October 20, 2007

Thulir Trust formally registered

Registration of Thulir Trust

Thulir Trust has been formally registered in October 2007. The three Trustees of Thulir Trust are Mr.Manoharan (Managing Trustee), Dr.Shylaja Devi and Ms.Rama Sastry.

Based on the rich experience of working with adivasis in Gudalur for more than two decades, these individuals decided to start this Trust to support educational activities among the children of disadvantaged communities like adivasis.

Detailed plan for activities has been drawn up. It is our objective to establish Education Resource Centres in remote adivasi areas, to supplement the education they receive from Government schools and to work with the children who drop out from schools.

We hope that all our friends will continue to support us during the coming years as well and will help us reach our goals.

August 09, 2007

News Update August 07

Timbaktu students singing in Thulir

Its been a while since we wrote anything in this blog [the last posting was in March]. We have been meaning to write but have been caught up in the excitement of so many happenings at Thulir that we kept postponing writing "just for a few days" , till its been quite a while. Apologies to all of you who might have been wondering what has happened. So far, often it has been crises of various kinds that had been the excuse for not writing. Rest assured, that this time it has not been setbacks at work, but rather positive developments and being caught up in activities that has stopped us from writing.

Visitors to Thulir!

--Timbaktu children visit Thulir

We have just recovered after an exhausting 5 day camp at Thulir with 12 visiting students of Timbaktu school. During this stay, the Timbaktu students taught us to play the drum, dance traditional dances, sing along; make jewellery, and embroidery. They learnt Tamil words from Thulir children while teaching Telugu words to them. It was 4 intense days of cooking, cleaning, dancing, singing, bathing and swimming in the river. For most students it was their first experience of interacting closely with others of their age, speaking a different language. Intermittent rain and the soggy earth and air did little to dampen the spirit of the children.
Coming close at the heels of the earlier limited interaction with Timbaktu school [see below “senthil and Perumal's continuing journey”], this visit has helped to strengthen the collaboration between Thulir and Timbaktu and we are optimistic about sharing our resources and learnings. We have planned a trip for Thulir children to visit Timbaktu in end September.

--Sridhar and Sriranjani's visit:

As I write this, Sridhar and Sriranjani along with their daughter Janavi from Asha Princeton chapter just left after visiting us the past 3 days. Its been nice to meet them in person after all these years of email / phone contact. Asha Princeton has been supporting our fellowships the past 3 years which has been a very crucial area of support for us. The visit gave us an opportunity to communicate happenings at Thulir and also explore future activities together. One of the feedback we got from talking to them is that our blogs are read and appreciated by many of you, and that we should continue posting regularly. That explains why we have promptly sat down to write this! Of course we do know that there are friends who do read what we post and often write back to us and ideally we should be writing regularly; but then a bit of positive feedback does help us to get charged! So do write to us if you can!

Sridhar took a couple of sessions on costing [using spread sheets on the computer] of our white LED torches made with bamboo with the students. He also demonstrated some experiments using magnets with the evening session children. Sriranjani, who is a trained Montessori teacher, demonstrated use of Montessori material that we already have to Gowri, Rajamma and Devaki who teach the younger children [5-8 ages] in Thulir. Being a trained singer, she also taught songs to the students.

---Anita Balasubramanian's visit:

Anita who is no stranger to Thulir visited us for 4 days. She has been a source of constant support from the beginning and she has seen Thulir at various stages of its development. So it was good to have her again in Sittilingi. She took sessions in embroidery, electronics, and taught children to make balloon animals. She also lead a discussion on life in the USA, which lead to a lively discussion on the effects of TV watching.

Positive Developments

--Basic Technology course:

The first batch of Basic Technology course has completed the course. 2 of the boys Balu and Maadhu have gained enough confidence to go back to school to attempt class 10 exams. We feel this is an indication of their increased self confidence. Mohan is well after his heart surgery [Thanks to generous support from friends of Thulir] and he too is preparing to write his 10th exams. Senthil and Perumal have joined Thulir as Fellows on an enhanced stipend of Rs. 1000 per month. They will explore possibilities of enhancing their skills and facilitate some hands on workshop exercises for the younger children.

