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Archive for April, 2008

About Ramavaram Slum

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Ramavaram is a district located in Tamil Nadu, India, immediately outside the city of Chennai. It is based around Poonamallee High Road, the major road to leave the city en route to Bangalore. It is an area in a period of rapid urbanization in response to the burgeoning Indian economy.

However, the booming Indian economy has left many behind, even in the areas where its growth is maximal. A prime example is the Ramavaram slum. When driving down Poonamallee High Road, one passes over a bridge on the way to Porur. Looking down, one sees the brackish, sewage-filled Adyar River. On the banks of this river are the thatch houses of the Ramavaram slum. Looking over the bridge, one can see the residents of the slum washing their clothes in the river water.

Click here to view in Google Earth (.kmz)

The slum is home to about 500 people living in 90 houses. Most of the adults have minimal or no educational background, and none of them have stable employment or an employable skill set. They have unsteady jobs which are highly vulnerable to fluxes in the local economy.

Most of the women in the slum have minimal education and are illiterate. Married at young ages, they have migrated to the slum with their families. Many are very young mothers, and though they receive a modicum of health care, they are not knowledgeable about basic aspects of child care, nutrition, or family planning. Quite a few women do not receive adequate prenatal care and cannot acquire procedures such as cesarean sections.

The children of the slum, who constitute about half of the population, live in an overcrowded area. Younger children run around the slum without any clothes and are visibly malnourished. Though many of the children go to school, most of them stop by the fifth standard of class and do not continue. Instead, they join the workforce and take on adult responsibilities at very young ages. They often do not receive the minimum of immunizations as recommended by the Indian Institute of Paediatrics. Some of them have unattended conditions requiring medical or surgical treatment such as chronic otitis media (ear infections) and cleft lips.

One of the major problems in the slum is basic sanitation and hygiene. They do not treat their water before using it for consumption. They receive it in a tank, provided by the government, which they use for cooking and drinking. However, for all other purposes – bathing, defecation, urination, handwashing, dishwashing and laundry – they use the river water, which represents a significant public health threat.

In our work at Ramavaram, we want to improve the health status and economic condition of the residents of the slum. We plan to promote the health status through education and through implementation of public health measures. We plan on improving the economic conditions of the community through the promotion of children’s education as well as vocational training for the older residents. We have a number of programs currently in development and we hope we can make a significant difference in their lives.

Meeting Minutes (April 17, 2008)

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Today we held our final meeting of the semester. Thanks to everyone for coming even with exams coming up, and thanks to Koushik for making sure we had a place to meet in peace! We covered some important topics today, so I think we’re all caught up before we leave for the holidays.

Firstly, Sriram and Ahrar talked about the preliminary survey that we conducted on Saturday, April 12. Although not all of the data has been analyzed yet, there were a few trends that we were able to identify. The details of the analysis will be posted in the near future, as soon as the work is finished. As far as basic trends go, we are predicting that our areas of greatest concern will be sanitation and hygiene, as well as nutrition. There are a few more questions that everyone felt should be added to the original survey. The demographics committee will be working on that. Everyone had some great ideas for how to get started, but no final decisions have been made.

Next, Malar gave a quick snapshot of our current funds, which was helpful to all of us to know where we stand and how much work we have ahead of us.

In the same vein, Ahrar talked about planning another basketball tournament for sometime around mid-July. Further planning will be done as we get closer to the date.

The final order of business was perhaps the most important. As our group is getting bigger and we are getting more ambitious, it is important that we streamline and try to make our efforts as efficient as possible. To this end, we’ve decided to set up committees for all the various aspects of the project. The committees have been posted, so if you weren’t at the meeting, be sure and look through the list of committees and decide how you want to get involved. It is vital that as many of us join the committees as possible so that we share the work equally. We will be doing a lot of background work and research work over the May holidays, so be sure and get in touch with your committee leader before we leave.

As we break for holidays, we will all be coming in contact with family and friends, who are all potential donors for our cause. Aslesha has designed a wonderful flyer which has all the necessary information in one place. We will be giving everyone one copy of the flyer to take home with them. Please make as many copies as you need and be sure you’re talking to everyone about our work. We have ambitious goals and many tasks ahead of us, all of which will require sufficient funds, so we all need to do our part. There will be a funds form as well a packet of receipts that each of you will get. Please be sure and keep solid records of all the funds you are collecting as well as signatures from the donors.

We also want to mention that we have started a Facebook group and cause, please join that. If we don’t have your email address, please provide us with it so that we can stay in touch with you. Also, if you would like to contribute to the blog, please let us know so that we can add you to the author list. We would like as many of our members as possible to be authors of the blog, so that we can hear everyone’s perspective and we can all stay on the same page.

If anyone has any questions, comments, or suggestions, be sure and contact us or the relevant committee leader.

Things We Need

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

In this post, we’ll keep a list of things that we currently are in need of and keep it up to date. You can always find it by clicking on the link to the right.

Here’s a current list of things we could use:

  1. Clothing
    1. for women – saris
    2. for children – clothing of all sizes
  2. Toys
    1. stuffed animals, dolls
    2. sports items
  3. School supplies
    1. pens
    2. pencils
    3. notebooks
    4. erasers
    5. sharpeners
    6. scales
    7. colored pencils and crayons
  4. Hygiene articles
    1. soap
    2. toothbrushes
    3. toothpaste
    4. shampoo

If you have any of these articles and want to donate them, please contact us.

Thank you!


Thursday, April 17th, 2008

As per our meeting today (April 17, 2008,) we have formed a number of committees to address the specific needs of our community. Below is the list we formed, and it will be updated as people join or leave their committee or as new committees are formed or as they are merged. If you want to join a committee, please contact the person in charge (in bold) to reach them. Please also notify us so we can keep up to date records. Also, contact us to get the contact information about the members of the committee.

The latest version of this list can be found on the link to the right.

Demographics and Statistics

  1. Ahrar Haque
  2. Apoorva Sachidanand
  3. Apta Errabelli
  4. Aslesha Sheth
  5. Benazir
  6. Benedicta Seeli
  7. Bhavya Krishna
  8. Lalita Kambhampati
  9. Naveena Kananathan
  10. Sriram Ramgopal

Recreation and Activities

  1. Abhinav Gorukanti
  2. Abhiram Reddy
  3. Ahrar Haque
  4. Bhavya Krishna
  5. Gautam Reddy
  6. Pragnya Chigurupati
  7. Rose Antony
  8. Sanjay Dronavalli
  9. Santoshi Kurada
  10. Shahbaz Singh
  11. Shilpa Menon
  12. Swagatesh Bastia
  13. Tushar Grover
  14. Veena Santoshi Avvas
  15. Yamini Kuchipudi

Health and Hygiene (Education and Administration)

  1. Apoorva Sachidanand
  2. Apta Errabelli
  3. Aslesha Sheth
  4. Benazir
  5. Benedicta Seeli
  6. Bhavya Krishna
  7. Farha Sadaq
  8. Koushik
  9. Lalita Kambhampati
  10. Malarvizhi Ravichandran
  11. Mounica S.
  12. Naveena Kananathan
  13. Nivedita Gunturi
  14. Seena John
  15. Shilpa Sasidharan
  16. Sriram Ramgopal
  17. Veena Santoshi Avvas

Reproductive Health and Education

  1. Apoorva Sachidanand
  2. Aslesha Sheth
  3. Benazir
  4. Benedicta Seeli
  5. Harshita Pasupuleti
  6. Lalita Kambhampati
  7. Nivedita Gunturi
  8. P. R. Keerthi
  9. Sanjay Dronavalli
  10. Seena John
  11. Shilpa Sasidharan
  12. Sriram Ramgopal

