It’s our business to make Nandri work!

In Nandri, we believe that it is very important for our Donors to understand how our charity works, how it benefits our families and where their money is being utilised. The tightly organised day to day running of our charity is key to its success. The CEO of our partner organisation in India once said to me “Fred this is not a business it’s a charity”. I answered that unless we run it like a business with professional procedures and systems then it will not prosper.

We implemented Salesforce, one of the best corporate CRM systems in the world, and a number of user licenses were made available to us free of charge by the company. We are extremely grateful to Salesforce. It has enabled us to manage the records we have on thousands of our Nandri mothers in our non profit.

In January 2012 we started a micro finance programme to give a loan to a mother to buy a cow or other income generating asset. The mother can repay a loan within two years and all repayments are immediately re-loaned to another needy mother in the group.

In 2013 we realised that many of our children were dropping out of education at 17 or 18 years of age. We then started to give them loans to go to college. This immediately doubled the number of our children who go to 3rd level, as many families could not previously afford the upfront fees, despite the fact that this was only in many cases less than €100 per annum. Most of our mothers only earn €20 a month.

We could not manage these programmes without the appropriate technology and systems and Salesforce is the most important system which we use. Today we have quite an extensive, complex database, with details of over 3,500 mothers, 2000 children and 700 current donors in our system

Every month almost Rs.2 million is processed through the Salesforce system. Within two weeks of each month end we receive a set of management accounts which have been audited by a local chartered accountant in India. In Ireland one of our directors who is also a chartered accountant produces monthly accounts for Ireland and reviews the accounts from India.

Our mother’s pay 1% per month interest on the reducing balance and this is mainly used to fund the third level loan program. Our mothers also pay a membership fee of about one rupee per day. This income is enabling us to grow the organisation and to achieve a level of self sustainability in India.

In February 2016 we opened our Nandri centre. It is a 6000 ft.² building. The opening was attended by over 3500 mothers and children and local dignitaries. It has put us on the map locally and has enabled us to apply for grants from the Indian government to run training programmes for our mothers and children. It cost about €300,000 and was fully paid for by a small number of donors from Ireland including some directors. The building is used for training courses and administration and for regular meetings of over 600 officers of our 200 mothers self-help groups.

Most of our 3500 mothers are members of the low caste so-called untouchable Dalit community. We found it difficult to rent rooms for meetings and offices. Our mothers are treated like travellers in Ireland, who find it hard to rent rooms for weddings or other celebrations. Our 3500 mothers proudly wear their Nandri saris and are proud to be part of our organisation.

We are a small organisation and our revenue for the current financial year is likely to be around €200,000. We only have one part time employee in Ireland who works 10 hours a week. Our future strategy is to grow our micro finance fund. Since 2012 we have issued loans of over €900,000. The repayments are used to issue about 50 to 100 new loans every month.

In 2016 we were approved a grant of $50,000 from the Lions Clubs International Foundation #LCIF. We had to come up with $17,000 matching funds and much of this was provided by Lions Clubs in Ireland. This fund has already being used to provide loans to 350 widows and single parents.

On top of our micro finance programmes, our mothers, who meet every month in groups of 15 to 20, are also encouraged to save. They save about Rs.100 per month which is the equivalent of a days wages for them. This money is reloaned to their group colleagues. They also charge each other a small interest-rate. Our mothers proudly show off their passbooks which record their subscriptions, savings and loans. We have set up the necessary paperwork systems to enable them to manage these loans and savings themselves. We employ eight fieldworkers who attend all the meetings to ensure that all our procedures and systems are maintained.

We want our sponsors and donors to know that we make their money go far. Every €400 donation will change the life of a family who receive a loan to buy a cow. Two years later the same money will benefit another family and so on. A donation to Nandri is a gift that keeps on giving. Our future plan is double the size of our loan book. Within five years we hope to have 10,000 mothers of which over 5000 will have received a life changing loan.

Drumsticks making an educational and nutritious addition to Nandri!

