KERALA FLOOD UPDATES – SUPPLYING EXTRA WATER FILTERS MAY 2019
Following the floods in Kerala last year, for which Disaster Aid Canada and ourselves supplied Sawyer Water Filter Kits and buckets, our trusted contact in Kerala advised that several areas are now suffering drought conditions and wondered if we could we help again.
Due to the drought conditions, water is being sourced from places not normally used. The water filters should prevent water borne diseases from being an added misery in the stricken areas. We were asked for 300 additional Sawyer Water Filter Kits and buckets but also advised that, if we were able to help, our contact would need help distributing them this time.
Last weekend, Matt Gemmell, one of our experienced Disaster Aid Response Team (DART) Volunteers left Scotland for Kerala. His long journey got him to Cochin airport at 2.30am yesterday where he was met and taken by car on a 3-hour drive to his first destination. Throughout this deployment Matt will be home-hosted by Rotarians.
So far, Matt has been able to:
– get some rest after his journey
– confirm that all three of the batches of 100 water filters and buckets have each made it safely to where they are needed
– confirm that the bucket labels, and the promotional and instructional information needed at each location are all also in place
– attend a wedding where he was treated as an honoured guest (not a planned part of our deployment).
This deployment is being financed by the small balance left over from our 2018 Kerala Flood Appeal and an amount from our reserves.
Attended Chennamkary by boat with a contingent of Rotarians from my last overnight stop and was introduced to the next local Rotary leader and some residents. After the obligatory speeches and photographs, those that had travelled with me to Chennamkary all departed to return to a wedding. Local residents were informed to attend at 1500-1700H.
Around 30 families plus children attended and 30 filters and buckets were issued after a demo and instruction.
I’m staying at a chapel surrounded by water (which is part of a network of lakes, rivers, canals and paddy fields) and only accessible by boat.
Plans for tomorrow: Issue further filters as residents arrive. I am scheduled to return to my first overnight stop in the early evening.
Having stayed overnight at Chennamkary, Backwaters Area I had a very early start to my day as it began before people left early morning Mass at 07.30H. Because of the scattered nature of the settlements here, people tended to arrive singly or in small groups throughout the day, so I carried out several demonstrations and the issue of filters as necessary.
Given that on both days here my host, an active priest, had other duties, there was often a slight language barrier and great emphasis had to be placed on actions rather than words. Fortunately, one recipient had very good English and said he would do as I requested and follow up with as many friends and neighbours as he could to ensure correct use and, in particular, how to clean the filters.
The importance of cleaning the filters prior to long-term storage is now better understood and appreciated by my host. He will talk about this during his services. Both of my hosts so far, now understand the need for proper cleaning to preserve the longevity of the filters.
I met up again with my first host, Scaria, at 18.30H and then went to a meeting of Changanacherry Rotary Club. I had expected this to be a routine meeting but after refreshments the members wished to honour me and served me and Scaria with a meal. Many jovial photographs taken and a very special moment.
I visited several sites where Scaria has been involved in local projects including a hospital with a Department making artificial limbs.
Eventually managed to find ATM’s that worked with my Disaster Aid cash card and withdrew fund to pay for printing provided for us for each of the three locations we are visiting.
Scaria and I had long discussions from which I gained a far better picture of him and his volunteering commitment and expertise, as well as a greater understanding of the need for the water filters, particularly in the Backwater area or as more correctly named Kuttanad.
Plans for Tomorrow: Train north at 22.00H. No fixed itinerary but expect some more site visits and admin.
Various site visits and meetings, including one to commemorate a deceased Rotarian at which several local VIPs were present including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly who took my contact card. He and other members expressed their appreciation about what we are doing.
Have spoken to next two hosts, I have their telephone numbers and they have mine. Both sound to have excellent English.
Plans for Tomorrow: Arrival at Payannur and discussions with host.
Arrived in Payyanur by train at 08.40H and met by VG Nayannar and taken to hotel. Freshened up then went to the premises of Rotary Club of Payyanur to meet other members and to help assemble and label bucket filter kits.
Around 16.30H attended Ambedkar Colony, Thayinery, Payyanur where villagers had been invited to attend to receive filters. Around 200+ houses in the area, 20,000 inhabitants, poverty level with poor living conditions and no drinking water. Various speeches, including one by a local Councillor, and then I gave my presentation.
As usual, I turned brown water into drinking water and emphasized the importance of maintenance. The presentation went down very well with everyone and the villagers were very excited and grateful to get their filters.
The event and distribution were extremely well organised by the Rotary club and possibly the best I have ever attended. It was also professionally photographed and videoed, and I have been promised copies, which, given the expected quality, may well be useful.
Plans for Tomorrow: Being picked up around 10.45H for more visits and distributions.
My programme for today said Payyanur so thought I was staying put and going to Wynadu on Tuesday. On being picked up they were surprised I did not have my bags at Reception so a hurried pack (I was barely unpacked) and we were off 5 minutes later. Spent whole day travelling by car and now at a new hotel with our group, so far, of 8.
At over 700m in height in Western Ghat hills amidst tea plantations. Hotel is in a small but busy town. Happy with security. I’m with the Rotarians. I’m on 1st floor of three in the hotel.
