RDM supports hundreds of families who live in Parakkanvilai and the surrounding area.
In the well-established training centres, people are trained in skills that lead to income and employment. Fees for training are very low so that even the poorest people can access them.
The tailoring unit is extremely popular, especially with younger women, and supports 130 students a year under the expert guidance of the tailoring teacher. At the end of their training, students are supported by RDM to buy a sewing machine so they can start their own tailoring business.
The handcrafts centre teaches women to work with two local natural products – palm leaf and banana fibre. These are dried in the sun and dyed bright colours using vegetable dyes before being woven into baskets, hats and other items including Palm Crosses. When RDM receives an orders for handcrafts, the students are paid a fair price for everything they produce.
RDM runs a busy clinic which is staffed by a full-time nurse who is trained in community healthcare and can supply medicines where needed. When funds are available, arrangements are made for a doctor to visit the village and offer clinics at the Health Centre.
The RDM Health Centre has recently begun to offer services of traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, selling herbal oils and offering monthly consultations with a trained practitioner.
RDM runs a nursery school in the community centre which aims to offer a solid educational start for any children in the village, including those from the poorest families.
Community Programmes, Money & Microfinance
Women’s Self-Help Groups
Life can be very hard for women in Parakkanvilai. There is a shortage of work for men without higher education, so many men travel to the Gulf Countries to work as building labourers, which means they can be absent for 3 – 5 years at a time. After marriage women traditionally move to live with their husband’s family, which may leave them a long distance from their own families.
Thanks to RDM, women are supported in small Self-Help groups which are co-ordinated by a social worker. There are 20 women in each Self-Help group. The group receives a community loan which members agree to lend within the group when needed. The loan is paid back over time with the group members holding each other to account. These groups provide a vital network of support and education around issues including health, finance and families.
Small Savings Scheme
Money is a constant worry in a poor community, and without a system of Social Security poor families can be extremely vulnerable, turning to high-interest loans.
RDM runs a Small Savings Scheme which works like a credit union. People are encouraged to save small amounts of money regularly and can get low-interest loans in times of need. When funds allow, RDM also provides low-cost housing loans which can enable families to build their own house which will survive the winter rains.
Adult education and outreach
RDM holds a visible and trusted place in the community and as such is an excellent centre for adult education and outreach. Awareness meetings and seminars are regularly hosted in the Community Centre on local issues including mental health, suicide prevention and domestic violence. Pamphlets have been produced by RDM and distributed around the village.
Family and community functions are extremely important in Indian society! RDM provides facilities for the community to hire including a wedding hall, banqueting hall and a minibus. The RDM office provides low-cost services including photocopying, laminating, photos and access to the internet.