Our fourth Day Care Centre opened in the Irular community of Puliyur village (Chengalpattu District) on Saturday September 12th 2020. The centre is serving children from 15 families who live in the village, who have only been able to attend school occasionally until now.
We launched our first Day Care Centre in Panjartheerthi in 2014, followed by a second one in 2016 and a third in 2017 in Poonjeri. Created in a house or other simple building, the centres employ a cook and care giver who gives the children breakfast each morning, checks their personal cleanliness and school uniforms and sends them to school. In parallel, we open a tuition centre in the same building, run by a teacher, who welcomes the same children after school for extra teaching sessions.
The small Irula community of Puliyur is a village about 5 km away from Tirukalikundram. Last year, we were asked by Menaga, a young woman who had attended our tuition centre in Poonjeri when she was a child, to open a new centre there. Menaga had married and went to live with her husband in Puliyur where she saw the difficult conditions the village children faced.
Malar Trust India staff visited the site in January and spoke to the principal of the local primary school. The principal encouraged the immediate start of the project, explaining that tribal children only occasionally attended school, often suffering from malnutrition and wearing scruffy uniforms.
We employed Menaga to run the centre and hired Revathi, a college graduate and mother of a disabled child, to teach at the afternoon tuition centre. Revathi had been abandoned by her husband, and was known to Malar Trust’s disability project manager.
Pending the construction of a proper structure, we started the centre in the open air, by the side of the road. Having bought initial equipment – a field kitchen, gas cylinder, pots, plates and glasses – the centre opened in early February.
Revathi gave Menaga, who had previously only cooked on open fires, a two-day crash course in how to cook on a gas fire. Menaga’s experience is typical of those living in Irula communities and illustrates the difficulties they face every day.
After a long pause due to the Covid epidemic, during which we limited ourselves to supplying the villagers with rice, construction work on a permanent structure next to Menaga’s home began at the end of August. The new centre was officially opened on 12 September
As with all our day care centres, children are enrolled in the program under two conditions: they must go to school regularly, and they must attend Malar Trust after-school care in the afternoon. Our three existing centres have delivered some great results, vastly increasing children’s attendance at school and their ability to learn. We hope that we will deliver the same outcomes for the children of Puliyur.