Site 1: Purasaiwalkan
Site 2: Otteri
Site 3: Pallikaranai
Gujarat Earthquake
OTTERI, Chennai, India / PALLIKARANAI, Chennai, India
Sites 2 and 3:
World Vision India New Hope Area Development Program’s (NHADP) Community Center in Otteri
Pallikaranai, a transit school for children who want to start school after having dropped out.

The Community Centers are the hub for all development work carried out in each slum community, one of the hundreds in the city of Chennai.  Constructed on community land by the people of the slum, with the help of World Vision, the facility and its control is in the hands of the community themselves.  This Center is a place for women of the community to learn income-generating skills, for the self-help groups to meet to provide support to each other, and for children to attend special classes to help them through school.

It was inspiring to see the entrepreneurial and organizational talents of these women flourishing, thanks to the encouragement that they were able to give to each other in the context of the community development center. These women, who have no education and came from the slums, have organized a micro-lending program among themselves to provide money for special occasions like the weddings of their children, or to buy sewing machines to start their own businesses. They meet on a regular basis to provide peer support and organize income-generating activities. Their center has also become the center of the community and is used as a venue for special events such as celebrations of religious festivals. Their pride in their accomplishments is palpable and marvelous.
The transitional school picks up little children from the street and brings them into a classroom so that they can learn the necessary skills to attend regular schools. The teacher finds these children, talks to their parents, brings them together, and when they are ready, escorts them to the regular school and eases them through the transition. Despite the fact that the school is just a small mud shack with no electricity, it is filled with young voices discovering the excitement of learning new things.

World Vision India works in over 100 locations around India through Area Development Programs (ADP), of which the NHADP is the largest.  The ADP works among a contiguous group of people in a location to help them identify their needs and find solutions for them.  In the case of NHADP, the need was for income-generation training programs to make use of the copious market in the city around them, and to ensure a good education base for the children of the community.  The people do this through self-help groups that have access to micro-credit schemes supported by World Vision, and by getting children back to school and keeping them there.

The most pressing need of each community is to mobilize their already advanced development to a sustainable level.  Already, there is a growing realization of the community’s need to help itself, as can be seen from the pride of the people who run the community center and the confidence of the women members of the self-help group.  This sense of self-empowerment needs to be nurtured to a stage where they are able to move forward on their own.

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