Twoandahalfweeks in India – field visit to MGR Nagar, Karamadei and housing project

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One of our field visits has taken place on 9th April 2014 at MGR Nagar, Tholampalayam.
Here, in the very rural areas in Tamil Nadu just a very few years ago the families were unorganized and lived in Purambokku land which belongs to the government. They lived in thatched huts – with very little hope to have a better life in future. The huge lack of education, income and infrastructure facilities seemed to be endless.

But today the world looks much better to them: With the intervention of the GSHEC, supported by the Karl Kübel Stiftung (a German foundation that cares about families and children) and the BMZ (the ministry of international collaboration, Germany) many things have changed.
With their help the community was organized into groups which support each other to build houses and to set up 3 women self help groups (SHG). The SHGs were provided with basic capacity and leadership trainings and gained knowledge and awareness on how to get financial support from the government – something they could not have managed by themselves only before.
The SHG women approached the district collector and availed family cards and houses (pattas) on their name as well as funds and economic activity loans (of Rs. 1.4 lakh). The children began to attend school and today all children respond well to education.
The project has enabled 12 families so far to construct tiled houses and 6 families to construct concrete houses through the governmental housing scheme. All 45 families in this village today aim to live in houses that are robust and safe.
The new houses have also rainwater harvest tanks so that the water quality has raised and provide safe drinking water.
In average a new house costs around 800 EUR. 10- 15% of this sum is to be paid by the family itself – within their SHGs micro finance credits to fair conditions are given. Once the first families have paid back, the next families can benefit from a credit. There is a simple reason behind: The credit money is limited. So, the village community decides who will be the next to receive a new building. It will still take some years unless the entire village has new houses, but the people there work for it – day by day.
We have talked to a widow with three sons, too. There are two rooms now, one for her sons. The cooking takes place outside – under a covered part of the veranda. There is fresh water available – and a clean environment around.

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Waste reduction and dignity
The foot paths and a proper drainage make life easier. In the area there have been constructed also 18 latrines that can be used by all habitants. So, washing and toilet facilities have achieved a much higher hygiene standard as before.
The community enjoys the pleasant environment. When we walk through the village and talk to people, it is obvious – here the huge waste issue which is harming that much all over India is taking a good direction.
The people are very proud of what they have reached.

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With these basics in place people start now to care much more about health and health prevention. The pregnant women adopt immunization for them and their infant children. They are very keen to learn more about health, nutrition and care in general.

Sure, there are still a lot of problems – e.g. finding a regular income, especially when the Monsun period takes place – 3 months every year. Most families rear goats and cows through which they can ensure a basic income. Women mostly try to get an additional income through casual labour.

But, without doubt, the project launched here is on a really good way. The village people know more than anyone else how a better life can look. I am sure they will give their best to go ahead.

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