Nandri Tuition Centre’s

The parents of the children from rural villages where Nandri is working are very poor and illiterate.  Sadly, these parents are unable to help their children with their homework or help them with learning outside of school hours.

This makes the children roam the streets and without proper guidance they get disconnected from learning within the school system.

To respond to this problem Nandri has initiated Nandri Tuition Centre’s in three villages now and more villages are on the list to start operating from June 2018 onwards. Nandri tuition is one of the activities of Nandri Service Centre’s new initiatives. Through these centre’s, children are helped to do their homework correctly, organise games, and other extracurricular activities to develop their talents. Each centre is managed by a mentor who identifies the innate talents of the children and they encourage all children to develop their own individual talents.

Special attention is given to speaking English. Our children who study in the Tamil medium schools are apprehensive about speaking English. In these centre’s, we try to make learning english a joyful experience for the children.


At present we have five centres in three villages and about 150 children are benefitting from this programme. By June we would have another eight centre’s, catering to more than 500 children. Thanks to Electric Aid from Ireland for supporting this initiative of Nandri.

Jude Thomas

International Women’s Day is very proud to join women all over the globe who come together today to celebrate International Women’s Day with a voice of unity.  Acknowledging this special day and the women who lead the charge when it comes to giving the not so fortunate voices of the world a chance to be heard to be one.

The Nandri ethos has always been simple, empowering women. How we achieve this is also simple, we support and encourage our members to be self sufficient. Through our self help groups, loan scheme’s, education and training programs.  Nandri has been providing, nurturing and supporting the women of rural, Southern India to strive for a better life for themselves and then in turn they support their families and the wider communities in Tamil Nadu.

Nandri Mothers

Our Mothers Self-Help group is fundamental to our success. Nandri works with mothers groups at village level to administer loans. The income generated helps the mother keep children in education and provide for healthcare.

The earliest Women’s Day observance, called “National Woman’s Day,” was held on February 28, 1909 in New York.  It was organised by the Socialist Party of America at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel who was an American labor activist, suffragist and educator. She was the first woman to rise from factory work to leadership in the Socialist party. Her 1910 novel, The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker, is credited with helping to reform New York State labor laws.

In 2012 the UN theme for International Women’s Day was Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty.  In 2013 – time for action to end violence against women. In 2014 – Equality for women & it was declared that this would be progress for all!.

In 2016 The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukheriee, in his message issued on the eve of International Women’s Day said: “On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I extend warm greetings and good wishes to the women of India and thank them for their contributions over the years in the building of our nation.” The ministry of women and child development announced the setting up of four more one-stop crisis centre’s on March 8, in addition to the eight already functioning across the country. Ahead of Women’s Day, the national carrier Air India operated what it claimed to be the world’s longest non-stop flight where the entire flight operations were handled by women, as part of International Women’s Day celebrations. The flight, from Delhi to San Francisco, covered a distance of around 14,500 kilometres in around 17 hours.

This year the United Nations call for action is this “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

The Nandri message remains simple today and every day, give women the tools to empower themselves. Women of the world we salute you!

The future of Nandri : Some of the young women who’s lives have changed through education.








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


Tony Barron Education Fund

Tony Barron photo


In March 2017, Tony Barron died after a long illness. Tony was the founder of Nandri, over 20 years ago, then called Child aid Ireland. He is responsible for the education of over 5,000 Impoverished low caste Dalit children. He organised the building of schools, medical centres and provided ambulances and clean water to many communities in Southern India.

He started his charity as he believed that education which had changed Ireland would also change India. 20 years ago children were being taken out of school as young as eight or nine years of age, particularly girls. The objective was to marry off the girls as young as possible to take the burden from the family.

Nowadays, most people realise the importance of education. For many, it is still a struggle to send children to school to pay the fees and the uniforms and travel costs. And of course still maintain family nutrition. Nandri has its child sponsorship programme with over 1,000 children in this program. Each child receives for every month, the equivalent of three or four days wages for the mother. Many years ago, Tony told me the payment to each family was almost like a bribe to keep the child an education.

Each year, now we have between 100 and 200 children, graduating with their 12th standard, which is the Irish equivalent of Leaving Certificate. Many of them receive the highest grades , which in our terms would be 600 points. It is very sad if they cannot continue with their education. The upfront fees required by the colleges might only be €150 that is six months wages for some families, and that could prevent the child from going to college.

We have decided to set up a specific fund to ensure that our 18-year-olds get to go to college. Money will be given out as loans which will be repaid by the family during the education with any balance paid by the child once he or she is working. Orphaned children will not have to repay the loan until they have started to work.

