Development Matters - July 2008

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July Issue

Text of Development Matters - July 2008

  • Social SecurityIndigenous system of risk management 14

    LivelihoodA Study on Value Chain of Madurai Malli


    New InitiativeKarunai DHAN Nursery and Primary School 5

    MattersDevelopment July 2008

    DHAN Karunai IllamFeature

    A home for distressed childrenA home for distressed children

  • MattersDevelopment Vol. II Issue 6 July 2008

    Centre for Development CommunicationDHAN Foundation18, Pillaiyar Koil Street, S.S. ColonyMadurai - 625 016. Tamil Nadu, INDIATel.: +91-452-4353983, 2610794, 2610805Email: dhanfoundation_tn@airtelmail.inWebsite:

    From the Editors Desk


    1. Genesis of DHAN Karunai Illam - a home for distressed children 1

    2. Karunai DHAN Nursery and Primary School 5

    3. A Study on Value Chain of Madurai Malli 7

    4. Indigenous system of risk management 14

    5. Tourism and Millennium Development Goals 17

    6. Participatory Ecological Restoration 21

    7. Athangudi Tiles Testimony to the Rich Cultural Heritage of Chettinad 28

    8. Kalanjia Meenavar Sangam for Fresh Fish 29

    The focus of Karunai DHAN Nursery and Primary School is on the quality of education and in particular, consideration for the special needs and talents of each child.

    Dear Readers!

    This July issue of Development matters features on DHAN Karunai Illam, a home for depressed children. Jean Catherine Watson, the founder of Karunai Illam has penned down the evolution of the Home. Article on Karunai DHAN nursery and primary school speaks about activity based learning which believes in learning from life. Value chain study in Madurai Malli (Jasmine of Madurai) details the production and marketing dynamics of Madurai Malli. K. P. Bharathi writes about tourism and Millenium Development Goal. He explains about the Endogenous tourism for rural livelihoods which suggests the possibility of learning and scaling up to a wider coverage.

    Our colleague Mahantesha writes about the indigenous system of risk management of Peravoor, a village in Ramnad district. As usual, we look forward for your continued support by contributing articles, comments, critiques, feedback and encouragement to enrich the quality of subsequent issues of this magazine.

    Happy reading!

  • 1Feature

    *Jean Catherine Watson, Founder of the Karunai Illam, Nilakottai, Tamil Nadu.

    Genesis of DHAN Karunai Illam - a home for distressed Children

    Jean Catherine Watson*


    I traveled to India for the first timein 1984 from New Zealand as a tourist.In Kanyakumari, I metMr.Subbiah who was collectingmoney for a local childrens home.Back in New Zealand, I started to senddonations to that orphanage wheneverI could, and I began planning how toreturn to southern India, a place Irecognized as having that extra call.On my third visit three years later, Ipromised Subbiah to support for a neworphanage in his home village ofNilakottai.

    Though many good ideas wentthrough my head, putting them intopractice was another matter. Also, Ihad it in mind that half of the supportwould eventually come from peoplein Nilakottai. We would call ourchildrens home Mahatma KarunaiIllam where Karunai means graceand Illam means home.

    We decided on 10 children: fiveboys and five girls. I asked Subbiahcost it out, set it up and let me know.At this stage he thought approximatelyRs.2,000 a month would covereverything. The amount worked outat about 200 New Zealand dollars. Icould send 200 dollars a month, evenon the dole and then a small wage, Icould just do it. I would not have muchleft to live on but I did not have amortgage so could just manage. InIndia, Rs.2,000 a month had not

    seemed much and it would includeeverything: food, rent, clothing. TheMahatma Karunai Illam wasinaugurated on 25th September1987with seven children and the followingweek three more joined.

    Early in 1988, I had a letter fromHelen (a reporter friend who hadvisited the Illam) saying she wassending an article she had written tothe Dominion the Wellingtonnewspaper. When the article waspublished, I was delighted to receivemoney from interested people, somesent anonymously and some frompeople I knew. One woman asked formy bank account number and she hasbeen faithfully contributing ever since.

    All those circumstances wereconspiring to help us. It was grace.And I have to admit I was high on it. Ifelt we had taken the tide at theflood. Once Subbiah got theorphanage up and running, he wasvery anxious for me to visit India andmeet the children. After my visit tothe home, I wrote a long descriptiveletter, photocopied it and sent one toeach contributor. Thus the idea ofnewsletters evolved.