----Senthil and Perumals's continuing journey

Senthil and Perumal from the first batch of Basic Technology Course are continuing to be with us at Thulir to further develop their skills as well as to pass on some of the things they have learnt of to other students at Thulir. They have been part of many exciting activities these past 2 months.

**Trip to Bangalore

First in June, they travelled alone to Bangalore to get an inverter repaired. At Bangalore, a friend Ramasubramanian hosted them and arranged for an exposure to metal workshops where they watched a micro hydro turbine being fabricated. Senthil was actually offered a job in one of the workshops after he spent a day there. As a result of this interaction, they have been offered a trip to a remote Orissa village where the micro hydro plant is to be installed. They would participate in the installation of the machinery as they are skilled in plumbing and electrical wiring.

**Project at Gubbi village near Bangalore

From Bangalore, they travelled with Krishna to Gubbi, a village near Tumkur in Karnataka [a bout 100 kms away from Bangalore]. Here in a farm house that is not connected to the electrical power grid, they along with two students from Timbaktu school [Subbu and Sai], installed a solar panel based power system and did the wiring of the whole house. It was a valuable experience in working with complete strangers who speak a different language! Of course, Krishna from Thulir and Subba raju from Timbaktu were with them to help organise themselves as well as to communicate. This 2 day experience gave so much confidence and was such a morale booster that we thought we should do more such activities. From Gubbi we went to Timbaktu to spend a couple of days and look at some of their activities. This helped in further bringing Thulir and Timbaktu students together. At Timbaktu we met Ramudu who is a senior student now on a fellowship there, and also saw how he is teaching the younger children all that he has leant especially hand-skills.

**Visit to NIOT, Chennai

Immediately after the above trips, an opportunity for attending a week long training programme at the NIOT [National Institute of Ocean Technologies, Chennai] came to Senthil and Perumal. We requested that Timbaktu students too be offered this training and so Senthil, Perumal along with Ramudu and Subbu from Timbaktu attended this programme at NIOT. The training was on basics electronics of Solar panels and charge regulators along with assembling of white LED based lighting fixtures [table lamps, ceiling lamps and torches]. Timbaktu and Thulir students have been making white LED products for a while now and this programme gave an opportunity to take this activity further by better understanding of the technology as well as improving the products. A special feature of Thulir and Timbaktu work has been the use of Bamboo in these products.

Girl drop-outs join:

Six drop-out Girls have joined Thulir with the idea of writing their class 10 exams. They spend the whole day at Thulir and we are in the process of designing additional inputs apart from tuition for the exams, with the idea of boosting their confidence levels somewhat in the manner of the Basic Technology course. This is a happy occasion for us as we were aware that many adolescent girls don't come to Thulir as their movement gets restricted by their parents. We have been wondering how we could encourage more girls of the older age group to come to Thulir.

--Devaki and Rajamma join

From the above group, two of them, Devaki and Rajamma have been offered a stipend to help them to come back to Thulir. Family circumstances had forced them to go for daily wage labour. Both of them have one more subject each to complete their 10th class. They would be learning to help 5 to 8 age group children learn in Thulir in their evening sessions. We also needed additional hands now as Gowri is leaving Thulir to pursue higher studies and Selvaraj too is working 3 days a week at THI helping the organic farmers group.

Construction/ building renovation at Thulir

During the month of May we closed Thulir for the school going children. The rest of us, staff and senior students, spent the time, renovating Thulir structures. Most of Thulir buildings are built with mud walls and mud floors. After 3 years of use, the mud wall plastering and flooring had to be redone. This while being a physically exhausting work, especially given the summer heat, was very satisfying. It was also nice for the team to work together. We now have Thulir buildings as good as new!!

