A Green Path to Wealth
It’s hard for me to forget my hardships. After I was widowed, I had to earn money and raise a family. So, I worked on a farm for Rs. 2,000 a month, until I began to fall ill frequently. I would feel dizzy even before noon and hardly a day would go by when I wouldn’t tire after just a short while.
After a year, I gave up work as it became clear to my employer that I really couldn’t keep pace. I spent the money I had on medicines. Nothing worked and I started feeling low.
Then, one day, I attended a health camp organised by SST workers in my village. The camp looked at basic health, such as anaemia, malnutrition, preventive health and so on. The tests showed I had very little iron in my blood, and the health worker told me that’s why I was constantly tiring.
Many Indian women in villages suffer from anaemia, but most of us don’t even know it exists. We keep imagining all kinds of ailments.
The doctor at the health camp gave me iron supplements to boost my hemoglobin levels, and it worked. I started feeling better soon enough.
SST workers then came home and offered simple solutions such as planting vegetables rich in iron, so I wouldn’t have to take supplements. I began to use them in my everyday cooking. Gradually, I found my old energy, and eventually returned to farm work.
Recently, I took a loan of Rs. 28,000 from the self-help group that I’m a part of. With this, I purchased a cow so that I can earn extra money from milk.
I enjoy dairy farming and I know this will help me and my family earn enough to lead a life of dignity.
The SST Way
SST social worker Saravanan who mentored Punitavalli
Punitavalli used to regularly attend the monthly Panchayat Level Federation meeting in the village as the area representative. Suddenly, she stopped coming and we were left wondering. We decided to find out and were told she felt too tired to attend.
The first thing we did was to take her for a check-up. Tests at a health camp conducted by SST showed she was anaemic. We helped her with treatment so that first her stamina improved. Once she was better, she wanted to make up for lost income.
She had land around her house and only one cow. Her maximum income was Rs. 2,000 per month. With the help of a bank loan, she purchased a cow and it later produced a calf.
In Nagapattinam, which is a Tsunami-affected area, TVS and SST help indirectly by offering training, skills development that assists in rehabilitating them. We have told them not to expect handouts.
When we started out in 2011, for two years it was a struggle to change their mindsets. Gradually, with results, people felt encouraged. The district of Nagapattinam has a record of 100 percent repayment of loans.
Today, Punitavalli earns more than Rs. 7,000 per month selling milk and by working on other people’s farms. She also works on her land.
Over time, we have earned people’s trust. Today, when TVS or SST are mentioned, they show that they have confidence in us and in how we can help.
We helped them take the first step, and they are on their way to run the show.
People are more invested in a project when they have a stake in it.
Typically, after four years in a village, they need less intervention and it comes to a stage of partial withdrawal from our part.
It’s easy to see that people are running the show when they get actively involved in Panchayat Level activities.
In the past, office bearers would continue without a fixed tenure and few would come forward to assume positions. Today, they change on a rotation basis. They elect office bearers once every two years. That’s empowerment.