promoting inclusive societies

India

The Chittoor District is the largest of the districts in Andhra Pradesh and lies in the southernmost part of the state. It is flanked by the states of Karnataka in the west and Tamilnadu in the south. It can be divided into two natural divisions: the mountainous plateau on the west, and the plains on the east. The land area in the east is comprised of large hilly areas, forest land, and farmland in between. The eastern part is hotter than the rest of the district and receives much less rainfall from the northeast monsoon than the western part and work in the farms is available only for a maximum period of 3 or 4 months in the later part of the year

Andhra Pradesh has the fourth largest population (7.4%) of Dalit people in the country and the Chittoor district has a large percentage of Dalit people also. The literacy rate of the district is only 21% and the actual literacy rates in the villages would be much lower among the Dalits and tribals. The people are poor, illiterate and suffer from all kinds of abuse due to their suppression by the caste system for over 2000 years. As most of them are illiterate, they work as laborers on the farms of the landlords belonging to the higher caste who own much of the agricultural lands. It has been stated that the landlords cheat them in many ways, make them bonded laborers for the loans they take and sexually abuse their women. The Dalits and tribals continue to suffer due to lack of proper employment or ways to earn reasonable income, and this prevents them from having proper food, health care or education.

Illiteracy, poverty and disability are inseparable entities and every village in Chittoor district. All villages have people with disabilities and it goes to prove that every data on poverty and disability are true. Of the conservatively estimated 70 million people with disabilities(PWD) in India, almost 95% have no access to education or employment opportunities according to a survey done by the Commonwealth Foundation, as well as other NGOs. This is the equivalent of denying education or employment to the entire population of the UK or France. Of these people with disabilities, at least 6 million people need artificial limbs. 2 million people need crutches, calipers and canes to walk. Only 5% people with mobility problems receive any kind of artificial limbs; 80% of the rehabilitation programs are in the big cities and towns; 78% of the people with disabilities are in country side; and only 5% of children with disabilities go to school. These facts are a slice of the greater needs of people with disabilities, and there are many other areas of disability requiring intervention.

Faced with such reality about people with disabilities living in their area, the founders of ATSWA ventured to help the people in the Sathyavedu mandal (block) of Chittoor district Helped by a donor agency, they reached out to people with disabilities and their families providing education and rehabilitation from 1999. Due to the delivery of services, they were able to secure the trust and confidence of many villagers in their area. This helped them expand their work to 7 mandals. Though people with disabilities from many mandals requested ATSWA to help them, they couldn't help due to lack of support. During their extension surveys in the other section of the eastern part of Chittoor district, they found that there were many poor people who had disabilities requiring help and rehabilitation.

As ATSWA didn't have donors to support a new initiative, it began to look for others to help develop a project for the disabled. Mr. S.A. Chelladurai, Secretary of ATSWA, confided to Rev. Dr. Chandran Paul Martin, an old friend, Executive Secretary of United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India and presently the Deputy General Secretary of Lutheran World Federation, to help find some to support a project for the disabled people in the western area of the eastern part of Chittoor district.

During a visit to India in 2010 January, Rev. Dr. Chandran Paul Martin brought Mr. Christoph Siedersleben of IMPACT to see the work of ATSWA with people with disabilities to see if IMPACT could extend support for a new initiative. It was an exploratory visit in order to collect basic information and to get first ideas on the most urgent needs and possibilities for IMPACT to respond. Mr. Siedersleben was impressed with the work of ATSWA among the disabled and as a result, a project proposal was presented by ATSWA to IMPACT. The application was studied by the IMPACT Council. Mr. Siedersleben returned for a follow up visit in July with Mr. Rob Tovey, another IMPACT Colleague from the United Kingdom, to see the work of ATSWA and to finalise the project with IMPACT support. As expected, the team was satisfied and the IMPACT Council approved the proposal in its meeting in September. Mr. Siederselben and Mr. Richard Carman, another Impact colleague from the United States, came for a final round of visit in the third week of December 2010. The team inaugurated the new IMPACT- ATSWA office in Chittoor District and also visited many participants.

In the later part of December 201,0 staff were selected for the new ATSWA -- IMPACT project and were provided training in the office as well as in the field. The project started in January 2011 as planned, and the first half of the grant support for the year was also received from IMPACT.

The project was implemented in the following mandals and will cover roughly 240 villages:
1. Chittoor rural Mandal
2. Gangathernellur
3. Ramchandrapurum
4. Penumuru
5. S. R. Purum
6. Yadhamari
7. Karveti Nagar

Eight hundred and twenty one (821) clients have been identified in these seven mandals. Community awareness and parental awareness programs have been carried out. In addition to this, 71 people who have cataracts have been identified for surgery. People with disabilities in this new project area are beginning to feel the "IMPACT" of the project led by the IMPACT -- ATSWA Partnership.



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