A distribution will be carried out here in conjunction with and organised by RC Kabani and I will be passed on to my next host from there. Believe distribution is tomorrow. I am scheduled to take a train on Thursday but the station has changed and for ease and to save a longer car journey I will get on the train at Kozhikode aka Calicut -ticket changed accordingly.
Wednesday is down as a free day and apparently, I am to be accompanied around the sights. No Wi-Fi in new hotel so keeping it simple. No concerns still feeling healthy and seem to be thriving on curry three times a day. Plans for Tomorrow: Filter distribution at Wyanad
Last night with two Rotary clubs, assembled filters and then attended meeting of Rotary Club of Kabani Valley along with members of Rotary Club of Payannur where I gave a short presentation on Disaster Aid. Presented with mementos.
Today, at 09.30H took part in distribution of water filters at the new Rotary Club of Kabani Valley building which is under construction. Very impressive building which will become a health club and conference centre as well as the Rotary Club building.
50 water filters distributed to residents of Varadi Moola nearby. This is a very poor area with people living in small basic houses with little or no facilities and no access to clean water. They are described as being from ‘tribes’ and the area nearby has virgin forest with fairly primitive tribes “untouched by civilisation”. Again, distribution very well organised.
The people are by nature undemonstrative but responded to my demonstration and laughed and smiled. The local Councillor was present, and she and the Rotary Club will make follow up visits to ensure compliance with cleaning routines, etc. The distribution was photographed and I have requested copies. Following this I was presented with a certificate by Rotary Club of Payannur and planted a tree at the new clubhouse.
I am being home hosted for the next two nights.
Rest day. Taken sightseeing by the three sons of Rotary Past President in an open jeep. Visited Pookode Lake, and then caves with prehistoric rock etchings at an elevation of over 1,000 metres.
Later we went into a wildlife area on a jeep safari and into neighbouring state Karnataka and Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Wild elephants observed along with an eagle, deer, boar and at least three species of monkey amongst other things. A great day.
Plans for Tomorrow: Train to Alwaye first thing in the morning arriving around 1320 hours. Being taken to station by current host and met at Alwaye by the next host.
A spectacular drive setting off just after 05.00H plunging down from 700m to sea level in a very short distance via a twisting road with countless hairpin bends. Train journey was trouble-free, and my next host was ready and waiting for my arrival. After lunch at his riverside home (which was extensively damaged by the 2018 floods), we assembled the filter bucket kits. This was done at the Rotary Centre for Senior Citizens which is a joint venture between Rotary and the Sisters of the Destitute.
After filters were assembled, I had tea with the Nuns and the elderly residents sang a song of welcome.
I was booked into the Periyar Club and attended a Rotary Club meeting there. Two clubs had their meetings together: RC Alwaye and RC Kochin North. Addressed members and explained about DAUK&I, our aid products and particularly the Sawyer filter. One member is in the water filter business and he just can’t believe such a good filter can be so small. Good feedback and interest from all.
Plans for Tomorrow: Four separate distributions.
Summary of Day’s Activity: Collected just after 09.00H and attended Palliport Rotary Club and distributed 30 filters. Vpin Rotary club also there.
Next was Muzris Rotary Club and another 20 filters with loads of kids present. After lunch, which was a gourmet feast waited on hand and foot, attended Cochin North Rotary Club and did a further 25 filters. All three were enthusiastically received.
Some Rotary club members today are local politicians and I managed to get business cards handed over. As I have all along, I’ve been handing out branded pens to the local councillors who are at the presentations. Just another small reminder of us and may jog their memories for potential projects.
After the final meeting a Rotarian, Simi Stephen (the wife of Cochin North Rotary Club President Saju) and I had a long conversation and it has been arranged that I will meet with a women’s entrepreneurial group who are active in Kuttanad aka the Backwaters Area where I first started. They exist to empower women and start up small business ventures to help the women shape their futures.
They will contact me by WhatsApp. Interesting development and a sign that my inputs have been well received. Potential links are Fr. Mithin and the Indian supplier of filters that we used. Plans for Tomorrow: Admin in morning whilst host catches up on his own stuff, and then final distribution pm. Hopefully meeting women’s group.
Admin in the morning. Picked up for lunch by my host and then some courtesy visits and to his concrete works.
At 17:00H I met with Sujatha Menon and her associates Asha and Bindu who together run both organisations called “Eunnathi” and “Do for Others”
Eunnathi empowers women and starts up small business ventures to help the women shape their futures and help them and their children. They are currently seeking funding to raise ‘back to school kits’ for children.
Do for Others (DFO) is more in line with our objects and is helping with disasters. They are very interested in Sawyer filters and working with us and local Rotarians. We had a very productive meeting and I explained about DAUK&I and the filters we have used. We have exchanged contact details and I have suggested that they contact Fr Mithin and our filter supplier for more information. They have previously worked in Wyannad, Kuttanad and Cochin. There is potential for this group to mop up any undistributed filters for us and Rotary, as well as potential future projects.
Plans for Tomorrow: Admin, packing, and getting ready for the journey home.
Summary of Day’s Activity: Admin in the morning, then as the deployment is all but over some local sightseeing which included a farm with many different kinds of fruits and spices, and a palm oil plantation. After a late lunch I was dropped off at my hotel around 17.30H.
Plans for Tomorrow: Flight home. Should arrive Glasgow 19.45H.
Original appeal details below