Letter from Andrew – a special appeal

Hi everyone,

‘Village to Village’ is a growing theme of Jeevika’s work – the village community of Hampton Wick on the river here, to the villages of Orissa and Tamil Nadu where our Indian NGO partners deliver the projects that we plan and get funding for.

Hampton Wick Festival

Well … Sunday 4th August saw Hampton Wick’s high street cleared of traffic to allow the thousands of Prudential RideLondon cyclists to sweep past over Kingston Bridge. The whole street was given over to the brand new Hampton Wick Festival, which looks like being an annual fixture from now. Courtesy of Pyush Patel the postmaster, Jeevika set up its stall straight outside the Post Office: thanks to Christine, Nadia, Leila and others for their support – especially on the Grand Parade. 

We marched under our tall JEEVIKA banner, along with King Henry VIII and his courtiers representing Historic Poyal Palaces, the glittering bee-lady all in gold on stilts, a penny-farthing and a classic Rolls-Royce, two alarmingly real gorillas on a motor-bike and side-car– you name it! The street and the Crafts Fair were thronged with pedestrians from noon to dusk.  Many congratulations to Carol Duke and Mark Butler for making it all happen through the Hampton Wick Association.

Meanwhile at the India end, our projects continue to be focused on village communities – whether it be the 70 families on Barhampur island in Orissa’s Chilika Lake sea lagoon with their needs for integrated water & sanitation plus income generation from crab & prawn cultivation, or those around Namakkal and Trichy in the heart of Tamil Nadu where women’s needs for security from domestic violence and for access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care are being addressed by our new ‘Watchdog Committees.’ 

Judith and Andrew, during their March visits to monitor existing NGO partnerships, also attended the capacity building Partners Workshop in Auroville near Pondicherry: this wonderful campus with its appropriate technology institutes is an extended village in itself.

To help meet the needs of such communities we of course  have to raise funding for our Indian project costs  – our recent  Impact  Assessment study shows  that for every £1 invested through our  village income-generation projects, at least £3 of income is  generated by the villagers.   

But in order to create, fund and deliver those projects, we also have to cover our irreducible overhead expenses back here. We stay small here – a 1-room office and 3 part-paid staff – but through our Indian NGO partners and the villages they serve, our impact in India is multiplied. Our aim here is for at least half of our ‘human resource’ to be volunteers (and by the way, in this time of highly-paid charity chiefs, all my own time is voluntary too!).  So, will you please help us with a donation now

That’s all for now!

Andrew Redpath Jeevika Trust

Andrew Redpath, Executive Director

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A Positive Match

Kumar and Ellavarasi (names changed) stand behind their cart laden with vegetables at the weekly farmers’ market and call out to passing customers. Their son, a toddler, plays with his toys nearby, as the couple are busy marketing their stock of tomatoes, gourd and pumpkins.

It has been a profitable day and the couple look forward to buying some essentials for their home and, if money is left over, some tasty treats which their son will enjoy. They are like any other young couple in their 20s living in the rural hinterlands of Tamil Nadu, struggling to eke out a living, with one key difference none of their fellow vendors or their customers are aware of: they are both HIV-positive.

Tamil MarriageKumar first met Ellavarasi in 2006 at a meeting which brought together People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) in the Trichy District.  Kumar was a supervisor in a local manufacturing unit and Ellavarasi was a young widow still coming to terms with her husband’s untimely death. Both were struggling to cope with a devastating disease that had infected and impacted them physically, emotionally and socially.

During the meeting, several participants shared their experiences of living with HIV and the challenges they faced in dealing with the disease on a day-to-day basis. Women, in particular, have to deal with isolation and discrimination from their families and neighbours and, worse, economic instability after their husband’s death. There is no-one with whom they can share their concerns and anxieties and they often became sexual prey for other men.

Mithra Foundation – Jeevika’s organisational partner in Trichy, Tamil Nadu – provides livelihood opportunities and enhances social and economic well being of PLWHAs, played matchmaker for Ellavarasi and Kumar.  Mithra, during its monthly meetings with PLWHAs stresses the importance of positive living and proposed marriage as a solution to loneliness and stigma faced by HIV-positive individuals. Marriage with a fellow HIV-carrier provides not just companionship, but also a practical base for dealing with the illness, including mutual monitoring of medication and sharing the cost of treatment.

Mithra Foundation CandlesPLWHAs need love, care and support from their spouses and most importantly someone to take care of their physical and emotional needs and give them the strength to face life’s adversities,” said Mr Peter Nayagam, who heads Mithra Foundation.

Kumar’s family were initially apprehensive about his marriage to an HIV-positive woman, but they have since come around with counselling, and have accepted Ellavarasi.

We caution both men and women with HIV to reveal their positive status and find a partner who is also infected. They understand the trials and tribulations of being HIV positive and are likely to be more supportive and understanding,” says Mr Nayagam.

Encouraged by the marriage of Kumar and Ellavarasi, Mithra has since set up an informal marriage bureau and succeeded in uniting eight more couples with HIV status.

It hasn’t been easy for Mithra to find potential partners for HIV-positive individuals who want to marry. Opposition from family and community is common and widows with children find it more difficult to find a partner. Men do not want to take responsibility for somebody else’s children, especially if they are HIV-positive.

Kumar and Ellavarasi are members of Mithra’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) for PLWHAs and both also engage in votive candle-making which, together with other SHGs, are able to make a small amount of income selling their candles to the local temples and churches. The couple recently received a revolving fund of Rs5,000 (approx. £53) from Mithra (sponsored by Jeevika) and a bank loan of Rs10,000 (approx. £106) and utilised the amount to engage in vegetable vending. Their household income is now approximately Rs4,000 (£43) per month and growing.

Both Kumar and Ellavarasi are on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (a medication provided to HIV-positive individuals to boost their immunity levels) and often fall ill due to opportunistic infections, but their cloud has a silver lining: their two-and-a-half-year-old son, who is the apple of their eye, is free from the HIV virus.


Dedicate your money to supporting the future happiness of couples like Kumar and Ellavarasi today

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Seminar on the future of Indian village development in partnership with South Asia Studies, Oxford University

“For India to change to industrialism is to court disaster.” Mohandas Gandhi

Jeevika Trust draws inspiration for its mission to tackle the roots of poverty in India by revitalizing rural communities through inclusive, harmonious sustainable development from the economic philosophy of Gandhi and E.F. Schumacher (For an article on Gandhi’s influence on Schumacher click here).

Gandhi and child

However, in the face of India’s rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, and the assertion that this is the only route out of poverty for India’s rural masses (for example, leading Indian politician P. Chidhambaram’s forecast is to get of 85% of India’s population into cities), we need to question and re- validate our  ‘village livelihood’ values and mission.

South Asia Studies Partnership

On November 13th, as part of this process, we are planning to collaborate with Oxford University’s South Asia Studies Programme on a symposium to explore whether urbanisation is the only route out of poverty for India’s 600,000 villages.

Our plan is to set out two contrasting models of development – large scale urbanisation and industrialisation vs decentralised rural development. We will then look at key issues and Indian and international case studies associated with both models, and finally, explore solutions to urban and rural poverty and the respective roles of government, business and NGOs.

Oxford University

Join the dialogue at Wolfson College in November

This event will bring together Jeevika and South Asia Institute’s partners and supporters at Wolfson College’s new auditorium on 13 November 2013. We very much hope you will be able to join this discussion. Keep an eye out on our website, social media and JeeNews for updates and details.

To support our forward thinking projects in village India please give now

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