2017 Kumar's Year in Review
2017: Kumar's Year in Review
In 2017 My Name is Kumar and CARE Foundation teams continued to work toward our goal of providing access to education for all the children born into the Londor community and alleviating poverty in the wider community. We organised out first supporters tour of our projects; ran 147km in over 35°C heat; spent more than 3/4 of the year in India; made more than 760 school trips; and expanded our international team. Plus much more. It turns out you can squeeze a lot into 12 months! A summary of which can be found below, please click on the photos to read more.
2017 was all about getting the parents of the Londor children more involved in the school lives of their kids. At the beginning of the year all parents were asked to accompany their child for school registration, a job usually done by our social workers alone. This may seem like a small act but for many parents it was the first time they had stepped foot in their child’s school. Throughout the year we have held monthly parents' meetings where attendance is recorded and parents get to discuss issues relating to the community and children. While these meetings need refinement they have been a great doorway into a better relationship between us and the community as a whole. In addition our new Project Manager for Education Projects, Sarala, conducts monthly one on one meetings with families to discuss each individual child’s progress at school. Read more about the Parents' Committee in our blog here.
2017 has been a year of growth for both the MNIK and CARE teams. We are delighted to have welcomed aboard Demi, who is the Network Officer for the Netherlands, and Sarala and Leciya in India, who will manage our Education and Community Development arms of the organisation in India respectively. We also hired one extra caretaker for our tuition centre - Mari comes from the Londor community and despite having left school at age 18 she was forced into a marriage against her will. After the marriage annulment Mari’s new job has enabled her to earn her own income and support her family without having to get married.. Lastly we were pleased to offer a job to Karunya, a long term volunteer and previous student of CARE Foundation. Karunya is responsible for the successful running of our new community development centre.
We now have our largest ever number of girls in secondary school – a grand total of 13. We are particularly proud of this number because of how unlikely it was previously for girls to continue beyond primary education. For girls, maintaining school attendance beyond when they first start menstruating is very hard, because they are seen as young women and expected to help more at home and even get married. Changing attitudes in the community are that a girl’s education is important and there is value in allowing her to continue her education. Girl’s themselves are choosing school over the home and all of them have great ambitions for what they will achieve in the future.
2017 was the first year we recognised International Women’s Day both as an organisation and in the Londor community. A whole day of activities and celebration were put on especially for the women and girls in the community. One of our highlights from the whole year was the moment some of the girls got to write and perform a play on child marriage to their parents. Outside of India, a bunch of activists from our supporter base raised funds and awareness by talking to colleagues, families and friends about issues relating to women and girls in India. Read more about IWD2017 on our blogs here and here.
In 2017 members of My Name is Kumar have collectively spent 40 weeks on the ground in India. As an international team we spend a lot of our time working remotely from different countries, so it’s incredibly important that we allow time to visit our projects in person and maintain face to face contact with CARE Foundation’s team in India – as well as time with the kids! In 2018 we plan to make 4 trips to India, one for each quarter. One of our larger partners, Salt of the Earth, also make annual trips to the projects.
For the second year in a row CARE Foundation welcomed a group of visitors from the UK, all of whom are participants in our child sponsorship scheme which we run in partnership with UK Charity, Salt of the Earth. As part of a journey around Tamil Nadu and visits to some of the other projects Salt of the Earth support, participants met members of the Londor community and were shown some of the ways in which their sponsorship has helped families and children. Salt of the Earth also invited professional photographer, Adam Dickens, to India and while he was there he took some amazing photos of our work – thanks Adam!
This year we began our application for charitable status in the UK. To date MNIK are a registered charity in the Netherlands, at the end of last year we decided that in order to strengthen our organisation worldwide we would seek charitable status in a few other choice countries, namely the US and the UK. This was in order to reflect our geographical locations as a team and to make some processes a little easier. Primarily though, we wanted to encourage a more conscious building of our supporter bases in these countries and to widen our network and partnership opportunities. In this regard we have been very glad to welcome to the team 3 new charitable trustees, Ellie, Sophie and Victoria; who bring with them a wealth of experience, knowledge and enthusiasm. Our application for UK charitable status was handed in at the end of 2017 and we are awaiting confirmation of our status which should arrive immanently. Our US application is in progress.
