2020 Annual President's Report
I was fortunate to be able to visit India again this year before the Covid lockdown and it was wonderful again to be able to celebrate Pongal with friends. It has been a challenging year with the fires in Australia over the summer months and the Covid crisis over the past six months, has impacted the fund raising activities of many charities.
Amidst this there have been stories of hope and encouragement as we have beenable to continue the work in India. One such story of hope was the baptism of Ambika’s son, Britto Anthony Raj. One of the most encouraging aspects of the work of Australind is the support of so many in Australia and their repeated visits to India in support of the work in India. I would like to acknowledge the support of Jan Tracy and Gail Squire who have been visiting India each year since the late 1980s and supporting Australind in with the work at both Mithra and Prema Vasam.
It has been so encouraging over the past year to have their continued support and the support of so many of their friends, and in particular, their support for Ambika over the past year. One of the most exciting and encouraging projects of hope from so many projects over the past 20 years has been the organic farming project with Prem Illam and Indra driving this project forward with so much enthusiasm. It has been an exciting project to be involved in and for Australind to be able to support. Indra has sought to incorporate traditional Indian farming practices and crops. This project has aligned with the recent growing permaculture movement and practices in India, seeking to develop sustainable farming practices that contribute to both the sustainability of the local community and the environment.
The organic farming and permaculture movement in India addresses the vital issues associated with climate change and sustainability of both water resources and food security in India. There are many challenges in India, including the high levels of poverty, and environmental degradation. The organic farming project is part of a very long history of organic farming philosophy in India going back over many centuries. The ethics and design principles address the growing concerns surrounding global warming and the associated lower rainfall in the traditional wet season.
In recent research on the permaculture movement in India in 2019, Simin Fadaee highlights that the movement is seeking to address the food and water shortages in India, and widening global inequalities, working with nature and seeking to become less reliant on chemicals and high input costs associated with modern farming practices. The permaculture movement is based on earth care that focuses on the significance of a healthy earth and healthy human environments. This is closely aligned with caring for people and the need to access resources for health and well being. The Australian permaculture founder Bill Mollison visited India in 1986 and established the foundations of the permaculture movement in India, holding workshops for farmers and establishing the first permaculture demonstration farm. The permaculture Association of India was formed in 1989 and in 2017 hosted the 13th International Permaculture Convergence that included over 450 local farmers.
The organic and permaculture movement continues to flourish in India with courses and workshops for farmers and demonstration sites and projects designed to address food security, biodiversity. Organic farming addresses the need for sustainable farming through soil fertility and reducing input costs, and improving soil health while incorporating India’s traditional farming methods. The Prem Illam organic farm is contributing to this movement and is flourishing while also distributing food to the poor during the recent lock down in India with the Covid crisis.
It was my 25th visit to India this year and one the most challenging, leaving Australia during the bush fires and concerns were being raised while the World Health Organisation was issuing the first warnings of the Covid-19 health crisis in January 2020. I feel that India is like a second home with so many friends and family there it always also difficult to leave and it has been more so this year knowing that we may not be able to return for some time. I have learnt so much over so many years while also feeling that I know so little of the complexities of India.
With each visit I am continually inspired by the work of our friends as they achieve so much with so little that we can share. While it may seem only a small amount it has been with the support of our members and supporters that we have been able to contribute over
$2,000,000 AUD over the past 20 years. It is with thanks to all of our members and
friends that we have been able to contribute so much to building schools, hostels for
disadvantaged young people, and health centers for children with disability. Again
this year we are supporting the building of extensions of the Prem Niketan Hospice
and the Prem Illam girls home and the boys hostel at Parijat academy.
In the last newsletter we reported on the campaign to raise funds to upgrade an existing dormitory for 20 boys who help take care of more than 70 students living at Parijat. The new building will include a bathroom, study space, ceiling fans and beds. The boys of the Parijat Academy look after their fellow students, helping to prepare daily meals and assisting school staff. The total cost of the dormitory is $13 000 and Australind has contributed $10 000. We are actively raising the remaining $3 000 so the dormitory can be completed before the wet season in November.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank all of the ACF committee members who have worked so effectively together over the past year. The committee has been an inspiration with a mixture of both experience and enthusiasm as we have worked together through one of the most difficult years in the history of Australind Childrens Fund. Every member of the committee has contributed through so many ways over the past year. I note the support and interest of both Doris Lush and Elaine Trevilyan in the organic farming project. The long experience of living and working in India by both Mike Brown and Daniel Connell contributing their wisdom based on this experience has been invaluable. We also welcomed Nivetha Subramanian to the committee this year with her knowledge of India and enthusiasm for the work in India is inspiring. I also thank Chris Horwood for his personal support and encouragement through the year as he has continued on the committee and draws on his experience over many years with international development work and his recent visit to India. It has been a special year, not only because of the challenges of the world health crisis, it has been a year with some significant milestones. One in particular was the 90th birthday of Aileen Gale who has been part of the Australind story since 1978.
There are very few organisations who have had the support of so many people over so many years. I would like to note the special contribution of our Treasurer, Peter Carpenter, who has continued to support the work of Australind over so many years.
It has also been wonderful to welcome Alex Jane into the role of Vice President, as a young person who has already visited and worked with Prema Vasam many times, along with many other young people, Ashley Vines, Jesse Barker Gale, and Talullah Barker Gale who are on the Australind management committee and have also visited and been volunteers on more than one occasion working with our project partners in India. Many thanks also to Lynette Kelly, ACF Chairperson, who visits Parijat each year and coordinates our relationship with the Parijat Academy in Assam. Can I also thank Talullah Barker Gale, our ACF secretary for all her work and support with the newsletters and the annual report. Thanks also to Harry Barker Gale who has established the ACF facebook page and social media profile, including the establishment of our PayPal account.
Donations can now be made through PayPal and you can nominate Australind as a PayPal beneficiary enabling anyone to round up their transaction and contribute to ACF. Can I conclude by thanking all of our supporters for being so generous with your continued support during a very challenging time that has enabled Australind to continue to support Mithra, Prema Vasam, Prem Nikitan, Prem Illam and the Parijat Academy.
With best wishes
Dr Peter Gale, Australind Childrens Fund President