Children Oriented Progressive Education Trust (COPE Trust) is a local Indian NGO that works around the rural areas of the city of Trichy, in the southern region of Tamil Nadu. COPE Trust works basically with the most disfavoured sector of the rural population: orphans, children from single parents (mostly women), broken families and farming workers with no land property (seasonal workers), mostly form the lower casts.
The organization has the following objectives:
- To provide the necessary conditions for a decent education, roof and food for the children.
- To promote the values of respect and tolerance among the youngsters form different origins an religions, creating an environment of unity and harmony.
COPE Trust started working as an NGO in 2001. Much earlier though, Fr. Jesu Sathianathen, the organisation’s main promoter, started a series of activities addressed to make known the situation of the children in this region, so as to gather funding to help them keep studying. Fr. Jesu Sathianathen knows from close the problematic situation in the region, since he was born and raised there. After living in different parts of the country, he established himself in Ammappettai, where COPE Trust offices and shelter home are located.
- Fr. Jesu Sathianathen: president and projects manager.
- M. P. A. Rani: COPE Trust education officer and COPE Trust social activities supervisor.
- Kulanday Sami: Treasurer and person in charge of Nesa Karangal maintenance.
Action line and problematic issues
Manaparai Union region is located about 40 Km. southeast of the town of Trichy (Tiruchirappalli) in the state of Tamil Nadu. The most important city in the area is Manaparai, which lies along the road between Trichy and Dindigul. The region is characterized by dry subtropical climate, with Monson winds during the months of October and November. Last years irregularity in the arrival of the Monson and the beginning of the rains has set an uncertain future for the families living in the area. The direct consequence is the alteration in the crops, which in a big percentage depend in Monson rains.
Human activity. Most of the economic activity in the area is centred in agriculture and cattle rising. A big part of the population is temporal workers from lower casts that work for a daily or weekly salary. Often, part of the crop is given as a salary. There are also a big percentage of small owners. Other jobs can be found as well as shoemakers, carpenters or mechanics, but those take place mostly in the city. This cheap labour is used also by the construction industry, especially when due to droughts many of the temporal farmers are unemployed. Rice is the main crop and the production is concentrated in Monson months since many of the farmable fields depend on them exclusively. Indian millet or ragi, corn, sugar cane and peanuts are also grown. In some areas the use of wells allows the doubling of crops but over-exploitation of the wells make many of them only useful for irrigation, not good enough as drinking water. Surplus products are sold in the markets in Manapparai, the most important social and economic centre in the area.
Problematic issues in the working area. Due to the particular climate in the area, a big part of the year the temporal farmers are jobless and don’t have enough income to feed the families. The main consequence of this is a remarkable family stress that leads to destabilization of the family unit. Often the outcome is alcoholism, drug addiction or simply walking away leaving the children and wife in a very critical situation. Some women work but earn paltry wages that are not enough to get ahead. Many children, obliged to work, quit their studies; others, battered at home, leave their families. Children are exploited in the small workshops in town, in quarries or working as shepherds. One additional difficulty towards the progress of kids at school comes from the educational system itself. Rural schools for kids up to 11 years old are found in almost all villages in the working area. These schools enable the kids to learn, more or less skilfully, reading and writting only in their language, Tamil. After that they have to continue their studies far from home, with the consequent difficulties for transportation. There are not enough schools or suitable public transport to them –if any at all- for kids above eleven. Therefore, going on school after that age becomes an odyssey and many boys and girls stop attending school around that time.