You are here: Home / Extra Curricular / India Village Project / Report following the visit to Trichy 19th - 29th June 2016

Report following the visit to Trichy 19th - 29th June 2016

On the 19th June 2016 a group of 11 students and 5 staff from The India Village Project in Dundee set off for India to stay 2 weeks with our Marist Brother friends in Trichy. Our project supports the work of the Marist Brothers at 2 schools and has developed to include the provision of housing for local people in the village of Mangamanuthu. The school in Mangamanuthu is called St Marcellin and our other school which we support is in a village about 2 hours away and is known as PU Secondary School. As well as supporting the Brothers work in both schools, the India Village project also provides funding, to support the work done by the Brothers with Operation Rainbow. This is the name given to the support group that they have set up and developed to provide help for people in Trichy and its surrounding villages who have AIDS / HIV.

The India Village Project has grown in size since it was first introduced into the curriculum at Lawside Academy in Dundee in 2006 and is now embedded into the curriculum at St Paul's RC Academy, Dundee, St. John's RC High School, Dundee and their associated “feeder” primary schools as well as supported by St. Ninian's Primary School in Hamilton, near Glasgow.

The purpose of our visit is to allow our young people to experience the culture in India as well as to allow them to see how our work to raise funds enhances the lives of villagers and school children in India. The young people and staff selected to travel, fully fund the trip themselves to ensure that all monies raised within the schools go towards supporting our 3 projects in India (the village, the schools and operation rainbow).

After a great deal of planning and preparation we completed a journey that included 3 flights and totalled 17 hours and finally arrived safely in Trichy at the Brothers home. We did have one slight issue at Chennai Airport over excess baggage (gifts that we had carried for the people involved with the projects), which resulted in a 2-hour negotiation with Jet Airways. We did eventually succeed in negotiating a smaller price and we and all the baggage arrived in one piece.

The itinerary that the Brothers had planned for our 10-day stay was a very full one and included not only visiting our 3 projects but a number of sightseeing trips, shopping trips and early morning church services. Most of our days began at 7.30am and finished at 10pm. On the days we attended church it was a 5.15am rise for a 5.45am mass.

Our first experience at the house was a wonderful lunch made by the cooks, that work for the Brothers, followed by a walk along the main road to the local temple about 1 mile away from the Brother's house.  We very quickly sparked the interest of the local residents living near to the temple as they came out of their houses to shake our hands and thank us for visiting them.  This was later followed by more Indian food and an informal welcome meeting on the roof of the house where we all had an opportunity to introduce ourselves to all of the Brothers.

On the Wednesday after a sightseeing day to 2 magnificent temples in Trichy we set off in our disco bus on a 2-hour drive to visit for PU where we would meet the pupils of both the primary and secondary schools. These schools are supported by the staff and pupils of St John’s RC High School Dundee and St. Ninian's Primary School in Hamilton.  For those of us who had been before, this was an opportunity to again see the fantastic work which goes on in both of the schools, and to see the continued impact which the support of the India Village Project makes to the schools and the people of the village. 

We were all warmly welcomed in the traditional way at both schools. The students of PU Secondary school provided us with a very entertaining programme of traditional Indian Dance and then our young people gave an outstanding account of themselves at both schools. They completely immersed themselves in engaging with the school children through the medium of our traditional song and dance.

   

Throughout the day our students learnt the value that Indian children place on pens, pencils and education today. They witnessed big classes of up to 60 pupils per class. They saw classes with no teacher present and pupils working hard, unsupervised, to complete their work. They met lots of young people who are dedicated to learning and work hard to pass exams. They were touched by youngsters who have very little and who invited them in to share in their lives for a short period of time.

 

At the end of the school day and before dinner we then went taken for a walk by Br. Johnston around PU village. This was a great opportunity to see where the young people live and to meet some of their families.  We visited the homework club which is run by the Brothers in the evening, and provides 2 hours of extra tuition every night for the children. The Brothers pay for a teacher to support and help the students at this club at a cost of £200 per year.

We then spent the night in the Brothers house at PU, and before we left we got up very early to celebrate Mass at the church in the village and this gave us another opportunity to see some of the children again and to present gifts of sporting equipment to both schools before we set of for Mangamanuthu and St Marcellin High School.

 

The hospitality which we received from both Staff and Pupils, along with the Brothers, in PU was outstanding. They are very keen to have us back soon and would like us to stay longer next time. 

 

At St Marcellin High School in Mangamanuthu, which is the first school that was supported by our project and is looked after by St Paul’s RC Academy Dundee. We were met by Brother Chinna and his students provided us with a guard of honour, as we were led up to the stage, where we again received a very warm welcome by all staff and pupils.

We were introduced to the whole school and were entertained by a fantastic programme of  dance performed  by some of the students. The programme was introduced and led by the students and was delivered in English to help our understanding.