During Henry and Alyce’s three months in India they delivered a programme of training to build skills in the existing CARE Foundation team. They covered a variety of skill areas, including: fundraising, budgeting, keeping accurate financial records, networking mapping, internal communication and project proposal writing. They also worked with the CARE team to refresh our partnership agreement and start a new community development centre (which you can read more about in this report).
We estimate that in 2017 our fantastic driver Logu made approximately 760 school trips, ferrying children back and forth from their homes. For those of you who also do a regular school run I’m sure you can be sympathetic to our Logu-na (Logu brother), imagine coordinating the school run for 76 children and being the project’s driver in between! We love you, Logu!
Possibly our proudest moment of the year comes from 17 year old Babu. Babu joined our projects right at the very beginning and we have seen him grow for a small boy to a young man. When Babu was in primary school an accident left him blind in one eye – a problem maybe not considered so big in our communities but for Babu in poor rural India this presented a big problem. His mother recently confided in us that she worried he would not be able to find work because of people’s prejudices about Babu’s background and his disability. However recently Babu graduated from his 6 month electricians course at the local college and has begun an apprenticeship. More about Babu’s story on our blog here.
In September we welcomed a small group of supporters to visit our projects in India and see our work first hand. The tour lasted for 5 days; during which time the group met the CARE Foundation team, were introduced to the community, met some of the children MNIK support and some ran a half or full marathon! Plans for another supporter’s tour are on hold for 2018 but watch this space for further opportunity to visit us in India.
Although the academic year is incomplete and there are still 3 more months to go before the summer holidays the children have already won a number of prizes at school. A number of these were won at the school sports day where 4 of our kids won prizes in various disciplines – out of more than 1000 students competing, we think they did an excellent job!
In the last 12 months a whole gang of wonderful people have dedicated their time, skills and enthusiasm in order to raise money to support our projects in India. Collectively they raised over £11,000 all of which went to support education and community development in the Londor community. The feats undertaken by this group of generous souls were tough! Marathons run in the 40° (celsius!) Indian heat, a 3 day cycle ride of more than 100 miles per day, car cleaning and cake baking! Thank you to everyone who dedicated their time to fundraising for us in 2017 and a big thank you to everyone who donated and supported their efforts.
Sadly this year we cannot report a 0% school dropout rate as we have done in all previous years. While our projects have grown and we have almost doubled the number of children in our Education Programme we have also had some saddening cases of children leaving school. While 3 of the children who left our projects left for reasonable purposes – such as family changes – and now attend a different school, a further 3 children are now out of full time education completely. We have continued to work with these children and their families to try and change the course of things; however, due to a number of reasons we have so far been unsuccessful. These problems have taught us that academic success alone is not enough to motivate a children and their family into staying in education, provision for family support and greater extra curricular care is needed. We've been working on a number of initiatives (such as our Big Sister/Big Brother buddy scheme, one-to-one parents meetings, more weekend activities) to better address this issue.
Thanks to local funds raised around 50 mixed fruit trees were planted in the Londor community outside of people’s homes. These trees were planted with the help of the community themselves and as they grow will provide shade and food. Once the community have taken fruit from the trees they can sell the remainder a market and earn a living that can be shared by the community as a whole.
Way back at the start of 2017 our team in India were paid a visit by undergraduate student Demi, from the Netherlands. Demi did a 3 month placement in India to develop and write her thesis on the professional development of our partners, CARE Foundation. Demi made a number of suggestions which we are in the process of implementing in order to better organise CARE’s activities and prioritise their projects. Demi also made firm friends with all the children and the community. She graduated in the summer and has since taken up post as Network Officer for our organisation in the Netherlands. Welcome aboard Demi!
In March CARE Foundation welcomed 20 students from a school in Denmark to our base in Tamil Nadu. It was the third trip of its kind, with the school bringing older students with learning difficulties to India. Over 10 days the group visited the communities where we work, spent time with the children and visited some of the local tourist attractions and beaches. The organisers of the trip also kindly invited the CARE team to visit them in Denmark and so our two project managers and CARE’s director travelled on their first ever trip to Europe! The CARE team had immense fun and are looking forward to going back to visit soon.
This year our two cows have produced an approximate 2,190 litres of milk! This milk has been used to make all the delicious South Indian food we give to the children, like idli (small rice cakes eaten for breakfast) and dosai (savory pancakes eaten with dahl or curry). The cows are looked after by a group of older boys who make sure the cows are dry, safe and well fed. They even built a shelter for the cows out of palm trunk and leaves!