Russ Foundation is proud of any and all impact made through its work, and we are pleased to say that our successes have been numerous throughout the years. Since 1992 Russ Foundation has run over 30 programmes, giving help, knowledge and skills to thousands of people from all walks of life. Though some of our programmes have now run their course, we are still committed to making more changes, to touch more lives.
Over the years the children's home has expanded from caring for just 3 young girls to having been home to over 120 children in the last 23 years. Out of these children, around 20 have now graduated from both high school and university, leaving with diplomas, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees. All of these bright young women are now working as kind and constructive members of society - some are even working in branches of Russ Foundation itself - and many are now starting families of their own. Indeed, we were extremely proud last year to be able to host one of the first Russ children's wedding in the campus.
Education is a large focus for Russ Foundation, and one of our greatest aims is to improve the education of children in the surrounding communities. As such, Russ Foundation runs a primary school which caters for around 125 children in the local area. Russ Foundation also runs 12 evening tuition centres in local villages to help children struggling with and dropping-out of school. Since the tuition centres were opened, we are pleased to say, the school drop-out rates in the region have dropped to nil.
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 other villages - Thondamanpatti and Seegupatti. 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, which is still running today.
As well as these programmes, from 2010-2012, Russ Foundation was responsible for the Thalir Thiran Thittam (TTT) programme - a special project designed for school students from classes VII to XII, initiated by the Aprajitha Foundation and promoted by the Government of Tamilnadu, through the Minestry of Education (Directorate of School Education), throughout the state. Russ Foundation was chosen to implement this programme in all of the Aided and Partly-Aided schools in the district of Madurai from the academic year 2010 - 11 onwards. The programme aimed to help facilitate the knowledge of holistic preparedness for life, enhancing the students' employment potential.
Through our care and support programmes for people living with HIV/AIDS we have worked with over 1200 people in over 110 villages and areas locally. Our care and support programme was funded by USAID.
Home-based Care and support programme: This programme was funded by APAC-USAID to provide home-based care and support for 2500 people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in Madurai district, covering 110 villages with a population of 300,000 people. Through these programmes, we have been able to provide people with healthcare and education, support through legal advice, emotional help through counseling and many other services. In addition to this, Russ Foundation has placed a high priority on sensitivity training and education for communities as a whole, attempting to reduce the discrimination and stigma faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and also to reduce the spread of the disease.
HIV prevention programme amongst female sex workers: The HIV prevention amongst female sex workers (FSWs) in Madurai district was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the TAI (Tamilnadu AIDS Initiatives, between 2004 and 2009. Under this programme 2400 female sex workers were provided with awareness education and support to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. A healthcare clinic and counseling centre in the city offered review and referral services, one to one counseling and sexual health education to promote safe sex throughout the community and to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. 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).
Russ Foundation has run healthcare projects of many different kinds over the years, giving treatment, educating people on symptoms and encouraging prevention of the spread of diseases.
Some of our past healthcare projects have included:
Community Action Programmes (April 1996 - March 2012): Under the community action programme, Russ Foundation covered about forty five local villages, providing medical help along with other community based rehabilitation programmes and mobile clinics. Six villages were initially covered in this programme before it was subsequently extended to an additional fifteen villages covering a population of 25000 people. Two static clinics, each with a dedicated team of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff also functioned throughout villages in Chathirapatti and Mangulam. In April 2012 this programme became the Russ Foundation Community Action and Care Programme.
The Door step Diabetic Diagnosis and Care Programme started with the support of the Indian Council for Diabetic Care which includes screening people at their door steps and then referring them for medical treatment and advice. Most people from rural villages who have diabetes are unaware of it and unless they become seriously ill they tend not to visit hospitals for health check-ups. As diabetes is a disease that does not always reveal itself it can often simply remain undetected. Russ Foundation has taken the initiative to diagnose diabetes at the early stage by doing door step blood tests and then referring people for treatment under the Community Action and Care programme. This programme has since been incorporated into the Community Action and Care Programme.
Life Insurance from LIC of India: Having signed an MoU with the Life Insurance Corporation of India, Russ Foundation was able to provide two exclusive insurance schemes for people from rural villages with easy payment options. Russ Foundation acted as the model organization in the region, coordinating with the LIC and the people from the villages to demonstrate the benefits of having insurance.