Nandri Drumstick plantation

 

Our workers are busy removing the weeds at the drumstick vegetable plantation yard at Nandri Center.  Drumsticks, also known as Moringa, are vegetables loaded with valuable minerals, healthy proteins and essential minerals, making it a very healthy food. It is used as one of the ingredients in sambar, a type of stew. Being high in nutrients and tasty in nature, the leaves and pods of this green vegetable possess blood purifying properties and it also acts as a potent antibiotic agent.

 

We have created this drumstick yard to help train our agricultural students who come to Nandri to learn how to grow and tend crops.  In addition, we will showcase the plantation as a model as we bring forward our initiative to introduce allotment farming to our Nandri families. It is mostly women who do the weeding and even if they work along side men, the women get lower remuneration for their work.

Nandri Drumstick plantation

The physical work done by these workers will bear fruit within six months and we will use the drumsticks in Nandri Centre in the delicious South Indian food we will prepare for our guests and participants in our training programmes.

B.Com funded by a loan from Nandri

 

When Sagaya Vincent with the help of Nandri,  managed to complete his schooling, his mother who had very little income, wanted him to get a job.   She needed the money to help feed their family.  An educational loan from Nandri called SHE (Support for higher education) enabled him to continue and achieve his degree and start his own business.   Now his familys’  future is secure:

“My name is Sagaya Vincent. I belong to a village called Allikondapttu, Thiruvannamalai  Dt.  My mother name is Mangala Mary. She is a member of Mother Group called Lillie Annaiyar Group which is one of the Mothers Group formed by Nandri. Up to 7th std my mother somehow managed to help me study. From 8th Std onwards I was selected by Nandri for sponsorship. Up to 12th Std I studied with the financial help from Nandri. After finishing school   I wanted to go for college education. I told my mother about my intention. But my mother asked me to find a job and help the family citing family financial strains. But the aim of going to college was burning in me.

I  came to know from the Field staff of Nandri  that they are giving educational loans to deserving students under SHE programme,  which means Support for Higher Education. I informed my mother about it who also knew about the loan facility already. She approached Nandri and applied for educational loan. My mother received a loan for Rs.25,000/-. With the help of this amount I joined college studies. I finished B.Com and was employed for some time. I earned some money and took care of the family as well. Now I have a small computer center which is a source of good income.  With the income from the computer centre I earned some money which was more than enough for my marriage.

All these were made possible only because of Nandri which took care of my school as well as college studies. I owe my present situation to Nandri and Mothers Group to which I would be ever grateful.”

The Nandri Centre 2 years on.

In February 2016 we opened our Nandri Centre. This is a training and administration centre for our mothers and children built on 2 acres of land in a rural part of southern India. Previously we had to move every 12 months as our mothers who are members of the Dalit so called low caste community are like travellers in Ireland. They are not welcome anywhere.

They are proud to be members of Nandri. They proudly wear their Nandri saris. They even pay for membership which is helping to make the organisation self sustaining.

We have one large training room with full audiovisual facilities and a computer room with a dozen computers. We run regular training courses. Our large reception area is used for regular cheque presentations for loans.

A few weeks ago we had 200 mothers attend what is called an RPL (recognition of prior learning) course which is funded by the Indian government. This particular course was to teach the mothers how to pack and pick vegetables. The mothers are each paid to encourage them to attend the course and Nandri Foundation are compensated for running the course including providing food for the attendees. These mainly illiterate mothers are proud of the certification and it will be easier for them to get daily work and will also become an important part of our income following our major investment in the centre.

Every day almost 200 children attend English language courses in local villages. They learn spoken English through song. They get help with their homework and are provided with some nutrition before they play games. We now have a playground for them and a cricket training area in the centre and they will be invited there on a regular basis.

We are pleased with the success of the centre which was funded by large donations by Irish donors and directors.

Nandri Success Stories

This month we are starting to share some of the stories of the people that have been helped start a new path in life with the help of Nandri’s support. We want to share some of the amazing journeys and to let you see how effective our loans, sponsorships and training programmes have been and what they can achieve.

