80,000 people live in this rugged terrain in Tamil Nadu, 37 miles from Vellore. Some of the villages are accessible only by dirt tracks; many are accessible by road. The hilly terrain makes access to healthcare and other facilities difficult.
The people of this particular area are known as ‘Malayalis’ meaning ‘people of the hills’. Their history, extreme poverty and poor road access mean that their health, literacy and development indicators are tragically low, compared to those living on the plains. Most people are small-scale subsistence farmers or land labourers. Due to poor conditions, many migrate to find seasonal farming work in nearby districts, taking the children with them who then miss school for extended periods.
The last decade has seen significant destruction of the forest for grazing of domestic animals, and cultivation of produce for multinational companies. Profits are made by middle men, using up valuable land for the benefit of others and not the tribal people. The women and children in this area are particularly vulnerable, with inadequate nutrition, poor access to education, and limited access to healthcare.
CMC’s Community Health and Development team (CHAD) are working in this area to improve health and provide development opportunities. However, they desperately need funds to make their vision for these people to live a healthy and productive life, in harmony with nature, a reality.
Chronic malnutrition, TB, malaria, diabetes, high blood pressure, leprosy, HIV and thalassaemia are big problems along with infections, orthopaedic issues and alcoholism. CMC provides mobile clinics to the most accessible villages. They have been working in four villages helping villagers to build toilets and install clean water supplies. They are also running evening study centres and summer camps for the children as well as setting up mushroom cultivation, pig and fish farming. Providing sustainable income for the young people so they are not tempted to migrate elsewhere is a particular need. As part of this, CMC are training young people from the villages in health care to then work in their local communities increasing health awareness and providing a much needed link with the hospital team.
Friends of Vellore are currently funding two students from the Jawadhi Hills for the duration of their nursing training and ten health workers. In 2018, the cost of this came to £12,394, and we anticipate having a similar annual spend for the next ten years. £12,394 comprised £943 for one year’s tuition and accommodation for each of the two students studying nursing and £1051 for a year’s salary for each health worker.
Young people in this region struggle to apply to college. They have difficulties filling in forms and finding grants and in addition, the process works against them. They only receive post every two weeks and by the time they’ve heard they’ve got a place they’ve missed the acceptance deadline! Another barrier is that some of the parents don’t want their children to enrol in further studies. So, CMC is helping young people to apply for courses and find funds to help with the cost. Since this initiative began, 62 students have joined the scheme. Of these, 26 have completed the course. 13 students are now working in CMC and four in the Jawadhi Hills. We are funding Jeva and Radha who are now in the second year of their nursing training.
The health workers are young people from the Jawadhi Hills who are working in their local communities to promote health and provide a link between the community and CMC’s Community Health and Development team. They completed their initial training in the autumn last year and are now working in the villages in the Jawadhi Hills.
CMC are unable to use their clinic in the Jawadhi Hills effectively because overnight facilities for staff are not available and the journey time from CMC is three hours each way. Having somewhere for people to live at the health centre is the key to further development, however, the land needs to be purchased first. After much waiting, CMC has heard that the land they want to purchase for a clinic and residential accommodation for hospital staff is now available for sale at a cost of 2 Crores (approx. £216,000). CMC is committed to paying for this. However, they first need to buy additional land to widen the access road. So, they are currently making enquiries about this. Please pray that it will be possible for them to purchase the additional access strip of land.
Please consider whether funding our health workers and trainee nurses from the Jawadhi Hills is something you’d like to be part of. You can donate here.
In November 2016 Dr Koppada RajaRatnam, one of our Trustees who is leading on Jawadhi Hills for Friends of Vellore UK, visited the area to see how the money we raise might be best used. You can read his report here.