Newsletter – December 2011


Dear Friends of Belaku

We have had a very busy few months at Belaku, so busy in fact that our regular October newsletter has been slightly delayed!!! We hope that you enjoy the stories below which show some of the excellent work our team has been doing in the field over the past few months.

As always, the focus of our work has been the villages around Kanakapura where our wonderful team have successfully delivered a series of summer camps for local school children, worked on improving the embroidery skills of our women’s group in the village of Ushe and have been looking into the local effectiveness of the Indian government’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) programme.

We have also been kept busy in our fundraising efforts, running our annual appeal to fund our work in the field. My sincerest thanks to all of you who have donated to support our work. We appreciate your continuing support and the kind messages of support so many of you sent.

Finally, from all of our team I would like to wish you all the best this festive season and a happy new year.

Best wishes

Saras Ganapathy

In this newsletter…

Summer Camps with the support of the Overseas Women’s Club we ran a series of summer camps for over 700 local children. These camps were fun filled and also gave local children important lessons on health and citizenship.

Focus on the National Rural Health Mission – we have contributed to public discussion and conducted some research in the field into the workings of the Indian government’s National Rural Health Mission. We have some serious concerns about this project and are planning to look into this in more detail in the coming months.

Improving women’s embroidery skills  – with generous financial support from the Safran Foundation, our embroidery group in the village of Ushe have been busy honing their embroidery skills.

Volunteer Story – Viktoria’s filming project – Viktoria Coffey, a volunteer from Australia, reflects on three months in the field working to document their stories on film.

Annual Appeal – this festive season, Belaku is running an annual appeal to raise funds for our ongoing work. Many of our you have already made generous donations and the appeal will run until the new year.

Summer Camps

Summer time in the villages around Kanakapura can be dull, with no school, limited activities outside family gatherings and no access to transport. In response to community requests to provide further education during summer, the Belaku Trust runs a summer camp programme to complement our other activities in the villages. Last summer, the camps were financially supported by the Overseas Women’s Club.

Activities were conducted in ten villages over 3 days with 730 children participating. The camp is an opportunity for the children to play together in a supervised environment, develop their communication and leadership abilities, build their confidence, socialize with children from different communities in the village, and learn new skills. The activities were designed to improve knowledge of good nutrition, hygiene, first aid, environmental and civic awareness.

This year we were able to expand the program by one day in each village and run more activities, including:

§         Computer literacy with volunteers from ANZ Bank

§         More staff for each camp to manage the children and facilitate greater learning

§         Partner with Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness who ran a session on child rights

§         Distribute Kannada reading and picture books for participants

The children were full of energy and curiosity. Volunteers and staff were repeatedly amazed at the children’s ability to learn quickly and absorb information. The children inspired us all, reminding us of how successful the next generation can be, if they are given an enabling environment.

Focus on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)

The National Rural Health Mission is a key Indian government programme that aims to improve the availability of and access to quality health care in rural areas. The programme was launched in 2005 and will run until 2012. Our background health research and project delivery in Kanakapura means we are interested in the effectiveness of this programme.

Dr Saras Ganapathy (Director of Projects) met with other organisations who had an interest in the success of the NRHM programme at a conference in New Delhi. At this conference information and feedback was shared and participants discussed ideas for evaluation and improving the programme.

In the field, our team has been looking into how the programme has functioned in Kanakapura and we have some concerns about the programme. Key areas of focus for the programme revolve around health education and community involvement in local health care. Our team has observed that the reality of how the programme is operating differs significantly from how it should and this could impede improvements in the quality of rural healthcare. We are planning to explore this in more depth and look at ways that Belaku could help make programme work better for the community in Kanakapura.


Training for Ushe

This year’s training and design programs have seen us make great progress in enhancing the skills of our Ushe womens’ group in the village of Achalu.

John of Birdy Exports and Wiea Van Der Zwan worked with Ushe to design new products, improve the quality and increase the speed of the womens’ embroidery. Thanks to generous funding from the Safran Foundation we were able to employ John to train the women. John is an expert supervisor in the fashion industry here. His eye for detail and the quality of his work is exceptional.

The women soaked up the knowledge that John and Wiea shared with them. The products that they and our other women’s groups create make excellent gifts for birthdays and holidays, to have a view or order some of the products please click here.


Volunteer Story – Viktoria

The bus door flies open and my thoughts are abruptly halted. The conductor sings out in a roll of Kannada…

I briefly make out “Kanakapura”.

I must be going the right way… but this is definitely the wrong bus.

A horde of people clamber onto the bus, popping out of the tight door before the bus takes off again; although it had hardly stopped.

Two women choose to sit up tight and close to me. They smile softly at me and open their tiffin tins for breakfast. I check my head scarf is holding on and in that moment my mind throws back to the village the day before…

For 2 months now I’ve been sitting on village house floors talking to the women about their rural existence. Awkwardly juggling my rice and roti over lunch with the Belaku Trust fieldworkers, I realise it’s in caring for each other that the move towards greater independence for women in the villages gains momentum.

There’s a shift; a way of thinking that acknowledges the need to care for themselves and one another. As they gossip over their work and engage in a true exchange of knowledge, the long lasting changes that the Belaku Trust make in their lives is revealed.

True education is not just about reciting and repeating, it’s about genuinely knowing your student and engaging. The Belaku Trust carry this idea through all of their work. My trips to the pre-schools where The Belaku Trust have set up their Gelathi programmes have made me wish that I’d once gone to a pre-school so lively, so loud, so creative and so caring.

As a film maker, you need to have a genuine care for your subject or, through all the challenges you”ll face throughout a project, you can too quickly grow apathetic and desensitized to what unfolds in front of you. Now, only moments from heading home to Australia, I realise how lucky I am to have landed in Bangalore to volunteer for an NGO doing important and necessary work; to create films for them that will hopefully show their work to a wider audience.

The bus bumps and jumps us about the road, snapping me out of my daydream. Someone is playing Hindi music from his phone. Collared shirts and thongs, Sarees and rotis. The morning bus from Bangalore.

Annual Appeal

We would like to thank everyone who has donated to our annual appeal. Without your support we could not continue to improve the lives of the communities that we work in. We are over halfway towards our target of raising INR 10,00,000/$20,000 USD, this money will allow us to continue our work. The appeal will continue into the new year so if you haven’t already, please click here to support our work.


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