A success Story of Jhansi made possible by Nandri.org

My name is Jhansi. I belong to a poor family from Thalayampallam, Thiruvannamalai Dt. My mothers name is Arulayee. I am the eldest in the family.  I have one sister and two brothers. My brothers are mentally challenged. My mother is member of a Mothers Group called Vasantham, which is one of the mother groups formed by Nandri. I received sponsorship from Nandri when I finished my schooling without any difficulties.

I wanted to go for higher studies at college. But my parents could not afford to send me to college. Instead they asked me to find a job and help the family. I was determined to go for higher studies. I was able to meet the field staff of mothers group. I told them about my goals and the difficulties I was facing at that time. She took me to meet the Managing Trustee of Nandri. I narrated my actual aim and ambition to him.

The managing Trustee heard my plea’s fervently. He then decided to put me in a college. He got me an admission in Sacred Heart College of Nursing at Velledu. He took all the responsibilities to himself and saw to that I was taken care of well at the college and the hostel. He paid all the college and hostel fees until I finished my Nursing course successfully. Now I am doing my six months intern course at Delhi. I hope I will get a job as a nurse soon. My dreams of finishing a college course were made possible only by Nandri and Mothers Group.

While I was studying in the college Nandri gave a loan to my mother to buy a cow. My mother bought a cow and from the milk she sold in the market she was able to run the family with ease. In both ways Nandri and Mothers Group helped me attain my goal and at the same time for my mother to run the family without difficulty.

I will be forever grateful to Nandri and Mothers Group, also I promise to help poor children like me to pursue their studies in whatever way it is possible.

Volunteer Tony Shaju experiences teaching and living in a rural village in Tamil Nadu

It was a typically hot and humid Monday morning when I set off from the Nandri centre with Joe the Nandri India CEO.  Being honest I didn’t really know my destination, only that it would be quite rural and unlike anything I had experienced before. After driving past many towns and some bigger villages we started to head to a more mountainous area until we finally arrived in the village of Udaiyarkuppam. To my surprise and delight there stood a St. Anthony’s church with the parish house beside it where I would be staying for the next week or so. I would be living with the parish priest, Fr Arokiya Raj, who thankfully spoke English well and helped me to adjust.

The next morning, I was awoken by a what sounded like a large crowd. It was in fact a bell and then the public-address system from the church which calls out the time followed by a prayer or small bible reading at various times during the day. Unfortunately for me it started at 6AM!

Across the yard from the church was the local school where Joe had suggested that I could help teach English while I was there. I hastily met the young principal, Karthik, and before I knew it I was officially a teacher at Anthony R.C.S Middle School. Suddenly in front of me I had 40 odd expectant kids, looking back curiously at this overawed foreigner. This was a Tamil medium school so the standard of English and exposure to it were rather poor.

Nevertheless, me and my students in 7th and 8th standard managed to communicate effectively with a mix of English, broken Tamil and extravagant hand movements! The enthusiasm and eagerness from the kids was fantastic as was the competitiveness which was on display when playing English learning games in class.

Break times were filled mostly with playing kabaddi, the local sport, where you try to tag the opposing team and run back to your team’s half before they catch and take you down. I had resisted many calls from the students to be a ‘raider’ but eventually gave in. It can get quite rough but thankfully they understood me saying “soft” before they gleefully took me down!

There are around 260 children, mainly Dalits, in the school and each day ends with everyone outside singing the national anthem before heading home which was quite different to Ireland. Admittedly it was daunting at first having never been in a comparable situation but I feel it was a worthwhile and beneficial experience for me and hopefully the students too!

