Andrew's Church Village project functions with its centre at
Thiruppalaivanam village, Ponneri taluk about 55 kms from Chennai city.
This is an outreach programme of the church started in April 1972 by
the then Minister of St. Andrew's Rev. Murdoch Mackenzie. Through its
evangelical medical and socio economic works the congregation of this
church are trying to live the love and hope of the Christian gospel.
1. Medical work
Medical work was started 33 years ago and continues even today. Dedicated doctors and specialists from St. Andrew's church regularly visit the clinic every Saturday and an average of 120 patients are treated every week. Cataract operations with Intra Ocular lens implantation are done free of cost. Asthma, Dental care, and Skin care are also provided. The health workers regularly visit villages and educate the villagers in Hygiene, Nutrition for children and expectant mothers, Disease prevention in children and AIDS and STD awareness. The treatment which includes medicines and injections as required is provided at a highly subsidized rate of Rs 10 per visit. There is a proposal to start a laboratory and train local candidates to operate it.
2. Village Students' Scholarship Program
To overcome poverty and to equip themselves to face the challenges of life, the students need to continue their studies. Many intelligent and talented poor students who have the desire and zeal to study are identified in the villages and are helped with the finances to continue their studies. Nearly 100 students were helped since the year 2000 to go through their under graduation, post graduation, nursing, computer and industrial training. More and more students are coming forward to undergo higher studies or vocational training. It is the desire of the church to help them break the fetters of illiteracy and ignorance and move on to a better life.
3. 'Vocational Training' Scholarship Program
Many poor farm labourers’ children have benefited by the vocational training provided. Tailoring classes for girls are conducted by a qualified teacher. They are also trained in a variety of skills like embroidery, crochet, knitting etc. After the training girls get jobs in garment manufacturing units or start their own businesses. Boys are trained in auto mechanics, driving and radio repairs. Village women are trained in making utility articles with palm leafs, like boxes, waste paper baskets, clothes hampers, etc.
4. Income Generation Programme
Because of insufficient rains the poor villagers, who are mainly agricultural labourers, have an irregular and inadequate income. To help these people to generate additional income they are given soft loans with nominal interest for small businesses, like tailoring, petty shops, fishing, rearing goats and raising buffaloes for milk production.
The Asha Project began in a small office in the Church Hall, where Mr. Joshua Thangaraj, an elder, himself a victim of polio collected and classified data on where handicapped people could get assistance in skills training, in employment, and access to facilities offered by the government as well as private organisations. Rev. Peter Miller was his main inspiration. The involvement of Drs. M C and Anna Mathew in this project led to the starting of a Play school for children who are developmentally disabled from the neighbourhood particularly from the weaker sections of society. An elegant, well-equipped building built in the church campus and named after the late Sessions clerk Mr. Johnny Samuel, houses the school.
‘Asha’ meaning ‘Hope’ is an expression of concern and support of those associated with St. Andrew’s Church towards those in need, particularly the differently challenged, people with disabilities. Since 1982, ‘Asha’ has been striving, even if it is only in a small way, to enrich the quality of life of the disabled. ‘Asha’ is one among the several outreach ministries of St. Andrew’s Church amongst people in need, irrespective of caste, creed or religion.
For people who are differently abled and challenged, Asha is a:
As a placement centre
As a Centre of Special Education
A holistic approach is provided to better the quality of life of a 'special child' with developmental disorders and mental disabilities particularly children from the lower economic classes.
As a sheltered workshop
As a resource centre
ASHA has been recognized as a resource centre and provides training opportunities to students from various colleges in the field of psychology, social work, sociology and special education.
Is to reach out to the unreached 'special child' in the rural, remote areas. To create satellite centres and motivate the community around to respond to the needs of the disabled within their community.
Over the years St. Andrew's church stands like a beacon of hope, light and sustenance for the poor, unfortunate and ostracized persons of society. The church is a precious legacy from men and women, who through almost two centuries enriched the tradition of worship, built and maintained this noble edifice with substantial financial support. The activities of the church were channelled in to various outreach projects, beyond its walls under the able guidance of successive ministers and committed members of the congregation.