Education and Schooling

  1. Apoorva Sachidanand
  2. Deepika
  3. Farha Sadaq
  4. Malarvizhi Ravichandran
  5. P. R. Keerthi
  6. Pragnya Chigurupati
  7. Santoshi Kurada
  8. Seena John
  9. Shilpa Sasidharan
  10. Veena Santoshi Avvas

Vocational Training and Employment Issues

  1. Apoorva Sachidanand
  2. Aslesha Sheth
  3. Benedicta Seeli
  4. Bhavya Krishna
  5. Farha Sadaq
  6. Lalita Kambhampati
  7. Malarvizhi Ravichandran
  8. Rose Antony
  9. Shilpa Menon
  10. Sriram Ramgopal
  11. Yamini Kuchipudi

Women’s Issues/Social Issues

  1. Apoorva Sachidanand
  2. Apta Errabelli
  3. Benazir
  4. Bhavya Krishna
  5. Farha Sadaq
  6. Harshita Pasupuleti
  7. Lalita Kambhampati
  8. Mounica S.
  9. Naveena Kananathan
  10. Nivedita Gunturi
  11. Pragnya Chigurupati
  12. Rose Antony
  13. Santoshi Kurada
  14. Seena John
  15. Shilpa Menon
  16. Veena Santoshi Avvas

Sanitation and Living Conditions

  1. Ahrar Haque
  2. Apoorva Sachidanand
  3. Aslesha Sheth
  4. Bhavya Krishna
  5. Farha Sadaq
  6. Mounica S.
  7. Nivedita Gunturi
  8. Santoshi Kurada
  9. Sriram Ramgopal
  10. Yamini Kuchipudi


  1. Ahrar Haque
  2. Apoorva Sachidanand
  3. Aslesha Sheth
  4. Bhavya Krishna
  5. Harshita Pasupuleti
  6. Mounica S.
  7. Naveena Kananathan
  8. Pragnya Chigurupati
  9. Sanjay Dronavalli
  10. Shilpa Menon
  11. Veena Santoshi Avvas

Non-Financial Contributions

  1. Abhiram Reddy
  2. Aslesha Sheth
  3. Bhavya Krishna
  4. Lalita Kambhampati
  5. Mounica S.
  6. Sanjay Dronavalli
  7. Santoshi Kurada
  8. Seena John
  9. Shilpa Sasidharan


  1. Alex Myla
  2. Apoorva Sachidanand
  3. Aslesha Sheth
  4. Benedicta Seeli
  5. Nivedita Gunturi
  6. Pragnya Chigurupati
  7. Santoshi Kurada
  8. Shilpa Menon
  9. Sriram Ramgopal


  1. Malarvizhi Ravichandran
  2. Sriram Ramgopal

Public Relations

  1. Blog – Sriram Ramgopal and others
  2. Email – Santoshi and Sriram
  3. Facebook – Nivedita
  4. Advertising – Aslesha and Siddharth

Notes and Photos on the Surveys

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I think the feeling after last Saturday, April 12th, was that the survey went very well, and I’m glad that it was a success. It was a different experience compared to our first visit over a month ago, as we actually got the opportunity to meet the people we wanted to help on an individual basis, step into their homes, and really get to know them as fellow human beings. In total, we collected data from 48 houses in the slum.

Click here to learn about the survey itself that was used in this project. Its aim was to understand basic information about the economic status of these families as well as the levels of maternal health, children’s health, and children’s education.

Apta and myself (Sriram) began the event with an orientation with general guidelines for the surveyors, then we paired people up and began the survey.

The first step once we got there was to label the individual houses and in this manner provide them with an address for easy reference. This idea was the brainchild of Bhavya, and she did this in an excellent manner, dividing the slum into blocks. Alex, our mapmaker, and Malar accompanied her to label the houses.

All of the residents were inviting and were excited about the prospect of the survey and they were extremely cooperative. While the data hasn’t been analyzed yet, we were able to learn very important things about the workings of the slum in terms of water supply, education, and their level of health awareness. This information will undoubtedly shape our future programs to improve their quality of life. We certainly found some flaws with the survey as we used it, but this was a learning experience in itself and we hope to make improvements on it as we continue to use it on the houses that weren’t surveyed.

