Today we went on a visit to search out the slums in the Ramavaram area. It turned out the be a very educational visit, and a real eye-opener about the current conditions of slums along the Adyar River.
Our initial plan was to go to the slum opposite to the one in Ramavaram where we had been working. We had first worked in this place almost a year ago, when we had conducted a medical camp. On that visit, we noted that the slum residents were cheerful and happy; they were glad to have the chance to utilize the services that we provided.
As we entered the area, we made an effort to identify a village leader, with whom we could establish a relationship with, and work together on future projects. We were quickly directed to the Councilor, Mr Perumalsami. We discovered that was a wonderful personality who took an immense interest in the affairs of his people. We spoke to him and he told us about the current situation with the slums in Ramavaram, especially of the ones along the Adyar River. Most of the people in the area are convinced that there is a program against the slums along the Adyar river – after our project slum burned down last month, two additional slums also caught fire. There were also several smaller fires as well. The most immediate concern of the residents was to prevent these fires from happening – Mr Perumalsami was indeed recently protesting against these fires.
Our conversation with Mr Perumalsami was very fruitful. We asked him some basic questions about the slum, and he was happy to answer them. There were approximately 170 houses in this area. He said that many of the people were in need of medical care. Sanitation facilities were very poor – none of the houses had bathrooms, and open-air defecation was commonly practiced in a nearby area. He wanted to show us a second slum, which was also nearby. This slum was back across the street, where the Ramavaram community was, only further down the road. We went there, and found another thriving community of 179 houses. 59 of these houses had been burned down in recent fires, and many of them were being reconstructed.
There was a palpable air of sadness in these communities. There was an immense fear among the people that they would lose their homes in fires. But they had few alternatives. Many of them stored their flammable belongings away from their homes due to these fears. Houses that had been burned down were being rebuilt. People were taking down their roofs and were trying to buy metal roofs that were more fire-retardant.
Despite these fears, the people were friendly and resilient. They were in touch with another NGO that was helping them to educate their children. They were interested in making a community center where classes could be held for them.
As we were meeting, Alex, our group artist, came along and started working on maps of these slum areas. These will be useful to us in our future projects.
We asked the community to come up with a list of the households in the community, with the names and ages of each of the family members. As we begin our own survey, we can use this to more quickly consolidate our data.
Thanks to everyone for coming today, and we appreciate the support that continues despite recent setbacks. We are determined to make a difference in this community, and we’ll need lots of help to get it done. Finally, we’d like to welcome and thank to our new volunteer, Seeralan, from Vellacheri, and our guest, Katie Bush, from Michigan, USA.