The economic upturn in India is something the inhabitants of the mountain villages of Kodaikanal only hear about. In Uppuparai and Perumalmalai, two villages close to Bodhi Zendo, most people work as labourers and many live below the poverty line. Many refugees from Sri Lanka live side by side with the native inhabitants of Uppuparai. The native residents work mostly as farm workers whilst the migrants are predominantly craftsmen, especially bricklayers.
Most of the residents from neighbouring villages of the Kodaikanal region are poorly paid craftsmen and farm workers. Their income is not sufficient by far to pay for their children’s schooling. The children often need to work to sustain the family.
Little Flower provides help and educational support in exceptional cases to support the schooling of children from poor families and youth vocational education, as well as emergency medical treatment. Demand has increased due to growing rural poverty in recent years. The offer of individual help is taken up by people who would not otherwise receive assistance. The offer of Individual Help is taken up by Little Flower Committee members.
Little Flower annually grants about 250 children financial aid to attend primary school and secondary school. Although children from the villages are allowed to attend school, their disadvantaged social conditions often mean that they are not able to follow the lessons, which generally consist of drill exercises or similar. It is common for children who have either dropped out of school or are expelled not to be allowed to go to school again by their families. In 2008, about 20% of all children dropped out of school. 19% of these were girls. Little Flower offers these children additional tuition every evening.
The children are served with snacks and nuts during the lessons as often they have not had anything to eat. About 250 children come to the lessons in Perumalmalai, Uppuparai and surrounding villages and are cared and looked after by seven teachers. There are 48 children in Uppuparai. Besides standard subjects, the children are taught drawing and painting, they do singing and dancing and sport, and also learn to speak in public. Once a month the teachers meet up to swap information about the children’s progress and search for further ways of improvement and motivation. The parents are invited on a regular basis and encouraged to keep informed about their children. They are encouraged to promote their children’s eagerness to learn instead of keeping them off school.