Earlier events:

--2 day Math Camp [ March 07]

On 24 and 25th of Feb, we held a two day math camp. 45 children came and stayed the weekend at Thulir. Sanjeev and Anita during their visit earlier that month had introduced plotting graphs. So we mostly explored graphs during these days, using the temperature measurements that we record in Thulir using a max min thermometer. We also had a session of solving folk math puzzles. Mehboob Subhan who was visiting us then, helped with sessions on introducing Sudoku puzzles. Apart from math, the children were keen to put up short skits [plays]. Seven groups put up plays with limited preparation time. It was an engaging and enjoyable 2 hour programme, and came as an eye opener to us!

--Annual day/ Therukkoothu performance [April 07]:

The children were keen to celebrate April 14th – Thulir's birth date. They decided to have a cultural programme. They planned, created, practised and put up the performance themselves. The audience was only other students. The performance went off so well we decided to repeat it for the parents and other villagers. The cultural programme took place on the Thulir playground on April 21st.

We also decided to invite the Sittilingi traditional street play ["therukkoothu"] group to put up a performance in the Thulir grounds. Therukkoothu , a vibrant folk theatre form has been in existence in the valley and has been popular too. Of late it has been slowly dying out with TV and DVD player taking over. A group of Sittilingi youth have been encouraged to learn the traditional art by Thulir. It helps that Selvaraj, Thulir staff, has been a keen learner, and that a teacher of this art had also moved to Sittilingi village a couple of years back. After almost a year of training, the young troupe has been successfully performing at events in Sittilingi.

So on the night of 26th April, the therukkoothu was performed at Thulir grounds. It was a Mahabaharatha story of “Jarasandran”, and the performance started at 10 pm and went on till 6 am!!


March 12, 2007

Thulir : Some reflections

Its almost April and it is anniversary time. As usual, it is time for reflection. Of course we just put up a news update that talked in detail about the activities at Thulir, so this note is more to summarise it and add how we see ourselves currently and where we are headed to.

Well, as things stand now, these are the various groups and set of activities currently taking place at Thulir:
  • Evening Sessions are being attended by about 55 children [even as we write this the past two weeks have seen fresh children coming in. But on an average we have about 25 to 30 children attending. We have now arranged them into 3 groups [age and ability wise]. We have introduced more ordered exercises after feed back from the students. Apart from this we have the usual activities of basic language, Math , General knowledge, art and crafts and General topics, viewing documentaries and feature films.We have recently started computer classes .We are also seriously thinking of starting a sort of film club with regular screenings followed by discussions as we realize that a lot of their current thinking is deeply influenced by mainstream Tamil movies and therefore it is important to make them aware of this impact and to show alternatives. Apart form this activity, we are currently working on how we could organize the academic learning part more effectively. This is a big challenge and source of many of our frustrations currently, as the students are not very regular and come for a short period of time everyday.

  • The Basic Technology course students are continuing to do their mix of academics with technology skills. Some of their sessions are invoking interest from the other students and we are considering doing some of the skills activities with the evening session students too. We are truly amazed at the positive benefits working with the hands has on their self confidence levels and there is a subsequent drastic improvement in academic skills. Ideally this should be available to all students and this might become the biggest challenge in the coming years for us. In a small way we have started this process for the evening class students and hope to work forward slowly. Perumal, Senthil and Balu [along with Mohan who should be joining us back after he recovers from Surgery] being our first batch, need more time than the one year that would end by June. We feel they need a bit more of "hand holding" time, before they are ready to move on to either taking up a job or going for higher level skill training. So we are postponing taking in a new batch to the end of this year.

  • Sreyarth and Bharathi continue with their "home" learning using Thulir resources. Twice a week, Ragini who is 6 years old and whose parents work at our hospital , also joins them. This group in the coming years may grow, as we have other parents in the hospital whose children are in the 0-5 age group.

  • The exam batch : A group of 5 students are currently preparing for their 10th boards, They are here full time and apart from organizing their preparation we have introduced some general discussions classes for them. Some of these students could continue to come to Thulir even after the exams and we are looking closely now at what sort of a programme might benefit them.

It is obvious we dont have a conventional structure [say like that of a school with classes], and things look a bit too varied/ unorganised/ hap hazard. In fact part of our frustration is not being able to look at it with some sense of order, and especially in not being able to communicate this. It certainly seems we dont have a "target group" or "focus".