My evenings were equally busy as I went around the nearby villages to conduct surveys as part of my work with Nandri. So, I was visiting mothers and their families who had received loans from Nandri 3 or 4 years ago and helping to determine the impact on their lives. This was another new experience from me as I was exposed to a different side of India than have seen on previous visits. I had help to complete this work in the form of Selvam, a college student in Chennai who is from the local area. His help to translate and converse with the mothers combined with his local knowledge were invaluable. Initially Selvam and I went on foot around Udaiyarkuppum and as I walked up to the homes of some of the mothers I could see the cow they owned- bought with the loan from Nandri. The cow provides them with an asset and essentially becomes an earning member of the family. The milk will usually be sold to a cooperative and so provides a regular monthly income source for the family and also future calves can be sold. Thus, I could see the direct benefit of the Nandri loan for some of the mothers as the extra income was used to help take care of living costs. Indeed some of it was put towards the educational fees for their children. It was also nice a surprise when knocking on a door and seeing it opened by one of my students, some of whom are supported by Nandri.

Of course, as I was travelling around the villages- sometimes with Selvam on his little motorbike- I met others who were struggling more. Some are constrained by chronic medical ailments or a lack of access and affordability to treatment and generally there is a shortage of work. This is in part due to Tamil Nadu being in the midst of its worst drought in 140 years. Naturally the shortage of water affects daily living but also employment opportunities as most people are agricultural daily labourers, thus relying on the land. The struggle is not helped currently by the governments inadequate support despite national protests from Tamil Nadu farmers.

I must also mention the generosity of the villagers as I was travelling around to their homes. I’m grateful to their willingness to help us locate fellow group mothers on our list and inform us of any issues. I was also offered numerous snacks, fruits, tea and juice which was very welcome in the scorching heat. Indeed, I had the opportunity to have dinner in some of the mother’s houses and taste some local dishes which was nice- despite being far spicier than I’m used to! I was also able to attend a local Hindu festival one day which included inserting metal hooks into the backs of some worshippers and walking on fire followed by a procession. I had seen some similar things on t.v before but it was interesting to see it up close.

Overall it was an eye-opening experience to live in a truly rural area of India and see some of the people that Nandri support. I’ll certainly miss interacting with the imaginative kids from the school and the ability to talk with locals and learn about their lives while I definitely won’t miss the early morning ‘alarm clock’!  I’m told by locals that when the rains come the area is lush green and quite scenic and I look forward to returning sometime and seeing it for myself.

Tony Shaju

 

 

Successful Microfinance Implementation

In 2012 we started our #micro-finance program. We provide 90% of the cost of purchasing a cow or sewing machine to impoverished mainly #Dalit mothers.  These women live in rural communities, generally without access to clean water or sanitation or power.

Mothers self-help groups are the important crux of these communities. We have over 3,000 mothers in our programs and each mother belongs to a mother’s self-help group . Each group consists of 15 to 20 members. The group meets each month. Each mother/member pays a small monthly subscription and an annual subscription. They each save Rs.100 (approx. $1.50) per month.  For many of them, this is a days’ wages.

All the members’ savings  are re-lent each month to members of their own group.  All loan decisions are made collectively by the group  and all decisions are carefully minuted and careful records are kept of subscriptions, loans borrowings, etc.  Each member has a passbook, which shows her subscriptions  loans and borrowings.

Our mothers proudly show off their passbooks and their record, particularly of savings. Each group manages its own savings and loans but Nandri manages the income generation micro finance program. A mother who wants a micro-finance loan has to apply through her group. Her group will decide if they think she is capable of repaying the loan. The group will guarantee her loan. This peer pressure has insured 99% repayment rate on over 1,500 loans to date.  This is a key factor in the success of our program.

Our impoverished Dalit mothers would not be normally be allowed inside a bank never mind get a loan. Loan interest rates in India could be 2% to 3% per month from a bank and treble that from money lenders.  We charge 1% interest per month on the reducing balance and this has become an important part of the revenue of Nandri to allow the program to continue indefinitely and to ensure the program is properly managed and maintained.  We have developed our own lending application within #Salesforce, which is a corporate level CRM system.

Most of the mothers purchase a cow with their loan and the immediate income from the sale of milk from the cow means they can repay the loan, while also having sufficient money left over for other family purchases and also milk for much-needed family nutrition. They will sell the male calves as Indians don’t generally eat beef. Female calves will go on to become a valuable mother.