The church was challenged by the poverty and ignorance of her neighbourhood and the result was the Riber Memorial Day Care Centre and Community Development Project. The project is mostly con fined to children and women of the community.
The Day Care Centre had its beginning 30 years ago in 1973 with 25 children in the Parish Hall, in the age group 3 - 5 years. This ministry was the outcome of Rev. Mackenzie's inspiring sermons and the church awakened to her Master's command 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. To this Day Care come pre-schoolers from 5 slums - Goods-shed, Jyothivenkatachalam colony, Periamet, L.G. Road and Varadarajapuram. The children belonged to a background of abject poverty and would have passed the day on pavements, and in hovels. The project gave them protection and care. The project was christened Riber Memorial Day Care Centre after Rev Harold Riber - an elder of the church who was tragically killed in an air crash in 1973. He and his wife Mary were loyal soldiers of the cross and closely associated with social service.
The Day Care enabled the mothers who were mostly domestic helpers and flower vendors to leave their children in a safe place. The added blessings would be that their children would get a pre-school education and nutritious meals. Initially CASA supplied milk and ragi and later the project was helped by the Catholic Relief Centre of India. The project later had an airy and well equipped kitchen and supplied a good and wholesome diet for the children.
During the early years the Day Care was located in a well – ordered shed with a thatched roof, which was badly damaged during a cyclone. In 1989 the Church was able to construct a pucca building with financial assistance from the Board of Mission and World Service of the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands. The building was dedicated on 22.01.1989.
Special mention must be made of Late Mr. Johnny Samuel who was the Session Clerk from 1970 to 1991. His untiring efforts made all this possible. He served humbly with a unique dedication ever in his Master’s service. We also remember Mr. Alan Stewart who is said to have ‘treasured the Kirk’s finances with his life’.We remember with gratitude Late Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav who was closely associated with the project and donated the outdoor play equipment
Day Care Centre offers a variety of activities starting from 8.30a.m.
to 3.30p.m. They receive a well planned pre-school education, which
include lively songs and stories, rhymes and learn with wonder of the
world around them. Each week an interesting theme is introduced
and they cheerfully get involved with the subject.
They are guided and encouraged to use crayons and experiment with colours. They are educated in the rudiments of health and hygiene. The children are provided with smart uniforms and footwear fondly donated by friends from U.K. and the children of Ghyllside School. The children are regularly taken for outdoor activity such as swings, slides and organized games. This helps them to regularly interact with other kids. Mothers’ meetings are very much a part of the Day Care Programme. The Annual picnic is an event both the child and the parent look forward to. The Day Care provides a conductive emotional atmosphere and helps the child to feel secure and happy.
Special Days are celebrated with special happenings such as Independence Day, Children's Day, Christmas and Project Day. The kids participate with eager and innocent enthusiasm in rhythmic drills, group dances, and talent and sports competitions. New attractive clothes are worn by the kids and they look lovely for the Christmas party. The Annual Project Day is celebrated with joy and thanksgiving in Church. DCC children participate in the service with a short programme which is well received by the congregation. The sale of eats and articles is supported by the Women's Fellowship and the enthusiasm of the congregation.
Quiet, loving and dedicated medical care was extended to the Day Care children by the well-loved doctors, Dr. Mrs. Anne Mackenzie, Late Dr. Mrs. Mano Devadasan and Dr. Mrs. J.S. Samuel. Great personal interest was taken as each child received attention. The children, through the years are indebted to these gentle and self-effacing women of the Church. Dr. Mrs. J.S. Samuel continues her patient work in spite of her health. Doctors Mr. And Mrs. M.C. Mathew from 'Ashirwad' - The Child Development Research Centre con ducted a study on Child Assessment and observed that these D.C.C. children drawn from strata of society with low levels of opportunity possessed high I.Q. More recently we have had several health camps conducted for the community. It is surely a blessing to have these kids under good health care.
To keep the ill-nourished children in glowing health, great care is given in providing a healthy and balanced diet. They receive a diet of milk, eggs, fresh vegetables, cereals, legumes, mutton and fish. On certain days special to the members of the congregation the Day Care children are not forgotten and the little ones enjoy a feast.
"Verily I say unto you in as much as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it to me." Matthew 25:40.