We are inviting donations for the Tony Barron Education Fund. The target of this fund is Rs.3.5 million, or about €50,000. Between 400 and 600 children will benefit from this fund. We already have a successful micro finance operation in place where we have provided income generation loans to almost 1500 families and education loans to over 200. 99% of our loans are recovered and we also charge a small interest-rate to ensure the long time very viability of the projects.

Please send a donation to Carmichael house, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7

Or email me and i will send you bank details

Fred Crowe 086 253 1518

Nandri Mothers’ Convention 2017 my experience

By Tony Shaku


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.








Visit to Nandri Centre by Caroline Keane

Caroline with mothersCaroline who lives in Ireland was visiting Southern India. She contacted us about children’s clothes which she had brought to India. The clothes have now been distributed to some of our children and she also visited our centre and sent the following email.


My visit to a Nandri Mothers’ Self Help Group meeting

More than 3,000 women in some of the poorest areas of rural Tamil Nadu now have their own successful little businesses thanks to the help of Joseph Abraham (Joe), managing trustee of Child Aid Trust which is Nandri’s partner in India and Nandri’s Micro Finance programme, funded by Irish donors and recently by #LCIF (Lions Clubs International Foundation).

Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting Nandri in person, meeting some of these inspiring women at their monthly group meeting and hearing their stories.

Some of the women have received a modest loan (€350) from Child Aid Trust/Nandri to start their own income. One of the women I met proudly told me about her tailoring business, another has bought a cow, while a third lady is now making shoes. Because of their micro loans and hard work, they are all now able to provide better lives for their children.

caroline keane with mothersAs well as these micro-finance loans all of the mothers save Rs.100 each month. This is about the amount of money which they earn for a days work in the rice fields. any mother can also borrow from their own group. All of the savings and repayments are relent each month.

It was lovely to see all the women smartly turned out in their colourful lilac-and-white sari uniforms which they wear to their monthly meetings.  These Dalit mothers are proud to belong to a group.  They clearly enjoy these get-togethers where they save each month, repay their installments, share their experiences and catch up with each other. From start to finish they were full of enthusiasm, chatter and smiles.

I was particularly impressed by how well managed the programme is and how supportive the women are of each other. Every loan and repayment is carefully and clearly accounted for by a local Nandri staff member using the individual and group reporting set up by Joe. The women have their own individual loan account books which, as well as repayment details, also include a page where they write what their children would like to study in the future, e.g. to be a nurse or engineer. These mothers are determined to make their businesses a success so that their children can have a better education and future than they have had.

Nandri do not receive any interest or fees from these loans. Instead, the women contribute a small 1% fee into a fund towards college education for children of members within their own group.

Although working on shoestring and also running other activities, Joe and Nandri are aiming to have 4,000 mothers and families benefiting from their membership this time next year. Impressive indeed, especially since this programme was first started four years ago, in 2012.

Aside from the Micro Finance programme, Nandri’s other local initiatives including a sponsor a child programme, evening tuition schools and skills training for adults.

Joe and Nandri also have other great initiatives and ideas which they can implement with a little more funding. They are strong champions of social improvement through education and community empowerment because it works. It was really remarkable to see first-hand how they are experts at stretching even the smallest donation to make a huge difference.

If you’re thinking of donating to a charity that can make your money go a long way, I recommend without hesitation

Caroline Keane


My Nandri Experience – By Toria Moylan


Let me start by saying I am not easily amazed. I am not easily impressed. I am not easily moved. But from my experience of The Nandri Foundation in India, I felt I had to write something as I am amazed at what an inspiring charity they are. I am impressed at the hard work and devotion the volunteers give to the poverty stricken people of Tamil Nadu. But mostly I was moved, deeply moved by the people of India and how The Nandri Foundation motivates and empowers families through education. Because of Nandri there is a light at the end of the tunnel for each child’s dream of a brighter future. They are turning that dream into a reality



toria3After less than a weeks planning my last minute trip to India with my Dad is happening. The impossible became possible we got our Indian visas in 2 days, the stress as well as the blood pressure was high but it was all worth it in the end I am going to India! Our first day we travel and travel and then travel some more, finally after getting to India. We wait for an hour and a half for our bags, the endless prescriptions, sun creams and bottles of deet went from important to vital. But alas, the bags emerged, and we could breathe again.
The heat hit us like a wall when we walked out of the air conditioned airport. It’s a heat I’ve never felt before, its heavy, humid. The noises are almost overbearing. A constant honking of horns, street dogs barking and the buzzing noise of people shouting in the streets harmonise into song. Chaos surrounded us. The smells are pungent, wisps of putrid scents of open sewage, diesel, spices and human sweat overwhelm our senses.


