Bharathiyar Community CenterA Model Learning Village For Water Harvesting and Sustainable Development

Every 15 seconds a child dies as a result of water deficiency, be it unsafe drinking water, water borne disease, lack of hygiene and/or sanitation (World Health Organization).

A community center is being built as a model to demonstrate how water harvesting can provide potable water and be used for farming in a very dry climate. This community center concept will benefit the people of 51 villages (322,680 people) in the Vilathikulam region (in Southern Tamil Nadu) and will be used as a model that can be replicated in other parts of India through the use of water harvesting, agricultural training, and assembly of solar panels to improve living conditions.

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Just 9 days of rain in a year
The Vilathikulam region is located in the northern half of Tuticorin district. This being in a rain-shadow region, receives just 9 days of rain in a year. Therefore, the region is very dry and unable to grow traditional food crops. The region is also infested with thorny bushes called “prosopis juliflora” (known as “veli kaathan” in Tamil). The only crops that are grown are peanut and chilli.
Rural transformation in India rests in the hands of women. You may have heard that if you give money to the woman of the house, she takes care of the family. If you give the same money to the man of the house (in rural India), the woman and children will see little of it. The idea is to encourage and promote empowerment of women by providing them basic necessities, resources and income generating skills that will go to improve the quality of their life.

The community center will provide needed services and offer training to residents of all the 51 villages in the area. To this end the Center has leased 13 acres of property, including 4 acres of cultivable land which is being transformed into a model farm with multiple cropping.
The Bharathiyar Community Center Trust was created in 2007 to construct, operate and maintain the Center. The Trustees represent both local knowledge as well as other backgrounds.
The location of the BCC is at the intersection of two roads with public transport buses plying every 30 minutes. This helps people living in villages within a 10-15 km radius to reach the Community Center. The Center has plans to reimburse a two way bus fare to all visitors from the surrounding villages. There are firm plans to construct overnight lodging and kitchen facilities for the visiting farmers. All this will be provided free with the farmers paying in kind by working on the model farm. The output of the model farm will generate revenues for the BCC. In due course, the BCC plans to equip a bus with some of the BCC concepts to go beyond the 51 villages and cover in all some 250+ surrounding villages (covering practically the whole of the northern part of Tuticorin district) to spread the message of improved farming practices.

Two committed persons are actively involved in this project. One is Ram Krishnan, an IIT Madras alumni and resident of Minnesota for 40 years. He has been working in the Vilathikulam area since 2004 on water and livelihood projects in the arid area. He spends three to four months in a year in Vilathikulam – usually in April, August and December. While in the US, he is in constant touch with people in the area and the members of the BCC Committee via, email and telephone.

The second person is a native of Vilathikulam — Dr. K Jothimony. He has a doctorate in chemistry from IIT, Madras and served in the state owned Oil & Natural Gas Corporation for 18 years. He has also worked as a Fluids consultant in different multi-national corporations.. He continues to be associated with an American company. He is actively involved in community development activities in the Vilathikulam area having formed an NGO in 1997 in the field of rural education, health, women & child development and other livelihood activities.
The goal of the project is to provide educational and training support to the villagers in the areas of healthcare, renewable energy (solar and biomass), raising agricultural productivity, and improving water management.

Why Help Bharathiyar Community Center (BCC)?
The BCC serves an area of India that suffers from water scarcity, unemployment, low knowledge of sustainable agricultural practices, inadequate awareness of water management practices, poverty, and lack of education. The BCC will teach villagers water management practices such as the use of holding ponds, provision of potable water, sustainable agricultural practices, and health services. There is a program for the young to improve pre-school, middle school and high school education plus vocational training in skills development.

Briefly, BCC has the following objectives:
1. Serve as a model village.
2. Be self sufficient in water, food and energy.
3. Be a training ground for the villagers, for livelihood and other matters

Segments of the BCC, water ponds, agricultural test plots, food storage concepts are a proven model which when followed by the villagers will greatly improve their living standards. To ensure that each farmer acquires the skills and is able to introduce the new improved practices with confidence in his or her plot of land, the training focuses on giving the farmer actual hands-on experience working in the model farm.

How will this project help other parts of India?
India today has around 660 districts. Of this some 200 districts are the most backward with harsh living conditions. They have no access to good drinking water, do not make enough even for one square meal a day. Men in their prime working age leave their families behind, and move to larger towns and cities, in search of livelihood. This migratory pattern is leaving behind young children, old men, women of all age groups. If community centers of the BCC type are set up all across these 200 districts, they can provide essential services, vocational training and begin to perhaps reverse the process of migration.

Website and YouTube video offer more information
Weekly progress is monitored and reported on this site.
The YouTube video explains how they got started in Vilathikulam.

Monitoring and Evaluation
A BCC committee has been formed with local people’s representatives plus experts actively involved in the development of the area. This committee plans, implements, monitors and controls the BCC’s activities. The BCC has a field staff to mobilize the rural masses for various community activities. The field staff is being expanded. The BCC committee meets every Saturday to review its activities and prepare records and documentation. Periodic monitoring and evaluation is being carried out by both Mr. Ram Krishnan and Dr. K. Jothimony.

Seeking your participation and support
In this phase of the fund raising, they hope to raise $ 100,000.
Here are a few ways your donation can make a difference:
· $8,000 will build a potable drinking water system.
· $54,000 will build the community center building that will house classrooms.
· $16,000 will provide the seed money for building solar panels that can be used for light so that children can study at night.
· $22,000 will build the health services program, education program, and testing labs.
Are your donations tax deductible?
They will send a receipt to your address as soon as they receive the funds. For contributors from within India they will send a copy of their 80G certificate for claiming tax deductions. Contributors from the US sending contributions through Akash Ganga would be eligible for US tax deductions
What documentation is provided for this exemption?
In the US, for a 501-c-3 unit, the documentation is a Letter from IRS stating that the receiving unit has been declared as a 501-c-3 Charitable Organization.
How and where to send your tax-deductible contribution
Make your check payable to “Akash Ganga RWH” On the outside cover, left bottom, please write “Akash Ganga RWH” Mail to 1653, 20th Avenue NW, St.Paul MN 55112

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Imagine, every day, having to figure out how to pay Rs. 2.50 per pot each time you needed drinking water. Alternatively, if that’s not affordable, you must walk almost 2km a day to the nearby town to collect the water needed for your family. Sometimes you have to balance the water on your head while carrying your child under a blazing sun. Bringing drinking water helps the woman to attend to the family, children’s education, learning livelihood skills and enrich her family thereby enriching the community.