Oct 30, 2020

Community Advocacy for COVID-19 Victims

As the pandemic drags on, life in Tamil Nadu—and around the world—is settling into a new (albeit more difficult) normal.  Resource-poor communities face continuing challenges driven by both their preexisting living conditions and the unstable nature of their livelihoods.  Voice Trust, empowered by your support, is working hard to ensure that needy persons in Tamil Nadu are able to benefit from whatever help is available to them.

Although India has implemented policies aimed at relieving hardship, there are often knowledge and distribution barriers between aid and deserving recipients.  Back in March, the Indian government announced a COVID-19 aid package that included a financial benefit of Rs 1,000 that could be claimed by impoverished senior citizens, widows, and persons with disabilities.  However, many eligible beneficiaries were unaware of the available relief, or otherwise lacked the means to claim the benefit. 

Victoria, a Voice Trust field staff member who manages our projects to benefit the differently abled, stepped up to use her community advocacy skills in service of COVID-19 relief.  Victoria has worked diligently to ensure that eligible persons are made aware of the Rs 1,000 benefit, provided with explicit instructions on how to make a claim, and assisted as needed with navigating the claim process.  Victoria’s work on this front has been continuous since the relief package was announced, outside of a period during which she herself fell sick with coronavirus.  We are very glad to report that Victoria has recovered well, and is back to work speaking up on behalf of the most destitute.  Aided by Victoria’s heroic community advocacy efforts—supported by your generous donations—more than 9,700 qualified people have been able to access these desperately needed relief funds.

In these unprecedented times, we have been incredibly grateful for your extraordinary generosity, especially from corporate employees. As of this writing, we have received over 65 donations to our COVID-19 relief project, leaving us only $882 away from our goal.  These numbers are exceptionally strong for our organization.  While people around the world are facing uncertainty and additional hardship, your willingness to continue thinking of others is noble and especially impactful.  Your support heartens our staff, and enables tangible, sometimes life-saving relief.

With gratitude,

Janet Preethi

Oct 20, 2020

Remembering the Forgotten: Replanting Amidst COVID

Masked farmers plant coconut saplings
Masked farmers plant coconut saplings

After shifting our focus toward providing emergency aid in the early days of the pandemic, we have redirected our efforts back toward promoting sustainable, organic farming practices.  We are grateful for the opportunity to return to our work leveraging your generous donations toward helping farmers reseed their farms, which were destroyed by the devastation of Cyclone Gaja.  

Over the summer, we distributed packages containing ten types of vegetable seeds to 100 farmers in the small village of Edumalai.  The seeds were all non-GMO varieties that can be banked for future seasons.  This fall, you enabled us to provide 200 coconut tree saplings to 50 farmers in the villages of Mahilambadi, Purathakudi, and Irungalur.  Along with each seed package and sapling, farmers also received natural, non-toxic pest repellants and nutrient-rich manure fertilizers.  As you can see in the picture, these saplings and supplies represent renewed hope for people who have seemingly lost everything.  Your generosity has helped other humans to remember that there is good in the world, that perhaps their plight is not forgotten in the chaos.

While COVID-19 restrictions have prevented Voice Trust from conducting the in-person permaculture training sessions as we had originally planned, we have worked hard to adapt.  We are developing instruction modules that can be delivered via teleconference, to respect social distance.  Participating farmers will have access to Voice Trust staff for advice regarding sustainable agriculture, and follow-up surveys are planned to assess the effectiveness of the training.

In addition to the challenges of COVID-19, a new amendment to India’s Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) has presented another challenge.  To comply with the new regulatory requirements, we are undergoing the necessary reviews that will allow us to open a dedicated FCRA Account with the State Bank of India, Delhi.  We are hopeful that once we complete this process we will again be able to receive funds directly from GlobalGiving, rather than via a US fiscal sponsor.  Direct receipt would be more streamlined and efficient, minimizing administrative requirements and maximizing the impacts of your donations.

As we face a variety of unexpected difficulties, we never forget your support, which has empowered us to overcome them. Thank you, sincerely, for your generosity.  If you are able, please consider another gift to help these farmers find renewed hope and stability.

Looking forward to a brighter future together --

Janet Preethi

Oct 9, 2020

One farmer's success story

Thangavel stands among his crops.
Thangavel stands among his crops.

As you probably know, VOICE Trust has trained thousands of farmers in sustainable organic farming practices over the last ten years.  Although we are not currently able to conduct more training sessions due to COVID restrictions, we thought you might enjoy hearing how one of the farmers we trained several years ago is doing.

Thangavel has practiced organic farming for the past four years and has taken advantage of several of Voice Trust's educational initiatives, most recently a class on Integrated Pest Management.  BecauseThangavel uses strategically chosen natural cultivation methods to protect his crops against the risks of extreme weather and to help ensure the long-term productivity of his land, his agribusiness has been thriving..

To avoid the soil-depleting effects of monocropping, Thangavel seeds his family’s 1.5-acre plot with high-yield rice and native urad beans in alternating years.  This year, the crop of choice was ADT-36, a rice varietal that is resistant to common pests, drought, and high temperatures. Thangavel tends his crops using low-cost, organic fertilizing and pest control techniques, protecting the environment and maximizing his yield.  He reports that neighboring farmers have been impressed by the success of his harvests, and have asked him to share his secrets.

Thus the effect of our training keeps expanding: year after year, from one small farm to the next, children are nourished with healthier food, the land and water are protected from harsh industrial farming techniques, and farmers like Thangavel earn sustainable incomes to support their families.  

All of this positive change is a direct result of your generous support.  Thank you, sincerely, for making these impacts possible.  As Thangavel’s story shows, the lessons and supplies you have enabled Voice Trust to deliver are taking hold, seeding sustainable success and resilience.  

Together, we can make a difference!

Gratefully, 

Janet Preethi

 
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