May - June 2007

Adivasis visit UK to launch Marsh Farm UK


The adivasi UK trip in May 07 was an affair to remember. There were two main objectives. For the adivasi gang to connect with the Marsh Farm Just Change team and launch the MF JC tea at the Saturday market. And to do a special Chembakolli event for students and teachers of the Chembakolli pack.

UK Team

This trip was funded by ActionAid who created the pack with the Gudalur team. Jeya, Bharathan, Chathi and Ayyappan represented AMS in this visit.
The launch announced the arrival of JC tea to Marsh Farm residents with a colourful event. Chathi played his pipe like the magician of Hamlin and crowds turned to look, curious about the sight of Adivasis dancing with Marsh Farmers, JC UK volunteers and ATP Germans aged 2 to 40!


We began building an adivasi hut in the wondrous bluebell woods for the Chembakolli children.


But the rain clouds hovering ominously above warranted a contingency plan and so we built a back up indoors. The kids and all the adults around had an unbelievably good time while experiencing how a house could be built without any expense, without buying a single thing. One bright spark announced “you don’t need money but you do need lots of friends to help” putting in a nutshell the adivasi philosophy which is all about community and collective living. Out of the mouth of babes!

Hut Building

As important as the launch was the tremendous bonding that took place. At the end of our week in MF, the adivasi gang and the Marsh Farm team bid an emotional weepy farewell, both sides enriched and warmed by the encounter which transcended barriers of race, colour, nationality and language.


The kids and teachers learnt a Paniya song, managing to get round a fairly tongue twisting language in the bargain. And played the elephant game. Asked questions and sampled Gudalur banana chips too. Reams could be written about this, but space crunch considerations forbid.

So we will proceed briefly to the other activities we managed to fit in which were sessions with the Oxfam UK team and the Said Business school in Oxford. Interacting with the Charities Advisory Trust, London staff and Founder whose efforts fund us significantly. An afternoon with the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, a dinner with JC London volunteers and meeting some of the UK trustees.

Being hosted and fed by our Marsh Farm friends and Tricia, Nikki and Audrey made a huge difference to the adivasi experience of UK. Stereotypes (which the adivasis didn’t know about anyway!) were destroyed and memories created which will last forever. Warm, friendly, caring and concerned. That’s what the adivasis discovered their new found British friends were like. They continue to talk about it a month n a half later.

Safe Delivery and Motherhood Programme

We have come a long way in our health intervention in the adivasi villages in the last two decades. One of the greatest achievements of the health programme has been the remarkable improvement in the maternal health and care of children under-5. Today, the member of Adivasi Munnetra Sangam can boast of having almost eliminated maternal mortality and of having reduced the infant mortality significantly. Registration of pregnant women and immunisation of mothers and children now are more than 90% - an enviable record given the constraints posed by scattered adivasi villages and other difficult circumstances under which the health care programme is implemented.

As a next step, we are concentrating on issues like increasing the number of institutional deliveries, protect the new born during the critical period of three to five days after delivery, family planning methods and in short, ensuring safe motherhood. We have launched a special programme last month for this purpose and are implementing a series of measures.


Poli of Kotharavayal village (left) and
Badichi of Theppakkadu village (above)
are two of the adivasi mothers who had a safe delivery
at the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital.

Each of the area teams have identified the pregnant women who will need support during pregnancy. They have been assessed and high risk mothers have been assured of emergency transport to the hospital whenever required. All the expenses when they get admitted in the hospital are taken care of, including food for the patient and by-standers if needed. Moreover, protective clothing for the new borns, nutrition supplement for the mothers, continuous support from the field health staff are provided to the women.

Most of these programmes are being implemented with the support of Charities Advisory Trust, UK. The Gudalur Adivasi Hospital procured an Ultra Sound Machine also for diagnosing pregnant women so that complications can be picked up early. In May and June, some friends in India have also supported the hospital expenses of delivery admissions in our hospital by donating to Ashwini through Give India Foundation.

Umbrellas for Adivasi Children


The Good Gifts Catalogue has another interesting gift this year. Umbrellas. As the caption of this gift says,

"Children and grown ups are at risk of catching serious chills, leading to bronchitis and pneumonia if they get soaked in the monsoon rains. Give them an umbrella, produced by a women’s group in Kerala."

In Gudalur valley, heavy rain during the monsoon is one of the biggest hurdles for the adivasi children attending schools regularly. So, this thoughtful gift from many well-wishers in UK was a great boon for the adivasi children. In our meeting, the team decided that umbrellas should be given on a priority basis to school going adivasi children. Moreover, we decided to help a women's group in Kerala making umbrellas by ordering all our umbrellas from them. A group of 10 women affiliated to the Saward's women SHGs in Calicut made 1200 umbrellas and supplied them to Gudalur right in time.

