The village of Angalakuppam is located about 15 kms from Pondicherry, on the Cuddalore road close to the Tamil Nadu state border. Angalakuppam was selected because of its location, the precariousness of its inhabitants’ vocations, the low level of education and especially the lack of facilities and basic services. No NGO had worked in the village prior to Sharana.
Located amidst rice and peanut fields, the south of the village is bordered by a river which causes frequent monsoon flooding. The village is home to roughly 120 families living in somewhat dispersed huts connected by dirt roads. Large trees protect homes from the harsh summer sun, and the environment is lush and green. Angalakuppam’s inhabitants are mainly agricultural day laborers, whose wages are low and whose employment is seasonal (8 months out of 12 each year). The village has one water tap for every 5-6 houses, and a single light bulb per house. When Sharana first started working in the village, there were no toilets, phones, municipal amenities or health services. Angalakuppam has no school, and the nearest primary school is located in a nearby village.
Despite economic and social conditions being very poor, Angalakuppam residents consistently express a genuine desire to educate their children. Unfortunately, without any external help or intervention, their goals are difficult to achieve. Today, all village children attend school through the collective sponsorship program initiated by Sharana France.
When Sharana initiated discussions with Angalakuppam residents, it became quickly clear that there was a pressing need for healthcare services, a crèche to provide care for young children (so as to enable parents to work and relieve older siblings of childcare responsibilities), homework help in the evenings, specialized (vocational) training, and a village community center to house these activities and provide a space for community assemblies. With the aid of Association for India’s Development of Health and Education (ADISE, France); Sharana France; Women of Europe and A Way With You (Belgium), a community center was constructed in 2002, both as a response to villagers’ expressed needs and to assist villagers to live better in their own chosen spaces. The social center building now consists of:
- A large common room for the nursery, meetings, and training;
- A small kitchen where daily meals are prepared for children and staff;
- A dispensary and emergency medical office;
- An office for social workers;
- Sanitation facilities for children and adults, including a full bath with shower facility and a half-bathroom.