It is however getting clearer that what we are, is a Learning Resource Centre that is open to a wide age group. The way this is working out now is that Individuals are either ,at the one end, getting motivated to learn and/or on the other , actually learning skills [both academic and vocational]. We wonder if it could be in some sense like students going to a University [in US?] and choosing her/ his credits and pace of completing the credits. For this to happen properly two factors are crucial :
  • 1]. the ability of students to decide what they want to learn and when; and
  • 2] that we are available with time/ energy and the right resources for them to be able to do this. In a sense this is what we are doing and with this clarity we may be able to a] evaluate ourselves better and b] perform better in future.

One of the important learnings from the Basic Technology Course is also that in a group, not everyone is ready to undergo a shared experience of learning and the specifics of what is taught/ to be learnt may not suit some individuals [which explains our drop outs from the course]. It would of course be ideal to open up the place for "any day admission". [In a sense we are that right now, except for the Basic Technology Course where we had a formal date of starting]. It is not too radical a thought as the National Open School now offers the possibility to write exams on demand [one can walk into any of its Centres on any working day, pay the fees and take an exam!!].

Some questions that arise are:
  • Can we leave things to individual students to come up and say " this is what I want to learn now"?
Yes, we can. this is beacuse for one, most students come to Thulir on their own: they are not compelled by parents to come. Secondly, after 3 years, we now have a core group of students who are motivated and therefore have created an atmosphere where by newer students get motivated much sooner.
  • So once we accept this what about organizing learning for so many different students at different times/ different paces.? How is this to be done?
This has been our big challenge so far and it hasnt been easy. But given our peculiar situation of an institution where students do not come regularly, there is no other way to do it. It doesnot mean that we cant have classes for a group. Where it is appropriate, this does happen. Given our scarcity of teachers, we need to encourage students themselves to teach each other. This will lead to higher confidence levels as explaining a concept to another person really clarifies ones own understanding.
  • How do we evaluate our performance / students performance?
The probable way to do this is to have individual portfolios where all the work of the children and occasional tests that they voluntarily take are all filed. Along with the dates and their attendence records this would make it possible to have a fairly clear idea of how a particular student has progressed. These records would also give a pointer towards our efforts in organizing materials as well as teaching sessions that were involved with each individual. Apart from this, we could also include our notes on sessions we take for the children and notes on activities that happen here. This does seem a lot of work, but some of it we already are doing and so it requires the additional effort of streamlining this process.

Of course conventional pointers are always available...such as number of children passing 10th Std exams and so on.We also intend exploring other alternatives to the private candidate in the state exam mode that is currently being used. These could be various possibilities under the National Institute Open Schooling exams with certificate exams in various vocational streams, apart from the 10th equivalent academic/vocational 10th exams.

We would be very happy to hear from you what you all think and any suggestions/ comments would be very valuable. We look forward to hearing from you all.

A Test for Thulir

The review we did of Thulir with the students was called "Thulirukku oru paritchai" [a test for Thulir]. There were many questions each person had to answer. The following questions were some of the questions asked:
  • How long have you been coming here?
  • List the things you have learnt here.
  • What else do you want to learn?
  • What do you like most here? what do you not like?
  • Shall we have sessions only on weekends and holidays instead of having sessions every evening on weekdays?
  • What other rules should we have in Thulir?
  • Should we be more strict generally and about attendence ?
  • Is the supplemantary snack we have in the evenings necessary or shall we stop it?
  • Should we have written excercises every day?
  • Is the way of teaching here OK or should it be changed?
  • Do you know why some girls have stopped coming to Thulir?

It was heartening to see all the children sit down and write answers to these questions. Most of them when they first came to Thulir could hardly write [even Tamil]. Of course they still make a lot of mistakes, but have progressed to the stage of confidently attempting to think and write on their own!