Under the Reproductive Child Health (RHC) Programme, sponsored by the FPAI, many areas such as birth control, safe sex, HIV/AIDS awareness, health and sexual education, condom distribution and referral services were all carried out with mothers and children as the main beneficiaries. This programme has since been incorporated into the Community Action and Care Programme.
The PNDT (Parental Diagnostics Techniques) Act Programme was launched to create awareness among the general population about the laws regarding sonograms, restricting the identification of the fetus' gender. This law has been brought in to attempt to prevent female infanticide in the regions, as even today this is a very serious and prevalent problem. This programme has since been incorporated into the Community Action and Care Programme.
Though we do not at current have any vocational training programmes in action, it is our plan to create more in the future. All of our past projects, listed below, have been highly successful in empowering people through vocational training. Not only is practical skill training invaluable in today's employment market, but by giving people the opportunity to increase their employability and learn new skills, they are also able to gain confidence in their own abilities.
Vocational Training Centres: Started in 1995 and funded by the Sweden based organization Bharat Aid with SIDA for a three year period, this programme gave training to young girls, school dropouts, and pregnant and nursing mothers in skills such as tailoring, weaving and embroidery. The programme came to a close in November 1998 after three successful years in which more than 140 women were trained in these fields. Today 95% of these women are still working and earning within these fields.
Vocational Training Centre for Women in Batik Painting: This training centre turned production unit was started to help young women to be able to learn skills and earn a regular income. In the long run, this programme was supposed to run self-sufficiently and be able to generate enough income to help support other Russ programmes.
Rehabilitation Centre and Home for the Visually Impaired: This training programme and production unit was a modified version of the weaving and tailoring training programmes. By giving training and skills to these visually impaired girls, and by selling their products in the local markets, these young women were able to gain employment and earn their own money.
A collaborative effort between Russ Foundatoin and the local polytechnic was a programme which provided Vocational Training for Rural Youths. This highly unique programme was supported under the government's Technical Education department. It focused on teaching valuable skills such as household wiring, motor winding and electrical skills to young people living in rural areas that were unemployed or school dropouts. All trainees were issued with certificates which could help them to find jobs, especially as these qualifications are all in high demand.
Rehabilitation of Tsunami Affected Youth through Livelihood Skill Development: With the support and financial assistance of FVTF-CARITAS - Miseror, Russ Foundation was able to extend its community programmes to Tuticorin, a coastal village in one of the southern districts to provide livelihood skill training to young people affected by the tsunami. Four different trades were focused on: tailoring, out board engine mechanism, two wheeler mechanism and household appliance repairs. Around 130 young people were trained within one year.
BANYAN Leather Training Programme: a training programme which was aimed at young women and girls aged 16 and up who were trained to weave leather shoes. Having started in 2002, roughly 70 women from the surrounding villages benefitted from this project.
In addition to these programmes, Russ Foundation also began the PARAN - Small Saving Scheme. This is a women's cooperative initiative which aimed to bring women in communities closer together and encourage female empowerment by fostering independence through income generation. There were around 110 registered and 37 affiliated groups started by Russ, each consisting of around 15-20 members. By mobilizing financial assistance and loan facilities for the groups through banks and other institutions, Russ Foundation was able to not only bring these women closer together but also to give strength to their communities, bringing a stronger sense of unity despite any differences. These groups are no longer reliant on Russ Foundation as enough links have now been established with other businesses to allow them to function self-sufficiently.
One other area of interest for Russ Foundation is ecology. Through our ecology projects, such as our still working dairy farm, we have not only been able to educate people throughout the area on things such as animal welfare and how to grow plants and vegetation, but we have also been able to create jobs for local people, generating incomes for both them and for the Russ Foundation, as well as providing food to sell at the local market for low costs.
Aside from regular fund raising activities, Russ Foundation has run many other income generating programmes, such as Agro Farming, Dairy Farming, Dog Kennel and Breeding, Poultry Farming, Organic Manure and many others.
The Gull Dayaram Sahani Model Farm. After several trials with different crops and plants, an herbal garden was started, the products of which were then used to sell, both locally and abroad. As this project was able to generate an income, it was able to involve many people, including one of the local women's Small Saving Schemes.