Having safely arrived from Tamil Nadu with Tom, the team quickly settled into the routines of receiving visitors and going off to different places, searching out needs and good news stories.
Today, Friday, the team of three went off again with Tom to a wonderful place called Neyyardam – beautiful scenery and lots of HHI work to see. They got back in the dark, just time for dinner and review before bed. “Well that was a successful day and we got back home in the dark” - as quick as flash “not really, we set off in daylight.” Edmund likes to fill the day and he succeeds, after all the purpose of the team’s visit is to meet beneficiaries, monitor the work, check funds are used as expected and look out for new opportunities to help. However, he seems to be relenting a bit – they were allowed ten minute relaxation after lunch!
So, what is the good news? The team saw a number of people HHI support and dropped into two women’s craft groups and towards the end of the day they visited two credit unions. In fact the day was an all women day, which is quite useful when you have a Soroptimist with you. Their motto is Empowerment, Education and Enabling women and the team saw a lot of that today.
On arriving at Neyyardam our intrepid team were welcomed by Pastor Wilson who co-ordinates a lot of HHI work in the area, as well as his own charity responsibilities. Refreshed by a cup of tea, Tom went to the Neyyardam Craft Centre, just along the road from the house. The team went with Pastor Wilson to meet a craft group – Widows Empowerment Project - a few miles away. The women have a sewing section to make garments, scarves and bags out of Indian cotton or silk. The items are sold in a shop alongside the centre were Tom had gone. This craft centre also make bead necklaces, both Edmund and Chris bought some to sell back home – Carol bought some too. From here the team went off to see a new water harvesting tank, installed for a poor widow who has no access to water. Though much larger and made of lined concrete, it is like a water butt collecting rainwater for the garden back home. Apart from capacity the main difference is a water filter system is used to make the rainwater drinkable. The tank was getting its finishing touches, however the team walked passed one that had been in operation for some time, benefiting a family.
All back to Pastor Wilson’s house for lunch and to meet up again with Tom. The view from Pastor Wilson’s balcony is best described as stunning. A reservoir of water as far as the eyes can see, lined with lush green foliage with a backdrop of mountains. Lunch was taken on the balcony overlooking this picture postcard view. One thing about this visit is the hospitality and fine food the team receive wherever they go. It was straight after lunch when the team had 10 minutes rest. In the distance they could hear the growling lions living on one of the islands in the reservoir. This is a tourist attraction and there does seem to be many non Indian people about, hardly surprising given how beautiful the scenery is. The Neyardam Craft Centre is just a short walk away and the shop takes up part of the building. Everyone bought something, a good way to support the women who work there. The team walked around the craft centre, women were painting leaves, packaging them up or making wrist bands. It happened to be pay day and Tom described a system they have called ‘chitties’. Each pay day, everyone pays in to a pool and the money collected is given to one of the women. Over time each one will receive this bonus.
The team went up into the nearby village to visit some of the ‘helps’. Firstly, to see Shorbana who has breast cancer. HHI have helped her with medicine costs for some years now. Then, a short walk to visit Sindhu who has a skin condition which is very itchy, painful – and nasty! HHI fund her medication and there is a lot of improvement in her condition; though it sometimes flares up. The day was now drawing to a close but there was just enough daylight time to visit two credit unions. Here the team received lots of good news stories. The first union at Mahima consisted of 11 women who were present, plus 5 students who use the credit union to save for their tuition (see photograph). This union started in June 2016 and the women have benefited from low interest bank loans based on their savings record. Recently some of the women have received the equivalent of about 200 pound loans and here are some of their successes…
Three of the women bought two goats each and in two cases they now have four.
Two were paying to educate their children at degree level.
One has bought a young calf which is ‘doing well’.
One has bought a sewing machine and makes about 30 pounds per month.
Those who take a loan pay very low interest and clear the debt within two years. Next, the team visited Senega Tigum credit union. Here the women were more educated and better off, but they still need the financial help they get from this system. Another 11 women at this group and as expected there was a President, a Secretary and a Treasurer; all the women have a pass book. This union saves more per week and consequently the loans are higher at 400 pounds. Some good news stories from here:
One woman bought a second hand tuk tuk (or autoric if you are posh), enabling her husband to make about 60 pounds per month.
Another bought a photocopier and her takings amount to over 100 pounds per month.
One bought a cow, yielding 13 litres of milk a day and has also calved.
Again, one bought a sewing machine and makes 30 pounds per month.
HHI pays for 4 animators, we would call them administrators, to oversee 160 unions in all – nearly 2000 women. For 50 pounds a month HHI could employ another animator to manage another 20 unions. 500 women and their families receiving financial help – now that is empowerment.
Tomorrow the team are off to Trivandrum, watch out for an update on the website – hopefully!