Among the things they have listed as having learnt are
  • Tamil and English [to read and to write],
  • Math,
  • General knowledge,
  • Talking to new people with confidence,
  • and learninig about the outside world from them,
  • reading books,
  • drawing, painting, crafts like knitting etc,

All of them have said they like it here. 4-5 of them have said specifically that they are happy here and that they have been able to learn here only because there is an affectionate environment around. Some girls [we know they have a traumatic family situation] have said that they are able to forget their troubles here.

Most children want sessions every evening and during weekends also! 4 children have said that they dont like the fact that we dont have evening sessions on Mondays [right now we keep Mondays for admin work, maintenance of the campus and buildings, and for planning and preparing classes]. Some older children expressed that they are expected to work in their family fields on school holidays and therefore not to have sessions on holidays.

Two boys have said we should hit children when they do wrong! [we asked this question as this is something we discuss often with the children and also right now a controversy is raging in Tamil Nadu as the Govt has removed the right of the teacher to hit...yes, it was sanctioned in law!]

Everyone has said they would attend Thulir even if we stop the food supplement.

Most want more spoken English classes and computer classes. Two older children [boy and girl] want sewing lessons.

Most have said that the teaching methods and teaching environment in general need not be changed.

All children want to do some written work every day.

Two children have expressed that the play time has been reduced nowadays and that it should not be done.

Most said that children should be asked to come more regularly but if they have work in their fields then they should be excused.

The older children have said that the reason for some girls stopping was the attainment of puberty and the death of a boy in the stream.

We hope to keep this dialogue going and take on some of their suggestions.Already some measures have been put in place, for instance, writing exercises every day. We are happy that we did this exercise with the students as we have a better understanding of the way they perceive Thulir's activities. It has helped us clarify in our minds too what we ought to be doing in future.

Thank you all for writing in.....

Our last news update in this Blog has elicited such an overwhelming response.

We now know that so many of you read our Blog [even such a long and possibly rambling one as our previous blog !]. But we have been moved that so many of you have shown concern that we wrote about feeling low. We have been moved by your expression of concern; and by your sharing of similar experiences [ we now know from you that these things happen and one can overcome with perseverance!].

Thanks to your writing in we dont feel anymore that we are in some remote place facing challenges alone..... we are truly fortunate to have so many friends who care and are willing to express support. Thank you all so much.

We are also happy to say that we are feeling a lot more positive and optimistic. The Thulir children have played a major part by their positive feedbacks and by being responsive to our efforts of late.

We have had a hard look at Thulir and what we have been doing and have posted the thoughts as " Thulir -- some reflections". [One more post for you all to read :)].

Thank you all once again for all the support.


February 26, 2007

Its been a long gap since our last post. The reasons for this are many fold. Our internet connectivity has taken a nosedive in terms of quality and we are unable now to send anything more than simple text messages, if at all we are able to connect. The Basic Technology course has taken a lot more of our time and energy than we had imagined. This combined with the preparations for the 10th class exams and our regular Resource Centre activities took a toll on our energy levels and we started feeling frustrated. The low morale led to less communication with the outside world!

The course has been going through many exciting times as well as some frustrations. Two of the students left for Thiruppur to take jobs. One of these two students had to leave due to family problems which made it impossible for him to continue living in Sittilingi. The other left suddenly without giving us reasons and so we are not very sure of why he left. A third student has stopped as he has to undergo a major heart surgery, and is quite unwell right now. A fourth is also on sick leave as he has been frequently falling sick. These students' difficulties while they were on the roll had a negative effect on the group as a whole.

One of our staff, Anbu , left in November. He was commuting from a village 6 kms away and found it difficult to continue. Over the last one and half years , with Ravi's help we had slowly trained him to handle accounts and other Admin work and he had just started doing a good job when we lost him. Our workload increased. All this resulted in our feeling frustrated and affected the general morale in Thulir. It has taken a series of efforts, from taking a break and trekking in the Himalayas with the family [something we have been planning for years], to taking the Thulir children in various groups on study tours , to bring back our optimism.

