In 1992 a home for girls was opened in a rented house with three young girls between the 5 and 6 years old. Today, the TDH girls' home is a permanent fixture and a home to 40 children, between the ages of 5 and 18 years of age, with a senior girls' home in operation for those over 18 now working or continuing with higher studies. Having started only as a home for girls, a home for boys was opened on the same campus in June 2011 which now caters to 12 boys. Most of the children living at Russ have lost either one or both of their parents, and all of the children are either CIA (Children infected with HIV/AIDS) or CAA (Children affected by HIV/AIDS). The successful integration of all of these children, including those infected with HIV/AIDS was a big challenge but also one that has made a big impact and one that stands Russ Foundation apart from many other organizations. Russ Foundation also focuses on children of female sex workers and other people from high risk backgrounds.
All of the children attend school or college, with the younger children attending Carlsson Nursery & Primary School on the same campus. Around 20 girls have now graduated with bachelors, masters and diplomas in many fields, including several who are now working in various Russ Foundation programmes. All of these graduated girls have jobs and several are married and starting families of their own.
At home, the children are cared for by a dedicated team of staff, who all live together with the children as one family.
Dairy and Model Farming:
On the Russ Foundation Campus there is also a small dairy farm which began with the help of Good Foundation: Friends of Russ Foundation UK and the students of the Sixth Form College, Colchester. The dairy farm was started to give employment to local people and also to generate an income for Russ Foundation in an effort to generate an income for Russ Foundation in an effort to make the foundation self-sustaining. The farm not only gives milk and other produce to use on campus and sell locally but there are also two methane gas plants which provide gas for cooking food in the children's home. We rear many animals on our farm, including cows, goats, horses, donkeys and many chickens.
Russ Foundation's aim is to have a completely eco-friendly campus, which we are achieving through the implementation of various organic farming methods. We have a large vermi-composting area, the product of which we use both on our own land and to sell locally, generating an income for Russ. We use rainwater harvesting to provide water for the campus. We don't use chemical pesticides on our land, and we are very careful to only use natural products. In addition to these methods, we also have a great focus on recycling on campus, and we are keen to spread this out to the local population. We encourage all of our children as well as the students from the school and all of our staff to learn the importance of recycling and the value of reusing as many products as possible.
Carlsson Nursery & Primary School:
In 1995 Russ Foundation opened a day care centre, funded by Bharat Aid and SIDA, to allow nursing mothers the time to undergo training and work. This idea was expanded when the creche was made open to the local villagers and, following high demand, two more day care centres were opened in two villages. These went on to run for ten years, until 2005, when the Government of Tamilnadu approved plans to change the day care centre into a school to run as a nursery and primary school, for children aged 4 - 10. 125 children are enrolled as students of the Carlsson School, all of whom come from the surrounding villages. The school provides all of these children with a good education at an affordable cost.
Evening Tuition Centres:
At present Russ Foundation runs twelve evening tuition centres based in different villages with the hope of further expansion. These centres are aimed at academically struggling students and school drop-outs. The students are most often from poor economic backgrounds and their parents are often illiterate. By giving children the option to continue and have help with their education, their future prospects are greatly enhanced. Most importantly, in the years following the implementation of the evening tuition centres, the school drop-out rates in the region have dropped to nil.
Russ Foundation Community Action and Care Programme:
Over the years as the government's health system and the primary health care systems in rural villages have expanded to serve the surrounding villages with new healthcare initiatives, Russ Foundation has moved its community action programmes to more remote villages with limited transport services to avoid overlapping. The goal of the programme is to improve the overall quality of life for PLHAs and their families who are affected by HIV/AIDS and to prevent further transmission of STIs, HIV/AIDS and to mainstream the initiatives with the general population.
Under the renewed Community Action and Care Programme, the three major components of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Diabetes are addressed in addition to general healthcare. Other things covered by the programme include the Reproductive Child Health Programme, which covers many areas such as birth control, safe sex, HIV/AIDS awareness, health and sexual education, condom distribution and referral services are all carried out with mothers and children as the main beneficiaries. Also, the PNDT Act Programme, launched by the government to create awareness among the general population about the laws regarding sonograms, restricting the identification of the fetus' gender which have been brought in to attempt to prevent female infanticide in the region.
Renewed National Tuberculosis (TB) Control Programme (RNTCP):
Under the RNTCP, the Community Action and Care Programme team members along with the Targeted Intervention (TI) team members in Madurai have taken up the additional task of creating awareness on TB amongst both the urban and rural populations in the district. The programme is being carried out under the supervision of REACH-AXSHYA in collaboration with the RNTCP-Madurai. GKS meetings take place regularly in the villages to both create awareness and to follow up with people.
