Playgroup at Addachakal

Depending on the state of the “roads”, Addachakal (“Block on the Rock”) is reached sometime between 90 minutes to 2 hours from central Batti. This will include at least one hour on sandy unmade tracks raised mostly over the level of the paddy fields which fill this coastal plain of an area. You pass perhaps a “shop” or two, but there are essentially no particular “villages” passed in the western sense. You see scattered homesteads of varying sizes, protected (people hope) from entrance by elephants by barbed wire between sticks upright in the sandy soil.

The people of Addachakal are farmers, most have combinations of cows, goats, chickens, pigeons (pets), paddy fields and crops like sweet corn growing in places where elephants hopefully won’t find them.  Farmers I talked to had all had their property damaged in one way or another by elephants. One I spoke to had to go as a refugee to Batti for three months during the civil war, as government had constantly shelled the area. When he was able to return, he found that 8 of his 9 coconut trees had been destroyed by elephants – a massive blow.

The area has been massively affected by the war, with many losing their menfolk.  People here are mostly Hindus; their houses, substantial mud huts, with tile or tin roves, have two main areas – one for living in, and one at least as large, for their Hindu shrine. The families are often large – 4, 5 or more children – only the man will sleep in the shrine area.

The playgroup has been in action since May 2011, thanks to the support of OST. There are 24 3-4 year olds registered until December (end of school year), when the new 3 year-old intake will begin. The teachers are Modisswari (18) and Malini (17), who are doing a wonderful job. Both are local, and are paid by OST. All the children walk to the playgroup building, some taking as long as 45 minutes. The building itself is one 35 x 15 feet building, with chairs, a cupboard, a teacher’s desk, and is now neatly adorned with posters. Children sit on the floor, and there are raffia mats for them. A teak tree stands by the entrance which gives welcome shade. Just a little further is a series of rocks – a pleasant place for a picnic, especially as theses are also tree-shaded. About three small “homesteads” can be seen from the building. A little 9 year old boy was a human scarecrow in the next field, to protect the sweet corn crop.

School starts at 0800 and continues until 1130, with a biscuit/drinks break at 1030. OST are funding the building of a well and a toilet, as yet dug but not completed.

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