Umbrella Unit

As soon as the umbrellas reached Gudalur, the area teams organised simple events in the area centres to distribute the umbrellas with the help of the local sangam leaders. Here, Marigan and Lakshmi, the leaders in Srimadurai area are giving the umbrellas to the adivasi children in a function organised at the Kanjikolli school.

Marigan gives umbrellas

We hope that these umbrellas will help protect the children from catching serious chills and other illnesses and will be a good motivation for them to continue to go to schools.

We thank Charities Advisory Trust for arranging this gift. You can also gift umbrellas to the adivasi children by clicking this link.

Adivasi Tee Projekt invites adivasis to Germany


An eight member team from Gudalur was invited by our friends in Germany, the Adivasi Tee Projekt, to visit them in May/June.  Cheeru, Sarasu, Janaki, Durga, Suresh, Kannan, K.C.Krishnan and Jayachandran went to Germany - in spite of many hurdles and problems during the preparation stage. Here is a brief report by them on the trip.

"Though there were so many hurdles and problems during our preparation - till the last minute, we were not sure whether all of us will be able to board the flight in time, everything went according to the plan once we landed in Germany.

The Adivasi group and the Adivasi tea project members spent 4 days together to prepare a street play. The theme of the play was about the Magic tea of the Nilgiris and how it can help build relationships between communities and can be used to defeat the evil called 'Globalisation'. The characters were from the well known comic story of Asterix.

Adivasi team and ATP members perform the play on Church day at Koln City Centre

This play was put up on the Church day at Koln. It was a great experience to evolve the play with Barbara who is a theatre person. Everyone enjoyed performing it and we took the opportunity to talk to the public about Adivasi people, our work and about our tea estate. We enjoyed doing the play so much that we ended up doing it five times on the same day.

The group was together the first week when we were preparing the play and the last week at the Church day. We had a stall at the church day and we took turns to be at the stall showing and selling our tea, soap, pepper and other products.

We held exhibitions and organised stalls to display and sell our products.

For two weeks the team was split into two groups. One group traveled in the east and the other one in south. We stayed with the families of the ATP group which helped us to get to know them better and to understand their culture.

Both the groups visited schools, one world shops, old people's homes and disabled people's homes.  We talked about the issues faced by the adivasis and tried to understand their problems. Of course, the common theme was to build a strong relationship directly, to provide solidarity to each other and to mutually help to solve our problems.

Presentation at House of Democracy in Leipzig

All the groups that we talked were really interested about the concept of the just trade. Everyone wanted to know more details about our Just change initiative. K.C.Krishnan said  “I feel, this is the beginning of Just change Germany. I am thrilled to know that so many of them are interested and willing to support us”.

Everyone was touched by the affection and care of our german friends. ATP group had planned the trip so well that we also had  time for sightseeing.  We met almost every family member of the ATP in this trip. It was worth all the troubles we took in arranging this trip. We would like to thank everyone we met in Germany and making this a wonderful experience."

Annual General Body Meeting of Just Change India Producer Company

On June 27, we organised the Annual General Body meeting of Just Change India Producer Company in Gudalur. As always a celebratory event!! Though the AGM only requires 8 people from the four member groups - it is kept open to as many people who can participate. We had close to a 100 people, most of them from Gudalur. We had Kannan a 14 year old boy -son of a JC committee member from SAWARD as well.  He never misses a JC event and is actively involved!! There were people from BVM and SAWARD in Kerala and  we had a team (which included 3 women) who traveled all the way from Orissa - more than 40 hours by train!! Their effort to be be present and participatJC Logoe was a great morale booster.

Sajan and Subhash presented the annual report and financial details of the Company's first year of operations. Their presentation can be downloaded
here. Stan made a presentation on the process involved in starting a Village Consumer Society.

The meeting was a huge success and everyone went away with a strong sense of achievement and even stronger determination to take it forward. Mr. P.N.Nambiar one of the founders of Bhoodhan Vikas Mandal said " Just Change is not a company that satisfies itself only with profits as other companies do. We are a company that aims to bring about a social revolution!"
Thakurdasji - our elder statesman from SVA in Orissa sang a song he composed about Just Change Products and the concept. He said to me at lunch, "the 'market' buys our flowers seeds (sunflower) and sells back to us the oil from the very flowers that we have grown!! Just Change will change all that!". 


Regular monthly updates about our education activities are available in the Vidyodaya Newsletters.


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