On our first day in Kalmunai, Anthony took us to the village of Malwatha where we saw a preschool class in progress. We were greeted with many good mornings from the children who were dressed neatly in their uniforms and Rose Charities ties. Next door, the mothers of the children were also in school, learning their own trade involving design and sewing. The preschool gives many of these young mothers the opportunity to not only educate their children but to develop useful skills. The most significant impact of this program is the importance of education which is instilled in both mothers and children.
We’ve started a combination of traditional English classes and computer classes with the Rose staff. A class in the morning with all of the staff is delivered in the classroom. We then have two separate computer classes with groups of 6-7 in the afternoon using the Knowledge One program. So far, we’ve covered material on phone and email etiquette, practicing phone conversations and reading out loud in class. It took a couple days to determine which staff members were intermediate and which were beginners. One thing is for sure, despite the varying levels, ALL of the staff here are extremely keen to learn and improve their English skills. Sonia has a hard time picking a volunteer in class because everyone puts their hand up! She is excited to teach such eager students. Amanda on the other hand has taken up Tamil; language exchange!
Women’s Micro-credit Meeting
On Wednesday afternoon we attended a monthly women’s micro-credit meeting. Some women wore turquoise saris, representing the village of Natpaddimunai while others wore pink saris, representing the villages of Pandiruppu, Neelavanai and Veeracholai. The sari colors act as a unifying symbol among women of the same village, creating a large support system . At the meeting the women discussed issues around their loans and made loan payments. Many women were eager to apply for a bank loan and used the meeting to find others that were willing to co-sign with them. It was interesting to see women from different areas, who normally would not meet, band together in order to achieve economic independence.
We met a long time successful loan recipient that ran her own fishing business. With the loans she was able to slowly build up her capital and buy a boat and large fishing nets. Unfortunately, her boat and fishing nets were lost in the recent floods, however that didn’t seem to diminish her strong entrepreneurial spirit.
We also met a woman in her early twenties who had enrolled in a sewing class through Rose’s vocational training program. After graduating, she successfully applied for a micro credit loan and bought a sewing machine to start her own business. She now has enough credit to apply for a private bank loan that will enable her to expand her business. Though she is young she is a leader within the women’s group.
On Thursday we attended another women’s microcredit group in Annamalai district. Here, we saw a preschool that was initiated and built by the local women’s group in order to provide their children with a preschool education. We found that this group had similar concerns to the women in Natpaddimunai, creating groups of ten in order to apply for loans. Additionally, the women talked about their concern for their children’s education as their local school was short teachers. One woman volunteered to go and speak to the principal about their collective concerns.
Our first few days in Kalmunai have been very rewarding, we are so impressed at how much Rose is embedded in the community and how micro credit is the driving force of the organization. Most of the women who receive loans from micro credit have children involved in RCSL’s preschool, primary and secondary educational enrichment programs. As a result, these meetings are a place for women to come and not only talk about loans and their business, but also the needs of their children and families.
We are looking forward the girls’ sports meet on April 11th and will update you on all of the fun activities. Sonia is planning to play her first cricket game!