News and announcements

The terrible trio terminate their Travancore travails

Our last day has arrived and is nearly over.  In a few hours we will be winging our way back to the UK.

First thing we met a number of cancer patients who are syupported by HHI.  We send out a regular amount of money for this each month; if there are more needs, each person gets less money, if there are fewer needy people then they each get more.  Philip does the maths for us.

We spent much of the day at Philip's Happy Valley special needs centre, seeing just how happy the children were.  Jute and Kath were very impressed with the standrd of teaching which was tailored to each child in a targetted way, with the older children engaged in a lot of purposeful vocational training that should equip them for life in the world beyond the protective walls of the centre.  The government has banned single use plastic bags, so making paper bags out of old newspaper is big business these days: Happy Valley is in on the action!

We had bought some educational equipment on our trip to Trivandrum which we presented to the centre.

Treats for the trio today

Sunday should be a day of rest and worship.  So today we went to Pilgrim Highland Church, which greatly supported the construction of Thanal House and continues to help with the running costs.  The English language service is at 9am, so it was an early start.  But as always it is great to worship with fellow-Christians of other cultures and to learn from them.  We had hoped to meet a long-time supporter, Daisy, but she wasn't there this week.

After a couple of hours on the beach at Kovalam and lunch, we returned via Thanal house.  Salini has been building a toilet / shower / washing block for some time now, and we had given her some money to complete it at the start of the week.  It was great to see that the work was almost finished, with the septic tanks lined, water connected, doors on the toilets and showers operational.  There is even a western-style toilet for disabled women who find this sort more of a convenience (pun intended!).

As the day cooled, the women came out to do their part in the running of the home.  Most now help in some way - washing clothes, folding laundry, sweeping or cleaning, or converting palm leaves into brooms.  It both enhances their self-respect, gives them something to do, and relieves Salini, Sanil and Valsala of some of the pressure of coping with so many residents.  It is a win-win situation.

The tenacious trio traverse Trivandrum

It was an early departure for Trivandrum aka Thiruvananthapuram today so as to meet the kidney patients at 9.30.  We support some 27 of them with varying amounts of money so as to help them to pay for immunosuppressant drugs or dialysis.  Such things are essential if they are to survive, but the cost can be beyond them.  We would like to do more, but our resources are limited, so they get the cost of two or three dialyses a month or about a third of the cost of the drugs.  They included a young girl who couldn't have been older than two.  All of them are carefully vetted by Philip so as to ensure that they are genuinely in need of help from us - and ultimately from you.  Sadly, some of them were back on dialysis after their transplants failed (they normally do after a number of years; we have been helping some of these people for over a decade).

The trio terrified by traffic to Travancore

Well, Jute took a dim view of it!

Today we sadly took our leave of the children of Asha Kiran Ashram.  But not before we had paid a return visit to see the children perform a dance routine, been togged up in ceremonial scarfs, and distributed scottish chocolate wafers (which had survived the heat surprisingly well).  As always, it is surprising just what children with abilities that are limited in some spheres can do when they are given suitable opportunity and encouragement.

We also had a good discussion about Thangaratinam, a very disabled girl.  We had noticed how much more alert she was compared to earlier visits, and we were anxious that the momentum should be maintained.   She was responding well to people moving and talking, so we thought that it would be helpful if she could come into classes and have the stimulation of noise and action.  However, the staff were concerned that she was "fragile".  But she was put into a well padded wheelchair and wheeled in.  Initially she was uncomfortable, but soon she was looking around and smiling at the noise and bustle, as well as providing interest to the other children.  The staff will take advice from the doctors, and we have agreed to provide a suitable conveyance to enable her to be moved around without causing any damage.

The tremendous trio in Tamilnadu

Today was a full day at Asha Kiran Ashram, the special needs school that we set up a decade ago and continue to support.  There are 33 children on the roll; soon after 9am 21 arrived to add to the 9 that live at the centre, full of energy and enthusiasm.  Prayers with staff and children followed, then they spent a morning in small tuition groups, enjoying learning tailored to their abilities.  For some that might be learning how to use a shape sorter, for others it is learning the basics of reading, writing (Tamil mainly, but also the elements of English, the lingua franca of India) and arithmetic.  Some 15  of the children also receive daily help from the physiotherapist - many of them have cerebral palsy, so progress is slow but an annual visit enables us to see the improvement from year to year.

We were also able to meet some children who had progressed beyond education - Ameer Khan who has learned enough to be able to help usefully in his father's tea and breakfast shop, as well as to keep a few chickens - we were able to duscuss the next steps with this project that has started quite well; Thanga Wilson who is now employed to assemble picture frrames for a company - he is making 200 a day, and earning a small salary; and Andrea who tried to become an electrician, but that proved too difficult for him, so he now works as a security guard and general errand boy.  None of these wouyld be able to do anything useful without the skilled, loving, kind, patient help and training that they received at Asha Kiran Ashram.

The tooting trio travel to Tamilnadu

Tuesday morning started with a couple of visitors.  One was Radha - she had come the previous morning claiming to be a kidney patient, but without any medical records, so I had suspected a scam and had refused to play ball.  But she was back with a huge wadge of paperwork, so she got her money - Rs. 1,000 (£11) for a month's supply of medicines, plus Rs. 200 for travel down to Trivandrum for a hospital appointment.  She looked poor - if an Indian woman is badly dressed, she is in serious need. 