Today we have a fund of Rs. 12 million or about $150,000.  $50,000 of this was provided in the form of a grant by #LCIF.    Repayments enable us to issue between 30 and 40 loans every month. The income, in the form of interest and subscriptions, from our mothers, ensures the long-term viability of this program.

Fred Crowe

 

Nandri Mothers’ Convention 2017 my experience

By Tony Shaku

2017-03-19-photo-00003973

What a wonderful sight to see 3500 mothers, plus a few hundred children converging on the Nandri Centre in their purple Nandri saris. They arrived in buses on foot, on motorbikes. in trucks and tuk tuks (called 3 wheelers here).

I had been told about this event prior to heading out to India and that I should definitely make it in time to participate. It’s the biggest day of the year for the Nandri Foundation as thousands of empowered women who are receiving support from Nandri come together to celebrate and raise awareness of this movement.

However, I should start by mentioning the hard work gone in to produce a successful event. It no doubt had started much earlier than when I arrived, led by Joe- the driving force of the organisation in India. And the preparations went into the early hours of Sunday morning as staff, other volunteers and I finished making banners, signs, decorations and organising the raffle among other duties before the big day! It provided a glimpse of the sense of community as local kids and elders alike pitched in during the day to ensure things ran smoothly.

tony-s-and-joe-newAfter a few hours of sleep, I awoke and put on my veshti or dhoti, the traditional garment tied around the waist worn mainly in South India, normally in white for special occasions. It was time to attend the street rally/parade organised in the nearest town with hundreds of women coming from many villages. In true Indian fashion, the rally only began when it should have finished!

The rally helps raise awareness and the profile of the organisation in its goals relating to support for agriculture, rural life, children’s education and the empowerment of families.

This year it was also held in conjunction with CanKids, a non-profit working to improve the treatment and support for children with cancer in India. It was great to see our signs and banners used in full with leaflets given out to the public with info on issues that both foundations tackle. It was my first rally and I feel people took notice with the surge of women in matching purple saris walking through town. Also with the press and some local politicians attending it should reach a wider audience around the state.

Then we headed back to the newly constructed Nandri Centre where thousands more women, children and locals joined for the convention. The land around the centre had been transformed with a stage and two large marquees set up to protect from the searing heat. To begin Joe spoke about the values that underpin the work that the organisation and other senior staff gave a summary of the annual report in which Nandri has continued to expand its support to the women and children of the Tiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu.

20170319_140806There was also a prayer held in remembrance of the movement’s founder, Tony Barron, who passed away recently. The major events of the day were the opening of the computer and language teaching room which will undoubtedly be crucial to improving the prospects of a better life for numerous children in the area. Concurrently the solar power generation room was inaugurated with the centre now running on power generated from the newly installed solar panels which shows the commitment of Nandri to being environmentally sustainable which was pleasing to see.

Back on stage there were speeches from the invited dignitaries ranging from people involved in higher education, pro-agriculture and feminist groups as well as politics. Admittedly I didn’t understand quite a bit from the speeches but they were certainly impassioned and seemed to resonate well the mothers. There were also cheques and certificates given to continue the work of Nandri with a new education fund set up in honour of Tony Barron.
Then I got a big surprise Joe unexpectedly called me on to the stage as a representative of Nandri from Ireland and I received a ponnada- a ceremonial shawl usually given to acknowledge dignitaries or important people.2017-03-19-photo-00003973

So, in a moment I went from a volunteer to the chief guest from Ireland. It will most likely be the first and last time in my life!

The generosity extended to the local folk as the elderly gentleman sitting beside me in the crowd insisted on buying me ice cream, which was very welcome given the heat. As I savoured my ice cream there were plenty of energetic dances and singing performances to be enjoyed from children in their various village groups (including a memorable freestyle from Fr. Joe) Although most enjoyed their day, I’m sure some left a bit happier as they took home the prizes they won from the raffle.