We embarked on our 3 ½ hour drive from Chennai to Vellore , little did we know the roads of India are a free for all and the one with the loudest horn gets right of way. I learnt the traffic is worse than I could have imagined so be patient, in Chennai there are 4 million people trying to get around the small city. Its best to just go with the flow in India and have faith you won’t die on the roads. Seeing 4 or 5 people driving long on one motorbike is not unusual. Finally never ever ever rent a car in India unless you have a death wish, leave the driving to them. After 3 1/2 hours of heart palpitations and sweats from numerous close calls we arrive at our hotel. I met Father Joe for the first time and he is the furthest thing from my preconceived idea of a priest, he is charismatic, friendly, fascinating and warm.
We attended a wedding in the church of an orphanage which homes a number of sponsored children by Nandri. The wedding itself is an experience I will never forget, they were honoured to have my dad and I essentially “crash” their big day, something we couldn’t understand. Following the wedding we had a meal in the orphanage with the priests. It is clear almost immediately these priests who are so lively and young at heart not only preach the word of God but live their lives by it too by caring and providing for the orphans and lead by example through living a good life.


Mother Group Visits – Once we’ve caught up on some much needed sleep we hit the road with Father Joe to visit Nandri mother groups meetings. They could not contain their happiness that foreigners had come to visit them, it was humbling. They would squeak with excitement when we shook their hand. The room was filled with a sea of blue Sari’s supporting the biggest of grins, eyes watching our every move. The organisation of the meetings is what stood out to me the most. During each meeting minutes were taken, accounts were thoroughly checked and any issues were discussed and resolved, all lead by Joe. The Idea of the mother support groups was a new concept to me. Nandri are forming their own micro community of mothers, who in India are oppressed and often mistreated by the male dominant society in which they live. The mothers support and care for one another whilst learning new values of hard work and the importance of education in the child’s life, in turn overcoming years of unjust tradition and culture one step at a time. Nandri has inspired thousands of mothers to believe in themselves. They can change their future, through financial aid, creating community based support groups and motivational speeches about the “Nandri vision” by Father Joe. Before they could have never envisioned a change or an improvement in their lives. “If I have the belief I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning” – Ghandi The Nandri Foundation provide mothers with the capacity to do it.



We visited a blind school, a truly humbling experience, these children face challenges no one in the western world could begin to imagine. They played beautiful music for us, the children ran around laughing and smiling and playing games. Their disability does not hold them back nor do they let it define them. We stopped off at another destination on our list, Father Joe’s Parish. He succeeded a priest who deserted this parish so it was left destitute and after a lot of hard work the parish was habitable once again. Previously riddled with snakes and scorpions you can imagine how nervous I was walking into the place, that vivid imagery didn’t leave my mind until we left. Afterwards we pulled over for a “coconut break”. Alongside the roads there are men everywhere with small motorbikes carrying far too many coconuts for it to be safe. We ordered our coconuts and he begins to hack at the coconut with his Machete, we sipped away and this stuff puts Vita Coco to shame it is delicious, a couple of satisfied customers hopped back into the car and on we went.


toria8The food is something that takes getting used to, I’m a fan of very spicy food at home but India takes spicy to another level. I’d advise anyone travelling over to pace yourself and your stomach. I was lucky enough to escape the dreaded Deli belly I’d been warned about, I managed to avoid all and any sicknesses over there by some miracle. I was told to bring a few energy bars in my bag in hind sight I wish I had but then again I didn’t go to India to snack on NutriGrain. I got to do some sight seeing while I was in Vellore, I visited the famous Southupaarai Dam and the golden Temple which was stunning. We shopped for Sari’s, Mehndi (what we call Henna), Bangles and silver anklets to complete my transformation into an Authentic Indian- well that’s a stretch but it was fun immersing myself in the culture.