We are currently reviewing Thulir activities to chart the course for the coming year. It started as a review with just the two of us as we were not very happy with the way things were, wondering if we ought to be making changes. We were looking for more tangible and faster results. We had more questions than we had answers; we were looking at all the aspects that were unsatisfactory and could be improved. But this soon lead to a feeling of frustration and a bit of pessimism. Luckily, we were able to interact with friends who are seniors [and with many decades of experience] in the field of alternative education and this helped us hugely.

We were able to look at things in a more objective and positive manner. Subsequently we talked to the children, putting forward questions that we had in our minds and asked them to reflect with us and give us a detailed feedback. This was something that had been in the back of our minds but had not been initiated. We called it a " Test for Thulir ". It was gratifying to see the children take the whole process very seriously and put in a lot of effort for a couple of days . Even the children who couldn't write well wrote whatever they could. Right now we are in the middle of this process and will report on it in detail soon. But what has come forward till now has been very very useful and positive and makes us feel hopeful about Thulir's future.

Update on the Basic Technology Course:
The dropping out of two boys and the illness of two others caused some lowering of the morale of the remaining boys. But they have steadily been learning and doing various things..

Meanwhile, Mohan's health has deteriorated . He has to have a double valve replacement heart surgery immediately. With the financial help of a friend of Thulir, he is getting operated in C.M.C, Vellore on March 7th.

Bamboo work
The boys had learned to make chairs out of Bamboo earlier at Timbaktu and based on that experience made similar chairs at thulir too. There is some local demand for their chairs รข€“ the forest council leader and the postman want these chairs.


We made a few excursions to cheer the group and provide them exposure. First we went exploring some of the villages on the nearby Chinnakalrayan hills during a day trip. This was a welcome break for us from routine and helped pull ourselves up a bit.

Later we went to Bangalore for a three day trip. The objective was to fix our old computers that were not functioning properly. We opened them up to learn about some basics of the hardware before going to Bangalore. There friends of ours helped to fix some of the troubles and helped us to go shopping for some spares. This has now lead to Mahaboob Subhan visiting to spend a month teaching basics of Computers to our students. Mahaboob Subhan, 22 years old, studied at the Learning Centre run at Timbaktu in Andhra and is learning computer hardware and software.

We also visited a house in Bangalore that has been built using alternative technology and is experimenting with alternative sources of energy. It was an interesting visit and we could get exposure to many different technologies in one place.

Follow up workshop on bee keeping

We had been having a bad spell with our bee colonies too and so we invited Justin and Rajendran from Keystone , Kothagiri to conduct a follow up workshop and help us with some of our practical difficulties. Analyzing our efforts and finding out where we were wrong and interacting with them helped raise our spirits . We now have three colonies in and around Thulir.

Resource Centre activities
Our regular evening activities have continued. Our regular children came even during the monsoons undaunted by the incessant rains ,our bad road and the stream across the road. A number of girls had stopped coming after the death of Murugan in the stream in summer. We went and talked to the parents and began escorting the girls back to the village after classes. Now some of the girls are coming back. The children still go back by 6.30 pm.[before it gets dark]. We have continued our sessions of learning basic languages, math and general awareness through various methodologies. Our first group of children show some improvement in all these aspects and in their confidence levels. Sometimes we ask them to teach the other kids.

The head mistress of the local Govt. school and some of the teachers have been visiting Thulir and looking at our materials. The headmistress asked us to help take some classes for the older children in the school. We agreed and everything was fixed when some of the male teachers went up in arms against the headmistress and the whole thing fell through.

We had a plastic awareness campaign . In connection with this, children have been making news paper covers and we supplied some to the local shops. The THI Staff had earlier talked to the shop owners about the need to reduce use of plastic. Together with the hospital team and the children, we cleaned all the village streets one day. Plastic disposal still remains a problem.

Senthil, Mohan and Arul were coached for their class 10 English exam and they passed. Somehow a reputation has formed and now we have 5 new students coming to Thulir to prepare for their class 10 exam. But they have come 2 months before the exams and we don't see ourselves being able to do much for them.

