. It made me realise how well the children are taught English in terms of grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure, but how ‘lazy’ we in the UK are in terms of how we contract and shorten so much of what we say and how much we use well-known phrases and ‘short-cuts’ to express ourselves (idioms are used very much in our daily conversations).
On my first day there was an obvious way to find out the extent to which ‘common idioms’ were known and used, and so I said to two classes that as part of their preparations for an examination the next day I would ‘wish them all the best, and keep my fingers crossed…..’ Their puzzled faces said it all and for the next three weeks we all had a good time in beginning to learn and understand phrases that we take for granted! ‘Fingers crossed’ became a bit of a catch-phrase.
In this way perhaps ‘education support’ was not entirely overlooked and neglected as giving time rather than cash may be nearly as useful. If there is anyone interested in giving their time to help either with the care of the elderly or as a ‘teaching assistant’, then something may be possible!
Left: supervising some group work.
Right: final address with half of the pupils on the assembly ground.