I visited more mother group meetings and the transparency of each groups accounts resonated with me, it is unequivocal where each cent is going and that its going towards their children’s education. What I found to stand out to me the most was the Micro financing plans. Nandri is a sustainable charity with systems in place that will run forever irrespective of who’s running them. The mother groups support one another in society but also financially as not to damage the groups creditworthiness. Each mother will have their own bank account, a facility that was previously not available to lower caste people. Nandri adopts what I believe to be the most practical approach.

toria10They could have establish their own infrastructures and claimed complete control over everything in the system. But that would have taken away from the current orphanages and schools that exist and help children today. So alternatively Nandri decided to enhance the current infrastructures by adding facilities such as toilets, more classrooms, bedrooms, teachers and so on. Nandri want to enhance what already exists, they trust people to do the right thing, the right way. Nandri understand that the poor people must be given opportunities in efforts to overcome their poverty, they must be treated the same as middle class citizens and given equal opportunities. Nandri is slowly but surely changing the prejudicial views against the lower caste, Dailt’s who are viewed as the outcastes in Rural India.


When I saw the Nandri Centre it reinforced the idea that everyone irrespective of your class should be entitled to equal opportunities. I had to pick my jaw up from the floor, its safe to say I was blown away by it. This huge building stood in front of me, an inspiring vision where the low caste mothers will receive the highest quality training here. As Joe tells me, if you train them with the best facilities they will become the best they can be, their current income should not handicap them. Once again Nandri are redefining the traditions people have been bound to and are providing a sustainable long term solution to eradicate India’s poverty.

toria12Chennai Floods – They experienced the worst rain and flooding for over 150 years wile I was in India. I come for some sun and heat and the weather follows me from Ireland. Twice I went with Nandri and Arni Lions club volunteers and we handed out blankets, rice, flour, coil and other basic needs to badly flood effected areas. We drove and drove and drove bouncing along the damaged roads, the pot holes are mini man holes at this stage. We travelled to remote villages along side overflowing lakes and rivers where people’s homes were filled with water up past their knees, and most of these “homes” were mud huts. People were getting sicker and sicker from the rain. They could not work for days on end therefore they did not have money so inevitably they could not eat. Yet every home I went into to give a Pack to they wanted me to stay and have tea or something to eat.

toria13Somethings that have really stuck with me from my experiences in India, everywhere I went the smiling eyes, genuine happiness, the immense kindness and the sharing of what little they had was overwhelming it’s their culture, their nature, their norm.


In the school I was teaching they taught me what Christmas means to them and it is worlds apart from our Western Christmas. Christmas only becomes special and meaningful when you share what you have with those you love or those less fortunate. This belief is instilled in them from a young age, so when the heavens opened and the flooding hit, many were left homeless, families who could barely afford to feed themselves were donating to help these flood effected families, “So whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me”; If that’s not Christianity I don’t know what is.



toria16Father Joe is heading up the workers for Nandri over in India and I can put my hand on my heart and say there is no faulting him. He has a heart of gold and lives the good life we all want to live yet somehow he does not get deterred along the way. Joe tells me a story from the bible. Something I’d never thought I’d be writing about but it resonated with me, it was about how you must stay true to yourself. “A man sees a scorpion drowning and picks it up to save it, but it stings him, he drops it back in the river, he tries to save again and again but the same thing happens. Eventually he saves it and the disciples ask him “why do you keep trying to save it, if it keeps stinging you?”. He explains it is the scorpions nature to sting but it is human nature to care and love so you must save it, never let someone else’s nature change your own.” We all want to make the world a better place than we found it but the evil and bad in the world can make us doubt the help we give will make a real difference but we must not change our nature, you must “Be the change you want to see in the world”- Ghandi.

toria17I came away with a lot more than I could have ever hoped for. I learnt a few Tamil phrases, but by far my Favourite is Nandri- meaning thank you. Father Joe explained to me how they do not say thank you to their friend in India because if you are good enough friends, of course you would do something for them. (To any future volunteers the head bobble means yes- it looks like a no but I can assure you it means yes, took me a while to wrap my head around it.)

Naming the Charity Nandri in my opinion is appropriate for 2 reasons. Firstly it highlights these peoples’ appreciation for life and for the Nandri Foundation giving these poverty stricken people an opportunity to change their future through education. Which is the main barrier faced by these mothers and children, it is their ticket to a better life. ” A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expect” Ghandi By teaching Indian mothers to work hard for what they want they will appreciate what they achieve so much more than if they were simply handed it. The Nandri Foundation empowers and instils new values which can be past on from generation to generation. They are also teaching mothers to deal with their issues and take the matter into their own hands, echoing my fathers mantra “if its got to be, its up to me.”
In the future Nandri hope that it will be a self Supporting system through its new generation moment. The new generation movement will be all the children who have been fortunate enough to receive Nandri’s support. Who finished their education and are now working and can support themselves, their family and can afford to contribute back to the Charity that empowered them in ways they could have only imagined. Showing their appreciation, their thanks, their Nandri.