Adivasi Tee Projekt completes a Decade !
One of the important support groups of AMS has been the 'Adivasi Tee Projekt' (ATP) in Germany. A committed group of over 30 german youth are part of ATP which tries to support the adivasis of Gudalur valley through various ways. Through well planned trips to Germany and Gudalur, members of AMS and ATP are regularly in touch with each other.
So, it was a great news to know that ATP is planning to celebrate their 10th year anniversary during the first week of October. We have chosen two of our team members to represent us in the ATP celebrations. Radhakrishnan and Lalitha will be travelling to Germany during the last week of September and participate in the functions there. Stan and Mari will also be attending the events. More about the actual celebrations in the future issue of the newsletter.
Evaluation of our Education activities conducted
From 2000 onwards, the education activities conducted through Vidyodaya have become extensive. With the financial assistance of Sir Ratan Tata Trust in Mumbai, we have started a systematic intervention at the village level. There are about 14 Tuition Centres in different villages, providing supplementary education to the school going adivasi children. There is a mobile library, which has established Village Libraries in many villages. Eight of our adivasi youth have been trained as Education Co-ordinators who are documenting the educational status of the villages periodically. Most importantly, we have over 170 Village Education Workers whose main responsibility is to take the children from the village (often situated in forests) to the school and back. Through such innovative activities, the enrollment of adivasi children in different schools in the region has shot up, and significantly the drop-out has come down. Vidyodaya school, of course, is going strong with a never-before number of new admissions during this year.
We are at present consolidating these activities and have prepared a plan for the next three years. As part of this, an Evaluation of our education intervention was conducted in April. Ms.Krishna Iyer and Mr.Subham Singh, two freelance consultants were part of the evaluation team. The team has appreciated the focus of our education activities and highlighted the active involvement of AMS and the adivasi community in the affairs of Vidyodaya. They have identified the areas that need our attention during the next three years like formalising the training curriculum, financial sustainability of Vidyodaya etc. We will be working on these in the coming years.
Research on Health accessing behaviour and costs incurred by adivasis
Dr.Devadasan, or popularly known as Deva, is currently doing his Ph.D. in the Tropical Institute at Antwerp, Belgium. His special interest is Health Insurance. As part of his doctoral thesis, he is doing a research on the health accessing behaviour of adivasis, the impact of health insurance on it and the costs incurred by an adivasi family towards their health needs.
While we have detailed information about the costs incurred by ASHWINI for providing comprehensive health care to the AMS members, this research will give a fairly accurate idea about the costs incurred by families - even when they are treating themselves at home or when they go to other hospitals or medical practitioners. We are trying to estimate the hidden costs like loss of wages due to illness (both to the patient and to the person helping the patient), travel costs, etc.
In this survey, we plan to closely monitor about 500 adivasi families for one year and scientifically document the health status of these families. The most interesting feature of this research is that over 100 adivasis (almost all of them are school drop-outs, some of them even illiterate) will be in-charge of the data collection and field level monitoring. Five adivasi youth will assist, supervise and train these data collectors. Eswaran, our health animator will be the overall coordinator for this research, while Dr.Bharat is providing the necessary technical inputs and support to the research team. The research team in this photograph (from left) : Kathiravan, Vijaykumar, Manoharan, Eswaran, Dr.Bharat, Saraswathi, Kumar, Badichi, Dr.Deva and Janardhanan
Another important initiative of AMS during the last six months has been the concept of 'Sangam Animators'. As most of the activists of AMS who were part of the initial days of sangam formation started handling responsibilities in our institutions, they were finding it difficult to have intensive interaction with the Sangam Leaders on governance issues. A need to have a separate group to concentrate on building the Governance structure for AMS and its development institutions was felt. After many discussions, eight of the animators were assigned this responsibility and are called 'Sangam Animators'.
This team has started visiting various villages and is meeting the sangam leaders of AMS. At one level, some of the senior adivasi staff have assumed the managerial responsibilities in our institutions, be it in the hospital, school, estate, marketing societies or in the central office. And, at another level, these sangam animators are trying to establish a system of governance by involving the leaders from within the community. This will ensure that the AMS movement will be community centred and all the institutions under the umbrella of AMS will continue to be responsive and accountable to the adivasi community.
Tholan found in Trichur !
Tholan, a Paniya boy from Kotharavayal village near Gudalur was part of a group from his village that went to Sabarimala in Kerala in December 2003. After visiting the temple, the group was returning to Gudalur and on its way stopped at Trichur to see another temple. Tholan waited outside the temple while the others went inside. But, when everyone came out of the temple, Tholan was missing. As Tholan is slightly mentally challenged and he could not talk properly, the group frantically searched for him. But, no sign of Tholan. After spending two days searching him in Trichur, the team returned to Gudalur without him. Then, the Gudalur team of AMS sent some more people looking for him, complained to the police in Kerala and sent one of his photographs available with us. For more than four months, there was no news of him.
One fine morning in May, Manu Jose (a Drama artist, who had earlier trained our team members on street theatre and was instrumental in documenting our songs in cassettes - also, Anita's husband), called from Trichur to say that he found someone near Trichur who looks like someone from Gudalur area, but not able to talk. When we explained to him about Tholan, Manu realised that it must be Tholan. Immediately, two adivasi youth left for Trichur. Manu had meanwhile helped him take bath and gave him food. Tholan was little afraid initially. But, Manu had a CD with photographs of many adivasi people and our villages in Gudalur area, which he showed to Tholan. Some photographs seemed to evoke some changes in him and he was comfortable with Manu after that.
By that night, Tholan was brought back to Kotharavayal. Everyone was amazed how he could be spotted by Manu in that big city of Kerala and thanked him for immediately calling AMS office to enquire ! Tholan is well now.
Insurance Policy with Royal Sundaram renewed
All the AMS members are covered under a health insurance scheme. Just to recall, we started an innovative health insurance scheme for all our sangam members in 1992. We initiated the scheme in partnership with the New India Assurance Company (a public sector undertaking) and ran the scheme for 10 years. When NIAC was not very keen to continue the policy as per our requirements, we approached the Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company Ltd, a Private company. In May 2003, we launched a special policy called 'Tribal Health Shield' to suit the health requirements of our community for one year. As this policy was getting expired in May this year, we approached Royal Sundaram for renewal.
The officials of Royal Sundaram visited our hospital in May for negotiations. They were quite happy about this partnership and were keen to renew the policy. Some of our suggestions have been incorporated in the modified policy. The renewed policy came into force on May 19th, and will be in effect for another year.
For more details about the health insurance programme, please visit the website of ASHWINI.
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