I’d like to thank Apta for her help. I doubt this survey would have happened without her. I’d also like to thank Siddharth for helping us to make the copies and of course to all our Tamil speakers, without whom this would not have been possible. Keerthi, Malar, Siddharth, Abhijana, Nazneen, Pamela, Rajesh, Rohit Reddy, Benedicta, Apoorva, Aslesha, Shubha, Koushik, Naveena, Deepika, and Benazir were all vital to the success of this project. And of course I’d like to thank everyone else who came along to accompany our surveyors.

Today (April 14th) Apta, Ahrar, Nivedita and I began the undertaking of processing this information, which is far from complete and will be the subject of a future post. We hope to make a summary of this information available soon.

Thanks to everyone for their help and participation!

Both Alex and I took photographs of the event.

Alex Myla’s Photos (Click to view in Picasa)

Sriram Ramgopal’s Photos (Click to view in Picasa)

Thank you!

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

We’d just like to mention Ms. Usha Jayaraman of Bangalore for her generous donation to our cause!

Thank you for your support!


Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Aslesha’s been hard at work on a flyer that we can use to help in fundraising and its finished! Here it is as an Adobe Acrobat document:

RamavaramFlyer.pdf (3.9MB)

Be sure to check it out! You can print it out and give it to people when you tell them about our organization. When giving this to people, be sure to add in your phone number at the bottom of the page.

For those of you living abroad, we have a modified version of the flyer in which the request for material goods has been taken out as these are often too difficult to transport. This is available below:

RamavaramFlyerAbroad.pdf (3.9MB)

Photos from Alex's Camera

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Just wanted to share some great photos from Alex’s cellphone-camera. These are some of the only photos of the early trip before we even came to Ramavaram.

The first set of pictures are from the trip that Alex, Rose, and I (Sriram) went on when going shopping for vegetables for our first project. These were taken on February 14th, 2008:

In the next set of photos, Alex captured that first trip, on February 17, 2008. We helped to feed the people at the Kapaleeswara Temple and the Shirdi Temple. About nine of us went. Click here to check out the complete album.

And finally, we have the famous picture of Alex mixing the yogurt rice:

Charity Basketball Tournament

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

The 3 on 3 Charity Basketball tournament was a huge success! From the first shot made by Sunny Grandhe to the winning basket by Ankur, this tournament was filled with surprises and excitement.

I would like to thank everyone who attended this event despite the extremely hot weather. If it wasn’t for them, this event wouldn’t nearly have been a success as it was. I would also like to thank Pragnya Chigurupati for her exceptional organizing skills and motivation. Without her determination, this tournament would not have been possible. (yeah right!)

We look forward to organizing more of these events in the upcoming future and raising more money for the children at the Ramavaram slum.

Good work everyone!

Notes on the April 6th Basketball Tournament

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

This past Sunday, we held a basketball tournament on our campus courts to raise money. To tell the truth, none of us had any idea how it would go and if we’d actually make any money at all. There were definitely quite a few roadblocks along the way, starting from getting permission to host the event, actually getting people to participate, and making sure the event ran smoothly. We managed to get through it in the end, and it was amazing to see how many people showed up. On the day of the tournament itself, many new people showed up that hadn’t signed up prior to the event. In spite of the sun, lots of people came out to watch and cheer the players. It was truly inspirational to see how many people came together for our first event. We are all thrilled with the turnout, and have many ideas for similar events in the future.

Many of the players requested a monthly tournament. We don’t know yet if we can handle that but we will certainly be having another tournament, perhaps in June. We are also toying with the idea of including other sports, especially for the girls, to get more people involved. There have been suggestions of concessions and other possible ways to raise money at the events. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please do let us know.

Overall, the event was a great success, I think, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other great ideas people will come up with. Below are some pictures from the event. Click here to see all of the photos.