After some refreshments we were then invited to join the pupils in their classrooms and our young people completely immersed themselves again in engaging with the school children through the medium of our traditional song and dance.

 

We were invited to look around the school and were shown the newly finished wing that contains the fully furnished library, science rooms and a few more classrooms.

The head teacher and students are very proud of their new build and are very grateful for the support that we have given to allow them to make the improvements. All young people in the school are timetabled to get access to at least 50 minutes per week in the purpose built classrooms.

   

We were also invited to participated in a competitive game of volleyball which we unfortunately lost. The school has a number of different sports teams (volleyball, throw ball etc.) who compete at all age levels and when there we gave Br. Chinna a donation of funding, received from an anonymous donor, to allow all of the sports teams (65 youngsters) to be kitted out with school sports gear to include tracksuits plus their team strips. We stayed overnight in the Brothers house and it was at this time that our students learned how precious water is to the people of Mangamanuthu. Last year we supported the village by sending them a sum of money to re-bore the well. This well is the only source of water and provides both the schools and the village with its daily supply. While we were at Mangamanuthu the supply of water was cut off along with the electricity for a short period of time. Our students were unable to shower and had to make do with buckets of water in which to wash themselves.

On the second day at St Marcellin we attended a parent’s day in their upstairs hall. The parents who were attending were there to receive an update on the progress made by their youngsters. It was very similar to our own parent’s evenings where the Head Teacher gave an address to the parents. He introduced our group to the parents and informed them of the support that we provided and voiced his appreciation on their behalf for all of the support that we have given to the school over the years. He also informed them that we would be providing funding before we leave to buy new sound equipment for the school to be used during assemblies and student concerts etc.

After we met the parents we were taken for a walk around Mangamanuthu village and we were shown the 8 houses and met some of the occupants that lived in the houses that were built with the help of our funding.

It was lovely to meet the villagers and to see the houses which the project has provided.  It was fantastic to see houses now standing on the ground which was blessed when we were here in 2013.

Initially we had hoped to be able to provide houses for many of the villagers, but we were very naive and it has proved a very difficult task. As well as the increase in price for the building materials it is very difficult and expensive for the villagers to get the necessary documents from the Indian Government to allow them to build a house on their piece of land.

Before travelling to India we were given a sum of money from SS Peter and Paul's PS Dundee and donations from a few people to give to the Brothers to buy goats for some of the villagers in Mangamanuthu.

When we were there we were able to present a few goats to some villagers with the promise that we will transfer the rest of the money as soon as possible when we get home to allow Br. Chinna to buy another 15 goats. These will be given to needy villagers and provide them with fresh milk.

We later visited the children at St James’ Primary School in Mangamanuthu. This school is also supported by the Brothers who teach in the school. Our students did a lot of singing and introduced the youngsters to an action song – Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!  

 

After returning to Trichy and participating in a couple of sightseeing/shopping days we then attended the regular monthly Operation Rainbow meeting on the Sunday. The new Community Hall and Toilet Block is fantastic. It provides the people with a beautiful place to meet and they all enjoy attending and take pride in being a member of the group.

The group have formed a new Marcellin Club and are now responsible for planning and presenting the monthly programmes. Our Group had a lovely day and we were treated to a programme of events organised and delivered by the Marcellin Club. The programme included a traditional Indian dancer as well as youngsters who sang and danced.  

The new school year has just started and at the meeting we were asked to present the children with school books, uniforms and money to pay their fees for the next year. The Brothers also organised and held their first week long summer camp in May this year. It was well attended and provided the attendees with a programme of workshops that everyone present was able to participate in and enjoy throughout the week. This is all only possible because of the dedication and hard work done by the Marist Brothers and the generosity of many people who support the project. The project through the support of 30 people, who make a monthly donation sponsors 30 children from Operation Rainbow with their education expenses.

After lunch we played and spoke to the youngsters and their families. We distributed small gifts of badges and pens to all the participants present. We were at times reduced to tears by the happy attitudes and gratitude shown to us by people who do not have the easiest of lives to lead.

As part of our itinerary we were taken to visit the school at Viyazhanmedu. This is an English medium school set up by the Brothers just half an hour drive away from Trichy. It provides education for primary aged youngsters from many of the surrounding villages and at the moment is not supported by our project. Although in order to get it up and running we did provide funding to allow them to build a kitchen at the back of the school to provide meals for the Brothers who live on the premises in an empty classroom.

Our last day saw the arrival of a pallet of stationery that was provide by the Dundee company of ELANCO

.

A parent who works at this company had mentioned that his daughter was involved with the project and was travelling to India and as a result the company generously donated the paper plus paid for all shipping costs. It was due to arrive 2 days after we arrived, but as our group discovered, Indians work on a different time scale. This paper will be used in all of the projects and the Brothers were extremely touched by the generosity of the group and our supporters.

 

If you would like to donate and support the project please visit our website and complete our standing order and gift aid documents http://indiavillageproject.org/index.html