Targeted Intervention (TI) Programme - amongst Female Sex Workers (FSWs), Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) and Transgender People in Madurai:
Due to the mainstreaming initiatives of HIV prevention programmes under the guidelines of NACP-Phase III, the community driven prevention programme of TAI was transitioned to TANSACS (Tamilnadu State AIDS Control Society). Since 2009 the TI programme has exceeded its allotted target of 2000 FSWs and reached 2400 FSWs in the region. Russ Foundation has provided a much needed space for a high risk community to have free health checks and treatment for STIs and other ailments. Additionally there is always a counselor and a dedicated team of staff on hand to provide help with problems such as harassment, advocacy, and also to provide opportunities for alternative training and rehabilitation.
HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme - amongst FSW & MSM communities in Tuticorin:
Since 2008 Russ Foundation has extended its HIV prevention programme to the district of Tuticorin, covering the areas of Kovilpatti, Kayathar, Pudur, Vilathikulam, Ottaipidaram and other parts to work with 1500 people from the FSW (Female Sex Workers) and MSM (homosexual) communities. The programme aims to intervene in and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in these two high risk communities. Russ Foundation runs two drop-in centres and clinics, each with a dedicated medical team along with well-trained and experienced counselors and out-reach workers, who all work tirelessly to control and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The programme was initially funded by APAC-VHS Chennai under the bilateral agreement with USAID and the Government of India, according to the guidelines of NACO (NACP III) and subsequently by TANSACS after the transition.
Link Worker Scheme in Theni district:
This programme has been running in Theni district since January 2009 with the financial support of APAC-VHS under NACP III. The main aims of the project are to provide linking services for PLHA in rural areas and also to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst these communities. The objective of the Link Worker Scheme is to have a link worker, someone who lives in the village and belongs to the community, who can educate others about safe sex, and can help provide high risk people and vulnerable young people with information and skills to combat the spread of STIs and HIV/AIDS.
The link workers are assisted by volunteers who are also involved in other full or part timework, educating the population on sexual health, HIV/AIDS, consistent and correct use of condoms, STIs, unwanted pregnancy, care and support programmes throughout the communities, and services like STI, ICTC, PPTCT, ART, DOT and many other healthcare related services. The link workers and volunteers also work closely with PLHAs, helping them to get treatment, ART adherence and periodical check-ups.
Community Care & Support
Community based care and support for Children Infected with HIV/AIDS (CIA) in Madurai:
From February 2009 to March 2010 financial support was given by PWDS-CBCS (Abbot Fund) to provide care and support to CIA in 6 areas of Madurai district (Madurai East, Madurai West, Alanganallur, Sedapatti, Kallupatti, and Kallikudi). Russ Foundation addressed many needs in this programme, including education, nutrition, training and many others.
Since April 2011 Russ Foundation has continued to work with nearly 600 CAA and 75 CIA directly by providing nutritional and education support. However, there are an estimated 1332 affected children and 368 infected children (including 112 on ART) in the district of Madurai, and due to many constraints Russ Foundation is able to reach less than one third of these children with its services.
Nutrition Support for CIA:
Every month, 20 local children, all of whom are infected with HIV/AIDS, come to Russ to receive nutrition packs full of pulses, grains and other foods. As well as the nutrition packs, there is a day of entertainment, games and a meal. The children and their guardians are educated on healthcare, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and how to take care of the children and people suffering from HIV/AIDS. On top of this, Russ Foundation holds events for these children and their guardians throughout the year, on all the major holidays - gifts are given, such as new toothbrushes, clothes and blankets. Education support is also given to the children, as Russ Foundation provides school uniforms, stationary and shoes.
As well as taking care of PLHAs throughout their lives, Russ Foundation also helps their families after death. Many of the problems faced by PLHAs are those of stigma, not only within the larger communities but also within their own family. Because of this stigma, and a lack of education in how HIV/AIDS can be transmitted, many people, after the death of PLHAs, will not want to have any contact with their bodies. To help with this, when the care and support team of the Russ Foundation hears of a death, they go to the home of the person, clean the body, wrap it and prepare it for burial or cremation, free of charge.
MDDDA (Madurai District Deaf Development Association):
The Russ Foundation also promotes the MDDDA (Madurai District Deaf Development Association). This organisation consists of over 280 people, with hearing impairments - some employed, some self-employed and some unemployed. Due to the stigma associated with disability, many of the adults suffering from hearing impairments feel unable to meet publically. Therefore, Russ Foundation offers this group a space to hold regular meetings in private, so their members can feel free to meet, communicate and share their experiences without feeling at risk of discrimination. In addition to this, Russ Foundation conducts a lot of advocacy for deaf and mute people, as well as helping with licensing for handicapped concessions such as public transport allowance provided by the government and helping to find job placements for those who are unemployed.
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