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Work in Tribal Villages

Tribal (Adivasi) populations in India are protected by law, but not necessarily in practice. As a result of “development”, globalization, and discrimination, many tribals have lost their traditional ways of living, leaving them mired in poverty. Karukambakkam is a relocated tribal village near Katchur of about one hundred fifty families living in huts. Its people do not have a tradition of agriculture, and as a result have resorted to catching rabbits, rats, and snakes in order to eat. They also fish in small nearby lakes, catching fish and turtles. When animals are scarce, the people starve. The elderly population is particularly vulnerable.

To respond to the need to help the elderly here, Share and Care started Kurinji Old Age Centre, named after an endangered plant that blooms every twelve years in the Western Ghats in southern India. Soon after its opening, six pregnant mothers also began to receive attention, getting food and medical help.

Share and Care added on again, this time they started a crèche (day care centre), where staff cares for babies from one and a half years to school age. Housed in one location, the elderly, the pregnant women, and the babies all get a nutritious lunch every day.
Once a week a doctor comes and sees anyone in the tribe who needs his help. As well, clothing and bed sheets are distributed periodically throughout the year.

Karukambakkam also has one Women’s Self-Help Group. The President, a young woman named Poongudi, is the only person in the village who has completed 10th standard. This gives her privileges and access to government trainings that can further the whole village. A little far away from Karukambakkam lies another tribal village, Kunipalayam. Once again the only person to have completed tenth standard is a young woman. Because of this she was eligible for government training in the growing and maintenance of herbal plants.

The Tamil Nadu government has given Kunipalayam villagers, along with the tribals in nearby Nelva Village, Eleven acres of rocky land to develop medicinal plants. Dubbed a “wasteland development project”, research is currently in progress to determine what plants would be best to cultivate.

The young woman who received the training will play a major role in this programme, her education enabling her to help in administrative decision-making. Being tied to the land with this type of agriculture will allow the people to stay in one place year round.

The children particularly will benefit, as they will be able to stay in school year-round. (Currently they are taken out of school several months a year as their parents seek work in other communities.) The potential for this project to raise the economic, educational, and social levels of these villages is enormous.

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