As well as supporting Dalit children through their education, another of our charity's aims is to give support where it is most needed, in the villages where the school children live. The Dalit women in particular need practical help and encouragement on an ongoing basis, as they suffer more discrimination and hardships; their lives are extremely tough. The projects below represent three areas where the need for our support is constant. More information on our one-off Appeals for other projects we have helped with can be found on the Appeals page.
We help to fund the building and equipping of tailoring schools that give opportunities specifically to under-educated teenage girls and young Dalit women. These young women can embark on a year's apprenticeship to learn the skill of tailoring, and with this new skill, they will achieve greater financial independence through the ability to work from home, leading to greater respect from the men in their community.
Dalit girls and young women suffer the worst treatment in India because their status is so low within society. Their lives are mostly spent in the home looking after younger children, or grandparents so that their parents can both go to work. In general, Dalit girls do not complete their education and often they leave school during their primary school years. Therefore, illiteracy amongst Dalit girls is extremely high.
Learning the skill of tailoring enables teenage girls and young mothers to work from home and acquire some financial independence. Their only other choice of employment is domestic work, or 'coolie' work, both of which are extremely hard physically and pay very low wages. Tailoring gives these girls more respect by both their families and others within their village. 'Coolies' are manual labourers employed on a day-to-day basis. They have no job security and for several months there is no work at all. Wages are around Rs 150 per day (£1.60) for back-breaking work in very hot and dusty conditions.
As is the case with all the social projects we help with, the Fathers request that those who stand to benefit should also contribute what they can to the project. In this way a partnership is created and the Dalit women retain their self-respect which is very important.
We have been asked to contribute by funding the salaries of three tailoring teachers, for the villages of Jagir Pannur, Ramathnal, and Amaravati. We have also been asked to fund the monthly rent for the tailoring classroom at Amaravati village. The tailoring apprentices complete their apprenticeship within about 10 months. We are happy to report that over the course of the last few years, several individuals and a charitable Trust fund have collectively bought the sewing machines needed for the tailoring students of Rajolli, Pannur and now Ramathnal. They are all now qualified as seamstresses and able to make clothes and sell them at local markets for a small profit.
It is fantastic to think that this practical partnership has given empowerment as well as much needed financial independence to several hundred young women. This project can benefit many more women in other villages, so if you would like to help one of these young girls to learn a new skill please support the Tailoring Schools today.
We work closely with the Fathers to support the transportation of filtered drinking water to the villages where our school children live. Even in the modern times in which we live, many villages don't have access to a clean drinking water supply. In some villages, as well as washing their clothes in the local river, the Dalit women also boil water from the river to give to their children to drink, a laborious process as they need to collect sticks first in order to make a fire to boil the water. There may be a communal water tap in some villages, but analysis of this water shows that the mineral and bacterial content is not healthy and the Dalit people who drink this water regularly succumb to both short and long term water-borne illnesses. However, we are proud to say that with your help, Supporting Dalit Children is able to make a great difference, and now, every day, 12000 people in 20 villages are provided with clean, filtered drinking water!
Water is transported to the villages in a huge steel bowser, pulled by a tractor as many of the villages' roads are dirt tracks and not accessible all year round. Every day villagers wait for this service and fill many plastic water caskets with the filtered water. They pay a small contribution towards the water, so that this service is not totally free and considered charity. It is a partnership with the villages as their paying a small amount for their water contributes towards the maintenance costs of both the tractor and the water filtration plant.
In 2020, we were asked if we could help to provide a second tractor for transporting water to other villages who didn't have access to clean water. The tractor being used was ten years old and regularly breaking down, the gear lever had broken off. Due to the tractor's age, it was proving hard to get parts to carry out the necessary repairs. The mechanic at the Mission was having to weld the gear lever back on to resume the supply of water to the villages. We launched an Appeal and a few months' later, were able to send the funds necessary to buy a second tractor. Here is what Father Leo wrote to us after he was able to buy the new tractor - "We are grateful to you for the timely help. This tractor will help thousands of people daily quench their thirst and they will remain ever grateful to you. Our people have a tendency to bless people who help them. I am sure you will be blessed abundantly."
