Social and Economic Projects

Day 4 – Monday 2 March 2009

Visits to Two of Chennai’s Social and Economic Projects
Breakfast is early this morning – after a detailed briefing we are off to a local Handicapped Children’s Project that offers safe housing to abandoned children – there are babies through to 16 year olds here. The Founder and the Managing Trustee is a man who is only 24 years of age. He is well qualified. He was inspired to pursue his mission when his younger brother died aged 13 years. He commenced his work before the age of 20 and he has now created a social project that houses over ninety young people. He has a staff of nurses, clinicians, teachers and care staff. Most of his resources come from the local area. Seemingly fostering is not an option – Most people only want “perfect” kids.

Key facts of the activities:

The Project provides Shelter and daily care; Crisis intervention by recuing children off the streets, Professional therapy, Special education training, Psychiatric treatment, Home based support, Medical Camps, and creating awareness on Mental Health issues. There are twenty three staff members plus two part time staff members. For my part I was nervous to visit this project but I soon became relaxed and I was left with utter admiration for the hard work and dedication of the staff and trustees of this organisation. We were offered an amazing lunch by the project – the hospitality that they showered on us was humbling and I felt privileged to be here….

The project is the only recognised such organisation in Tamil Nadu. The challenges that they have defined are to increase human resources, address the problems of financial instability and to build more accommodation which will address problems of space constraints.
The Managing Trustee was determined that preventative work should be a priority for the future. I was just shocked at the level of kids – handicapped or other – being dumped on the streets. It was so sad.

Our second visit of the day was a complete contrast we visited the Rural Innovations Network – situated in the relatively plush surrounds of a University Institute. Three representatives from the network of agencies presented information on their projects: The founder of RIN is an entrepreneur who advises start up businesses, the second is an entrepreneur who looks for manufacturing opportunities. The latter speaker showed interest in a bag that I purchased at the TKK Addictions Hospital in Chennai. It was made out of Banana Leaf Fibre – processed by his company. He was looking for export opportunities and I wonder whether Tradecraft in Gateshead might be interested in such products?

RIN provides seed funding and mentoring and promotes ways to reach the markets in the quickest possible time … (perhaps they could help us!) They help to scale up innovations through partnerships with those institutions that have a rural presence in rural India. They make innovations accessible to rural farmers in selected areas of Tamil Nadu or direct retail channels and they provide innovators with services such as engineering and product design, fabrication, field trials so as to build better new products.

The founder has worked with hundreds of innovations and innovators. He was awarded the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002 (One in a Million!) It was clear that this project provides knowledge, funds technology exchange, networking and lots of encouragement. I was really impressed with it. It was a “joined-up” project – and I wished that we had more such projects in the United Kingdom.

It was my pleasure to propose an official vote of thanks to the Project staff for their kind hospitality – the honour of thanking our hosts is taken by members of our group in turn. I was privileged to carry out this function today and my thanks were heart-felt.

I had been very apprehensive at the start of the day – I really did not want to visit the Children’s Project but I am glad I overcame my feelings. I ventured out of my comfort zone by visiting this project.

Dinner was taken at a very pleasant restaurant in leafy Chennai. We were joined by six distinguished guests from the City. I was allowed to invite BB to the meal and she knew one of the other guests. She was an experienced Business Advisor and most of the meal was spent with these two guests – though we were joined by a Third Sector Governance Trainer for some of the meal. The evening was very special and once again I learned much. BB’s son – a newly graduated architect arrived to collect his mother – and he enjoyed coffee with us. He seemed a bright young man who will probably be very successful in his field of work. With a Mother holding an M Phil and Father with an MBA he has a good chance! We arrived back late to the Hotel and after attending to some administrative tasks I rolled into bed and was asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow!

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