A door opened in 1990 at this Leprosy Colony at Villivakkam for 30 pre-schoolers when St. Andrew's Church started a Day Care Centre. This was done with the help of Ms.Margaret Mills and Ms. Lil Murphy and their friends in Scotland . One of our church members took the whole responsibility of the construction work free of charge. The little children are lovable and entirely free of the dreaded disease.
To encourage our pre-schoolers to have a formal education in regular schools after two years at the Day Care, they are helped with admissions to nearby schools and provided with 2 sets of uniforms. Great importance is given to education, knowing what it can do to turn around a person’s life. This compelled the Project to start Education Endowments to support the higher education of promising children of the Day Care Centre. Presently 20 children are being supported in schools and colleges. We are thankful to receive Education Endowments from interested friends for this purpose.
Transcending communal boundaries we have received educational endowments from Muslim, Hindu and Christian benefactors. The challenge is that with the power of education the grip of poverty will be broken and the new generation will lead a life of dignity and self-esteem. Thus the children are woven into the life of the congregation by a strong network of support and care.
Men and women of St. Andrew's Church have through years believed in one of the strongest commands, "Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these". Matt 19:14 .
The pre-schoolers nurtured in the safe haven of the precincts of the church contrasted sharply with the pitifully poor background they had come from. This made the Project reach out and extend its frontiers to include the community into its fold. This meant more planning and more responsibility. A survey was sent out to identify the needs of this section of the community. A detailed programme was prepared and the objective was crystal clear-to bring about a socio-economic change among the women. The Project received a remarkable response. Undaunted by years of oppression and ignorance the women got involved in skill training programmes. The first step was to educate the mothers in hygiene, family planning and other social obligations. The Project then imparted skills like phenyl making, candles, incense sticks, pain balm, cleaning liquids and powders.
Functional literacy classes were conducted for the non-literates of the age group 15 to 35. Over 6000 women have benefited over a period of 5 years. The success of the neo-literate was so impressive that the Project won the Dr. Malcolm S. Adiseshiah's Award instituted by the Tamil Nadu Board of Continuing Education and State Resource Centre in 1993 for excellence in the field.
In addition the Project also helped them to realize an attainable goal- a non-formal education. The Leather Training Unit and the Tailoring Training Unit are the pride of the Project. Over 120 were trained in Leather craft and 215 in Tailoring. The Leather Unit achieved much and was a greatly appreciated unit. The leather products were in demand in churches, schools, colleges and hospitals. The force and inspiration behind this success was Mr. Abraham Mani, an Elder of the church. Unfortunately with the winds of change due to the slump in the leather industry this unit has been put on hold. We await God's guidance in this direction. The Tailoring Unit is buoyant and is buzzing with trainees for a six month certificate course.
Night school coaching classes aim at strengthening the learners' aptitude for education and give them additional coaching lest they dropout of school. About 1200 children have benefited from these centres. Presently 90 children receive this extra coaching and study centres are being conducted in Chindadripet, L.G. Road and Periamet.
The Community Programme conducts a Self-Employment Scheme for 30 women from the formidable S.M. Nagar slum. This group is now a disciplined lot. A loan is advanced from the Project to enable them to weave baskets out of waste plastic tapes. Parents Meetings on social evils, healthcare, small savings and other relevant subjects are held regularly. This interaction helps to mould both mother and child.
With a shared commitment and a greater understanding of service and concern for the less fortunate we press on to bring about development, upliftment and improvement in the quality of life. By doing so by the grace of God we find goodness in ourselves and an opportunity for ordinary folks like us to help others.
We remember with pride and joy the many great-hearted men and women who have served the Project with sheer dedication and belief that we are all equal in the love of God. We remember thankfully the support of our faithful staff past and present who have given of themselves towards the cause.
Together let us 'rage' against poverty, degradation and the vulnerability of the community; together let us make a network of support and help; together let us get deeply involved in the task of building a better world.
The Riber Memorial Day Care Centre and Community Development Programme humbly answers the Biblical question,
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" I John 3:17.
The Andrew's Kirk Child Development Centre is being run by St. Andrew's Church in partnership with Caruna Bal Vikas since July 1998. 154 children, from 14 to 17 years of age from the slums of Periyamet and Sathiavani Muthu Nagar (S.M. Nagar) are being looked after here.
