Since August last year we have been working on something special.
We were experiencing a growing number of problems with a group of children from one of the small villages we work in. These kids were going to school on a daily basis, being picked up in the jeep by our driver Logu. But more often than not Logu would arrive and the children would not be ready; they might not have had breakfast or might still be in their sleeping clothes. It was a mounting problem. Without electricity in the village there was nowhere for the children to do homework after dark, which meant some of the children were getting into trouble at school and falling behind. On top of this there is no running water, nor is there anywhere safe for young children to wash without being overlooked by other adults and passing vehicles.
So, during our team’s 3 month stay in India with our team in Tamil Nadu we began to brainstorm ideas for solutions to this problem.
We began to look at nearby buildings to see if we could rent one and set up an after school club. We were pointed to an unused building that was being minded by an elderly lady. The building was small, with two classroom sized rooms and a kitchen, there was no bathroom but what really enticed us was the huge walled garden with fruit trees and a lawn.
We decided that with a bit of work it could be fit for our purpose. We did some maintenance work, built a small bathroom with shower and toilet, and neatened up the garden.
At the end of December we opened our doors to the families and children from the village. Just a short 5 minute walk along country lanes, the children are able to come each day before school to get breakfast, make sure they are dressed smartly and await the school pick up. In the evenings they come to play, get a snack and do homework with our social workers and student tutors.
Part of the garden has been turned into a small allotment where we can grow greens to feed the children, and the fruit trees will produce enough fruit for us to sell at market and earn extra funds.
During the day the space is also used by mothers who want to leave their preschool aged children with our social workers so they can leave to find farm work (previously, the only option for these mums without child care was to go begging, taking their child with them). The outdoor patio outside the front of the building has also been used by parents for meetings and community occasions.
Our Community Development Centre is a trial project, aimed at reducing dependency on residential care for children while at the same time offering kids the best possible means to do well at school. If this centre turns out to be a success our plan is to look at similar options to serve the other villages we work with.
Thanks to your generous giving we are able to mindfully experiment with new initiatives like this, which we believe will help us achieve our goals faster. We also believe that steps like this can help us keep families together, and avoid an over reliance on residential care.
We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress with our first Community Development Centre, and we have our fingers crossed for further centres.