Most of them don't have a conducive environment at home to study [with the T.V. on and drunk parents/ neighbours, apart from other distractions]. So just providing the physical space to study would be a help

Thulir children go on an excursion

We decided to visit Sathanur Dam, Thiruvannamalai and Gingee on a day's trip with 40 children. This had a been a long standing demand from the children that they be taken somewhere on an excursion. So finally we did it end Dec on a weekend. This was also the peak pilgrimage season. On the one hand we would have preferred a quieter day but on the other hand it was also an opportunity for our children to be exposed to crowds [being from a small village, it is certainly a novelty!; though we were nervous about losing one or two of them in the crowds!]

From days before there was a lot of excitement among the children. Some 15 children who live far from the village, came the previous evening to spend the night at Thulir [we had planned on a 4 am departure]. Selvaraj went the previous evening itself to Harur [2 hours away] to meet the bus and bring it so that it could reach at 4 am at Sittilingi. We cooked food together the previous night and carried it.

Amazingly, 15 children woke up, heated bath water, had their baths using the 1 bathroom we have and were ready long before 4am ! Our children were terribly excited but very well behaved throughout.

On our way out we found a small archaeological site which was a stepped pond decorated with panels in stone depicting scenes from the ramayana. At Sathanur, we had a picnic breakfast and walked around the garden and the dam itself. At Thiruvannamalai, we visited the main temple, which was really crowded with pilgrims. We explained a bit of the history of the temple and the many mythical stories attached to it.

We moved on to Gingee which has a fort with many rocky hills with palaces on top. The highest hill is about 800 meters high and we were warned not to climb it as we may not be able to get back in time before the fort gates close for the day at 5 pm. We were told we would need at least an hour to 90 mts to climb it. The children were very keen and we decided they could go as high as possible in 30 mts and return in time for the closure. They being fit for outdoor activities climbed up in 20 mts flat!! There's lots to see at Gingee and we need to go there again someday with lots of time.

Pongal at Sittilingi

Pongal was celebrated with great fanfare this year. We were invited for the poojas and lunches in people's farms and homes and the bull races in the temple .We are getting more accepted in the village and being involved in their pongal celebrations feels good . Vediyappan and his youth friends oragnised competitive events that had sports [traditional such us kabaddi, tug of war etc.]and song and dance competitions.

A youth group, including Selvaraj, learning traditional therukoothu [street play], put up an all night performance that was well attended in spite of the cold weather.

At Thulir we celebrated by filling all possible floor spaces with colored kolams. It was a non competitive event that had very enthusiastic participation by all age groups and both the sexes.


As we write this Blog, Sanjeev and Anita from Asha Austin are visiting us. They have been here for a week and have sessions introducing puzzles to the children. They have also introduced basic Electronic circuits to the Basic Technologies course students. Right now they are building circuits to make white LED products that would be useful at Thulir. Visit their blog Sanjeev and Anita, for more details.

Dr Abraham, a dentist visited Thulir and conducted classes on dental care. He made nice charts with detailed drawings explaining the anatomy and details on dental care. The children went on asking a lot of questions, though we had warned Abraham they might not take to theory!

Prachi Aggarwal, an architecture student taught the children embroidery. Mrs Mythili Santhanam who visited again this winter too continued her embroidery sessions.

Rajamma Ravi, from Sittilingi, has been teaching knitting to the children a number of socks and woolen caps have been knitted.

Rachel a student volunteer had visited us and during her sessions she taught some songs and games.

Anisha, a medical student came to spend a month at the hospital. She took classes for Shreyarth on the human body. This was very useful as of late we had been a little preoccupied and Sreyarth was missing some serious learning sessions.

Esther came again this year and held several sessions with the children. she brought dried fruits, pictures, currencies and stamp from Europe and talked about them.

Dr Nick, who had come the previous winter too, returned this January. He has been teaching the children English conversation.

We thank all the visitors for spending time with the children of Thulir. We really believe that it is important for children to gain confidence and get exposure by interacting with outsiders, and visitors by interacting with children really enrich their learning. In fact, during our "test for Thulir", some of the children have menioned "talking to strangers" being able to talk to foreigners" as an important skill they have learned!