The parents of these children work as painters, auto drivers, construction workers, porters, sanitary workers, carrying loads and doing odd jobs. Some of the mothers work as domestic helpers, vendors or flower sellers or operate pavement food stalls. They live in single room mud walled huts. Most of them earn daily wages and their work is affected during the monsoons and hot summers. These communities lack basic amenities like clean water, electricity, drainage and proper garbage disposal and live under very poor conditions. Most of the men folk are addicted to alcohol and other bad habits.
The Project provides for educational, physical, spiritual and social needs focusing on a holistic development through the study centre, which functions from 4.30pm - to 7.30pm on weekdays. Five part time child counsellors help the children to do their homework, clarify their doubts and provide a conducive atmosphere for them to study. Lights, fans, black boards and visual aids are provided in the centre. Volunteers from the church help the children by teaching English grammar. Crafts and music are taught as extra curricular activities. The children are progressing well in their studies and are looking forward to a brighter future. Bible Classes, Quiz, Puppet shows, Retreats and Special programs are organised for the children every week. Their knowledge of the Bible and the prayers they offer for the sponsors, their families and the project is extraordinary.
"Fathers Meet", "Mothers Meet", "Family Fellowship" and regular mothers meeting are conducted for their spiritual growth, for good family relationships and for social awareness. Sunday worship is conducted for the community on every Sunday evening. Vacation Bible School program is conducted for the children during their summer holidays. Every year the children and staff take part in the Sunday worship at St. Andrew's Church which is celebrated as AKCDC Sunday.
The children and parents are taken on exposure trips, which provide opportunities for social education. Different programs are being organized to enhance the children's inherent talents in Art, Elocution, Singing and poetry writing. Special programs are conducted on Independence Day, Republic Day, and Children's Day and for Christmas. The children are given toiletries, school supplies, school uniforms, casual wear, birthday presents and other gifts. A well balanced nutritious meal is also provided daily.
The program has an impact on the children, their families and the community. Though 70% of the children are from other faiths the spiritual growth is visible. The program has motivated these children to continue their studies and grow with a determination and goal.
About 180 years ago, the then minister of St. Andrew's Church showed the compelling love of God when he pioneered by ushering in an educational programme aimed at dispelling the darkness of ignorance among the Indian masses. He was convinced that secular knowledge should go along with knowledge about God. A person cannot have one without the other. This conviction led the Minister start a school on the Church campus. It is this programme which finally emerged as Madras Christian College , which was later shifted to George Town and subsequently to Tambaram. The same impulses have inspired us to start the 'St. Andrew's Centre for Continuing Education'. This programme of the Church rightly collaborates with Madras Christian College for the historical reasons mentioned above.
The venture is a pioneering effort in new areas of service. In the first place it seeks to serve the uneducated by providing them 'Adult Education'. This will cover a wide range of workers including slum dwellers. Adults are helped to acquire literacy and School dropouts are given an awareness inculcation programme. An effort is made to make him aware of the socio-economic conditions and also to train them in the responsible exercise of franchise.
Other courses are intended to cover those who have gone through formal education but have stopped learning any further. Knowledge is expanding rapidly and therefore, without an adequate infrastructure it will not be possible to keep oneself updated with requisite knowledge in different areas of life.
The programme also seeks to bring in people of different intellectual levels together as one community of learners. This will go a long way to remove prejudices among different classes of people. The programme aims at brining together all learners under one umbrella as a "Committed community of learners".
The Church in the last 300 years has been engaged in India in the field of education not promote knowledge for the sake of knowledge but to pursue knowledge in search of Truth. This shall be the foremost object of the Centre. Variety of non-formal education is in essence the total programme of the Centre. The aim is to make the uneducated educated and educated better educated. The programme is of crucial importance in the context of upgrading the standard of formal education in India and to make education serve the purpose for which it is intended. The advantage of this programme is that only those who are really interested in learning will participate and only those who are genuinely committed to knowledge will be imparting knowledge.
The Major streams of Activities:
It has been decided to call it a "Centre" rather than a School or an Institution to avoid institutionalising the programmes and to maintain the innovative character.