The rains have abated – hallelujah! This means that I have been wandering around Chennai enjoying a shake in the Fruit Shop on Greams Road, taking photos of the local area and partaking of some DELICIOUS food. It also means that I have been able to get some work done for Chennai Challenge. Yesterday morning I met with General Secretary of the Madras YMCA, Asir Pandian. Asir has been a friend of ours for some time, and I’m sure he won’t mind me mentioning that one of our favourite memories with him was in a sudden downpour at Mahabalipuram. We were unprepared, and suffice it to say, very wet.
Anway – I digress. As the intrepid adventurer of this blog I will now recount some of the main details of my meeting with him. This was really an opportunity for us to shape how our projects will look in the future. My hope is that by being more prepared and strategic, we can have a bigger impact and really support Madras YMCA in their wider goals. We therefore discussed the vision Asir is setting out for his work with poor people and communities in and around Chennai. Key to this vision is the solving of so many ongoing problems with facilities at Fort School and Kottivakkam. In order to best serve the young people making use of these facilities he aims to redevelop both sites to ensure that they are fit for purpose – predominantly by making sure they do not flood so regularly. He hopes that in January work will begin at both Kottivakkam and Fort. Of course, Chennai Challenge has already contributed to the work at Fort School, making a Rs 10lakh donation (approximately £10,000) to this work. The total cost of the project is Rs 50lakh (approximately £50,000) and Asir assured me that the work would be completed by the time we next send a team out (Summer 2016). The work at Kottivakkam is a major redevelopment, relocating the school and raising the level of the site to prevent flooding. Once these projects are completed (hopefully both by the end of next year) then he is looking to ensure the YMCA and Chennai Challenge work together on new and exciting projects within communities in and around Chennai. At the moment there are loads of options that we talked about, and we are yet to make any final decisions, but lots of work will be done over the coming year to ensure that whatever we are involved with is sustainable and makes the biggest contribution possible.
This morning I met with our friends at Oasis, namely Mathew Nathanial who now heads up Oasis India’s Chennai operations. He came to pick me up from the YMCA and took me over to their office. Our involvement with Oasis has always been a little bit here and a little bit there, but I’m delighted to say that we have been able to support some incredible projects, such as the Blue Edge English lessons. The aim of this meeting again was to discuss how we best contribute to Oasis’ overall strategy, rather than just parachuting in with quick lessons. Also present was Evelyn Rajasekar, who is doing some work on analysing the needs in the Oasis communities, as well as looking at Monitoring and Evaluation.
The meeting was a great success. Oasis are really working hard to come up with a more strategic plan for their work over all in India, so it seems we are both working on creating a similar approach. I won’t go into too many details, but they are particularly looking at measuring their impact by looking at how children in the communities they work in have benefitted. This is a really exciting approach called Child Focused Community Development. I can’t wait to find out more over the coming months so that we can work closely on planning our involvement. If we can plan how we will contribute in advance of our arrival, we should be able to support their overall aims far more effectively.
It’s been a great day, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to come out here and improve our relationship with each of our partners. I’m planning on visiting Kottivakkam tomorrow, and also catching up with Bernard Rajkumar, as well as some of the old boys. Oh – and I’m off to Mathew’s tonight for a home cooked meal! Very exciting stuff.
p.s. For those of you in the know – Roy’s folly is my folly: