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. 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.
On another occasion we received sadder news from Sr. Leena, "We have good number of patients these days due to the weather changes. We are having good rains these days and all the access to reach Manvi has become very difficult as all the bridges are washed off . We get more patients specially children. Children are coming with high grade fever . We do immediate blood tests and are able to diagnose . We get many Dengue cases , Typhoid and Flu-viral fever. We are admitting few children and adults we refer to other hospital to Raichur. It has been busy days since two months and we are happy that we have sufficient staff to be available for our people here and in the other villages during the mobile clinic. We are very sad to inform you that Jayappa, 43 year old from Jagir Pannur ,whom we had referred to Raichur hospital has passed away few days back. He was infected with Dengue fever . We request to pray for us and our mission that we may able to give our best to our people and reach out to them.”
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.