In 2017 we contributed towards the cost of a new water filtration plant in the children's hostel attached to Kapepaladi school. This plant is powered by solar panels; the solar panels were funded by a primary school in the UK who requested to help with this vital project.
Each year there are preventable deaths from water-borne diseases. Quite simply, the more support we can give, the more families will benefit from clean water.
Pannur Health Centre
The Pannur Health Centre is next door to Loyola Kapepaladi school. It provides primary health care to the people of Pannur, the students at Loyola Kapepaladi school, and the Dalit families living in nearby villages. The Sisters who run the Health Centre are all nurses or doctors. They also provide a mobile clinic service, visiting remote villages in a mobile ambulance, that don't have the ability to travel to Pannur. We support this health centre because it provides vital care as well as health checks and immunisations to the children at the school, as well as to their families and other impoverished people living in this area.
Sister Leena is pivotal in the running of the Pannur Health Centre and sent this update in September 2022.
“The famous proverb “Good Health is the best wealth” means a lot when we come across people with various health problems daily in our health centre.
Our daily duty starts at 8.30am and is carried out throughout the day until 7.30 pm, and also during the night and other times in case of emergency cases. We take care of all the medical and nursing care, along with our lay staff nurse in the Pharmacy, and the Lab technician who does all the lab tests.
The common health issues we are treating in the Health Centre include upper and lower respiratory tract infection, chronic obstructive heart disease, gastro-enteritis, typhoid fever, skin infections and urinary tract infections
Typhoid fever and Gastro enteritis cases are increasing in many villages as they drink water from the flowing river without boiling, in spite of the Jesuit father’s effort in supplying them pure drinking water. We are motivating them to maintain hygiene and drink pure filtered water.
“We are available to our people at all times of the day and night, especially in times of emergency. They feel confident to come to us as we treat them immediately and if necessary, we send them to hospital by our ambulance for further care. We save many lives since we have had the ambulance, though not in every case. We get many emergency cases including minor and major road accidents, cardiac patients with chest pain, poisoning due to attempted suicide, scorpion stings.
We are able to treat these emergency cases and give first aid to the cardiac and major accident cases and refer them to hospitals for further treatment immediately by using our ambulance. It is very challenging for us sometimes, to plan immediately the treatment as when the patients are brought in they are in a critical condition. We have purchased an adjustable bed and a patient monitor in order to check the patient’s vital signs through the monitor like pulse, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, temperature and ECG without wasting any time in checking these things manually. We are able to treat patients immediately and if they require further care, we take a quick decision to send them to hospital by our ambulance, and with oxygen to sustain them. The adjustable bed helps us position the patient automatically.
These past 12 months the numbers of young patients coming to our health centre with chest pain and other cardiac related problems, has increased. We have now organized a free medical camp with a Pulmonologist from Raichur, on 25th of September.”
She also organises for experts from other hospitals to offer more extensive health clinics to communities living further away, accessing them using their mobile ambulance service (a large jeep). At one recent camp, she organised for a pulmonologist and a paediatrician to be present. It was well attended by 156 patients, including men, women and children. Sr Leena said that it was a great experience to see so many people making the most of this opportunity to be seen by a specialist. The pulmonologist did lung function tests as in winter, asthma worsens. These tests revealed that many people were suffering from asthma and other lung diseases, due to smoking and exposure to wood smoke whilst cooking on open fires.
The paediatrician is a professor in a nearby medical college and also practices privately. 85 children had their blood tested and many were found to be anaemic, some to the extent of needing a blood transfusion. The paediatrician asked Sister Leena to send these children to the hospital at Raichur for further treatment and kindly said that he would arrange for free treatment.
It is such a blessing that the Pannur Health Centre is next to Kapepaladi school. The Sisters do incredible work all year round for the people who come from miles around to be treated, as well as for the students at Kapepaladi school. Their work is inspiring and requires monthly financial support in order to provide the many health services that they do.