The last is tough and her favourite is Anatomy. She's learnt several techniques, including three types of hypodermic injection and, taking and recording blood pressure and temperature. Asked how her Tutor might describe her, Swetha replied "a quiet girl - needs to improve in her studies." She ranks herself about 30th out of her class of 45 and, explained that she has difficulty remembering what she is taught. Initially she lived in the college hostel but switched to living at home. That's a two hour bus trip from college; she returns home immediately after classes and spends two hours daily in private study at home.
She doesn't take any paid work in her spare time. She said her parents would give her anything she asked for (her stipend now supporting her home living). Adequacy of stipend and provision of essential supplements like iron for girls is currently being discussed by JHC with the Management at MSGH, as is the possibility of providing accommodation within the project for girls now at apprenticeship.
When the course finishes Swetha hopes for a placement in paediatric nursing, probably in Madurai as her family want her to continue living at home. That's at S Arasappanpatti, near Melur (north-east of Madurai) where Father is a Construction Mason, earning Rs 500 daily - his status is that of daily paid casual labourer, without job security or continuity, but currently with construction booming he isn't short of work. Mother is in the scheme guaranteeing 100 days work annually. In recent years as a measure of social support,
Government introduced this in rural areas, working on improvements to the community's surroundings. Although the published rate for a day's work is now Rs 180, to be deposited directly into each participant's bank account, the agent holds the bank book, obtains permission to operate the account and creams off 10% for himself, so seldom does the entire amount reach those working. Furthermore, working hours are low, so as not to conflict with family needs.
The work is not too arduous or thorough, consequently over the years an attitude has developed, accepting low pay for little effort, resulting in reluctance to return to a real job, if and when it is available. For many, especially the elderly, it's their only safety-net. Mother receives Rs 120 per day. An elder sister completed higher secondary school and married, while a younger brother is just finishing primary school locally; doubtless he benefits from Swetha's help with his studies. There are no grandparents.
She is very grateful to her Sponsors for their support and sends her thanks, both for their help with her studies and for their gift and Pongal card, adding that she prays to God for her Friends' well-being and long life. Having Sponsors greatly adds to her own well-being and self esteem, just knowing that somebody cares about her. With her Friends' help and her own efforts she is changing her life and can look forward to reliable employment and helping her family. Without her Friends, none of this could have happened.
Interviewed and Written by: Terry Quadling, Volunteer February 2017