    Though the home was functioningwell our main worry was the house inwhich the children are accommodated.Rural India is absolutely littered withbroken down houses that were madeof weak cement and bricks. They

    Jean with Chinnapillai in a function

  • 2decay rapidly in the heat and monsoonrains. Large cracks appear in thecement and the structure begins tocrumble; soon the roofs cave in, andeventually there is only a heap ofbricks. I could see the best way todevelop our Illam and secure its futurewas to own freehold property. So in1989, I sold my house in Wellington,to buy a plot of eight acres a kilometerfrom Nilakottai. There was a smallcottage and the rest I hoped wouldprovide vegetables and playing spacefor the children. But they were stillliving in rented accommodation.

    In 1990 The Karunai Illam Trustwas formed in Wellington. The Trustthen raised enough money to buy theIllam building in Bypass Road,Nilakottai, in 1991. With our eightacres, the house, 18 children and adedicated family looking after them,growing goodwill towards us in thetown of Nilakottai, and interested anddedicated supporters, we had a solidfoundation on which to build.

    During 1993, a compound wallwas constructed to protect the childrenin home from the unexpectedtorrential rains and floods. The homewas gradually improving with theneeded infrastructures like toilets,study rooms and other basic needs. Ithappened that soon after the extratroops of children had settled in, wereceived a surprise donation from theNew Zealand High Commission inNew Delhi. I had a letter fromMargaret Hodgetts, the Commissionerat the time. She said she read aboutour Illam in the New ZealandWomans weekly and asked if we werestill in existence. After my reply theirdonation arrived at the Illam. In 1995,we were visited by the New ZealandDeputy High Commissioner to India;a young woman who arrived in an air

    conditioned car to receive a typicalwelcome. So we appreciated thedonations from the Australia and NewZealand Association, a group of wivesof New Zealand and Australiandiplomats in New Delhi who collectmoney for charities in India. In a way,the visit was our first officialrecognition.

    Fortunately we had been grantedmoney in 1996 from the Associationfor Indias Development (AID) andcould drill for water in the Illamcompound. Although the workproceeded efficiently, it was fraughtwith suspense. There was noguarantee of success. But we werelucky; water was accessed and theproblem solved. The Association alsosponsored the repair of one of thepump house roofs. The AID group ismade up of young Indians working orstudying in the United States ofAmerica who contribute to theircountrys future by raising money for

    Indian non government organizationsthat are helping the poor.

    In February 1998, the NewZealand High Commission gave us agrant to build a cowshed. It seemedvery appropriate, New Zealand beinga country known for its farming. I stillfollow the Vedanta Philosophy and itseems to me that there is an elementof the miraculous in our progress. Theconnection between the Illam andNew Zealand supporters is as strongas ever. Communication is regular andfrequent. The Illam too grew graduallywith the number of students and theirstudies. Three children have evengraduated and obtained professionaltraining.

    All went well for 20 years, thenin 2007 the relationship betweenKarunai Illam Trust New Zealand andthe NGO Mahatma Karunai Illam fellapart and, to cut a long story short, weasked DHAN to take over

    In 1992 there was a floodwhich broke an eight-year-longdrought, as though trying tomake up for years of neglect.At that stage, we had no wallaround the Illam compound, soflood waters poured throughthe building.

    In 1997 there was anotherflood in and around Nilakottai;but, because we had the wall,the water did not come into theIllam building. In 1996, theopposite problem hadoccurred, a terrible watershortage. A new bore well wassunk in the Illam compound in1996 to solve the problem.

    Floods and water scarcity in our home

  • 3management of the Illam and nowhave a rewarding partnership withthem. So over the years step by stepthe Illam has grown to what it is todayand the establishment which startedas 10 children in a one room shackwith no facilities has become aneducation complex.

    Home Today

    The home now consists of severalbuildings. The original Illam building,which provides a childfriendly livingarea housing 31 girls and the womancare-giver, and provides two rooms foroverseas volunteers, is on the outskirtsof the town. Across the road, we havea building which houses a modelschool with 25 pupils on the groundfloor and a community college on thefirst floor. A kilometer from the Illam,we have a plot of land where we havebuilt a neat cottage for 17 boys andtheir caregiver. Vegetables for Illamsuse are grown on the land. Ourchildren come from families that areso poor they cant afford to send theirchildren to school. Some of themcome from isolated places where thereis no school or a school that teachesearly standards only. Many are t