Overall it was a unique experience, one which I’ll remember for a long time. The strong turnout of women who came from far and wide in the district highlighted the reach of Nandri and the community spirit it can foster which was particularly nice to see. Among other work I look forward to volunteering in the new solar powered computer and language lab which also shows the progress the foundation is making just a year since the centre opened. However, that might take a while as I re-adjust from being a VIP back to an eager volunteer!

Tony Shaju

Evening Classes

Children in rural India are generally very weak in English. Even if they know a few words, they are too shy to use these words. Those children studying in Tamil get very little coaching at school to learn English. After the 12th class which is equivalent to leaving cert in Ireland, when some of these children join college education or poly techniques, they face a lot problem with English as the mode of lecturing is in English.

Nandri has started evening classes to enhance English speaking skills of the children with innovative and child friendly teaching and learning methods.  The intricate grammatical concepts are made easy for children with games, song and dances. Apart from spoken English, children are helped with their school assignments and also receive some food snacks.

The evening classes are named Nandri Joyful Learning Centres (NJLC) as the children should enjoy learning and feel happy to come to the centre.  The evening classes are conducted from 5.30 to 7.00 in the evenings. Some of the teachers are college students and they are benefiting from classes we have at weekends. The income which we pay them helps them with their fees.

In November 2016 we have a hundred children in NJLC and December 2016 fifty more will be added. The plan is to roll out this project next year to lots more villages. We want the villages to run these classes with teachers we will train. We want the villages to pay the cost and this will mean many more children will benefit.  

You can see from the short videos how much fun they are having while still learning 

#LCIF – stories with no names or photos

IMG_7209.JPGWe recently received a grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation #LCIF  for the purpose of giving loans to some of our mothers.  In July we issued 25 loans and in August we issued 15+1. The +1 was a loan made possible by the loan repayments from the loans given in July.

We have over 3,000 mothers in our mother’s self help groups. This #LCIF fund will be used for loans for widows and single mothers.

Here are some of the stories of these women who work tirelessly for their children.

Mother 1 – has lost her husband because of alcoholism. She has a child who studies in 10th standard. She works as coolie in Chennai for a very meager income. She is homeless and lives in her parental house which is totally damaged. Through this loan, she will buy a cow. Her mother will look after the cow and generate income. This will be an additional income for the family to comfortably meet their basic needs and the educational requirements of her child.

Mother 2-  husband died in accident five years ago. She had three children, two daughters and a son. Both her daughters have died. Her son abandoned her after his marriage leaving her penniless. She struggled for her own survival.  The cow loan has restored her dignity with livelihood to become self-reliant and self-sufficient.

Mother 3-  husband died due to alcoholism. She has got three female children and all of them are studying. One of her child is doing nursing course. She works as a daily wage earner with insufficient income hardly enough to meet all her family needs and the education of her of her children. The loan has helped her buy a cow and generate income to create the desired economic changes in her family with proper food, health and educational needs of her children.

Mother 4 – husband succumbed to death due to alcoholism.  She has got three children and all of them are studying. She is the sole bread winner in the family. With her meager income, she was finding it very difficult to educate her children. Through this loan, she will set up a small petty shop which will bring an additional income to the family. This will enable her to create assets to provide proper education for her children.

Mother 5 – husband died of sudden cardiac arrest. She has got three children and finds it very difficult to give them proper food and education. Her children are doing 3rd level education. Though she is uneducated, she wants her children to be educated well. She has got cow loan and will generate adequate income out of this to educate her children without much financial constraints.

This is the mother who got the loan from the repayments

Mother 16 husband abandoned her 10 years ago. She has a son studying in 9th grade.   She is an agricultural laborer. Due to decreasing nature of agricultural activities caused by the constant failure of monsoon and the drought situation in the district, she suffers from seasonal unemployment. Even when there is work she gets very low income hardly enough to meet both their needs. Life for her and her son is always at stake. The for a cow will bring a ray of hope into the lives both, she and her son, creating sustained source of income for them. With this assured source of income she will be able to envision a bright future for her son with good education and employment.