The other was E Sakiyel, an elderly man who had been referred to a hospital in Trivandrum; whilst the operation itself was free, he would need a few days' accomodation in the city, probably some meds, and help to keep body and soul together whilst he recuperated (the recommended convalesence period was two months!). 

After a visit to another special needs school to see what we could learn from them (or vice versa) and a quick paddle in the sea, we called at Shanti Bhavan, a home for destitute men and a couple of women which we support.  It is run on a shoestring, and as a result is not up to the standards of Thanal House.  However, all the residents are there voluntarily - there is nothing to stop them leaving - so they clearly regard it as better than life on the streets.  If nothing else they have food and a roof over their heads.  One of our concerns had been that the owner of the property that they rent wanted to deveop it; it was a great relief to hear that they had been granted a stay of eviction of up to five years.

Finally we had dinner with RIchard, an ex-patriate living in India who was hoping to collect medical equipment and disability aids and ship them in a container to India.  His plans are at an early stage, and we were able to tell him about our experience of sending containers to Zambia as well as other things.  But if his plans come to fruition then there are great opportunities for our Indian colleagues to benefit.

The triumphant trio travel to Travancore

Today we went to Pastor Wilson's BGM on the shores of the Neyyar Dam, an especially beautiful spot.  It was good to meet up with him again and to compare notes - it is so much easier to talk to someone face to face than to be limited by email.  As usual he had a list of people who needed help, but our first priority was to see the craft work in action, and in particular to witness the tailoring training.  The tailoring is something that we are funding, but had not seen as it is a new venture - one which promises to release a good number of women from penury and destitution.  A first cohort of about thirty women has passed though, and a second similar group of women is now learning the tricks of the trade.  They usually come for a day or two each week, as other activities allow, but in between times they can practice at home.  Once they have finished their training they can sew clothing to order, or do embroidery as required.  There is a good demand for such work, and it is reasonably well paid as well as being something that the women can fit around other household work.

We then met a very poor family with four children.  Despite their poverty, they look after an orphaned man Manoj who is mentally limited and has a child's body.  Their only son Aravind is unable to go to school beacause of frequent fits.  Medication is available which is effective in controlling the fits, but it costs about Rs. 7,000 (GBP 80) a month, which the family cannot afford.  Jute had been given some money to bring out, and she gave the family enough for a month's medication as well as some money for food.  We hope to be able to provide the medication if we can raise the funds.

The tired trio travel to Travancore

It's time for the annual visit to see the wonderful work that our Indian partners are doing.  This year the team is three of us - Edmund, Jute and Kath.  Jute you will know; Kath is one of our faithful Strathaven supporters who has come to see the work here first hand.

Edmund came first, arriving on Tuesday and going with Philip for a few days in the Cochin area where Philip's family live - celebrating Philip's silver wedding anniversary with them, and seeing some of the tourist sights.  It was a new part of India for him, and a very enjoyable prelude to the main purose of the visit.

Then he was joined in the early hours of Saturday by Jute and Kath.  We gave them a gentle introduction to India, with a visit to the palace in Nedumangad.  Edmund had tried to visit it several times, but it had always been closed, but today - success - it was open.  We spent a very enjoyable hour looking round, learning a bit about local history and culture.

Crying the rain

This worrying report has just been received from our Health Help Zambia office in Monze, Southern Province, Zambia.  

Hunger and Rain Situation: The high level of hunger is still high.  Some people who live in far villages have shifted from villages to Monze town . They spend their nights at the market, railways and during the day, they go round residential houses and compounds, requesting work and food. They move around with their children. They also come to HHZ, and go to the District Commissioner’s Office requesting food and money to buy food. Many people go to sleep without food. In the past two weeks, we have had heavy rains resulting in damage to some bridges in some rural parts and some floods and lightning killing some people; in Monze High Compound a child was struck by lightning. The food relief given by World Food Programme was done in Eastern Province where people were affected with flood too. Even when there are calls by Civil Society  organizations and some other stakeholders to declare hunger as a national disaster, the government has refused to declare hunger as a National Disaster. On the other hand, due to over rains in some parts, some crops may be affected and in some parts where it rained well at the start and farmers immediately planted , the maize was affected and died. There are also army worms in some parts of the country attacking maize fields.  

Praying for rain

starvation Zambia Welsh charity helping global warming climate change drought

You may have heard about the serious drought that is afflicting parts of Africa including Zambia - there have been a couple of news articles about it recently on BBC news, here, and here from 41:00 to 45:50.  They mention that Southern Province, which is where we work, has been particularly hard hit.

We have responded by increasing the food support that we provide to Muumba School, the malnutrition ward at Monze Mission Hospital, and the disabled unit at Monze School.  As a result, Muumba School is still open for business, unlike many other schools in the area.

But we would like to do more.  We'll be discussing what we can do at our next Management Committee meeting, and also discussing with our  partners n Zambia.

And the good news is that the World Food Programme has now got involved.

We'll make sure that you are the first to know what we are doing, but in the meantime please pray for the rain that they so desparately need.