Auto-rickshaw project supporting a sustainable co-operative in Tamil Nadu, India


This project finished on Saturday the 16th of July, 2016

£780 was raised by 22 supporters — that's teamwork!

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Stella Maris wants to empower Leprosy Colony residents by providing Auto-rickshaws, as a sustainable way of them generating their own income.

Stella Maris institute of Development Studies (SMIDS) is an NGO that was founded and is managed by the Sisters of the Congregation of the  ‘Daughters of Mary’, Kanyakumari ,Tamil Nadu, India.

It extends its services to all people irrespective of caste, class, creed, religion, culture, race and gender. SMIDS promotes welfare among socially disadvantaged people and facilitates social inclusion, empowerment and mainstreaming in society.

The SMIDS head office is in Kanyakumari next to the 'Stella Maris' convent. From here most of the social empowerment and educational programmes are run. The leprosy colony project is attached to this convent.

In 1997 Stella Maris started the Colony, building 60 simple concrete block houses . There is a Community Hall, a Dispensary and a Chapel. Stella Maris provides unlimited electricity (one light per street and two or three light bulbs per house) and a limited water supply (set hours of the day - from the tank at the convent)

Leprosy suffers live in family units per house. One house may only have one occupant another four family members. These buildings are now in need of renovation – a few roof repairs, a coat of paint and a cold water tap in every home, is on their list. Residents are given basic food rations to the value of 1,000 rupees (£10),  per household per month ( this is averaged out) The residents subsidize this where they can, growing vegetables, and keeping chickens and goats. With more land allocated they are planning to increase this production.

The sisters are trying to dissuade the residents from begging on the streets.  The aim is to make the Colony a self-supporting community. Forming an Auto-rickshaw business is their latest project/goal. The drivers will not only earn a living for their own families but will pay the first 250 rupees of their daily earnings to the Stella Maris nuns, so that it is used to feed and cover expenses in the running costs of the rest of the Colony. (Average Auto earnings in this small town are about 500 rupees per day)

Why do the Sisters need to raise money through Fundsurfers? ……..India is no longer on the International lists of ‘Developing Countries’. Over the last few years, voluntary donations from Funding Agencies have been reduced to a trickle and now the Sisters are struggling to feed the Colony families.

The first 'wheels' we would like for the Colony residents are for wheelchairs needed by six residents. Some have had to have amputations others have lost the use of their legs through atrophy and disfigurment as a result of their leprosy. Wheelchair India can provide individually fitted chairs for between 50,000 - 80,000 Rupees (£500 - £800). Presently these paraplegics push themselves aroung on battered  home-made 'trolleys' - hands on the ground! The sisters want to literally 'elevate' them to a more dignified position where they can look at others eye to eye and surely re-gain some of their humanity and dignity.

Last year a visiting Italian lady donated an Auto-rickshaw for one family. This gave the sisters the idea of trying to provide another six for the community. Together they could form a co-operative that supports their village in a sustainable way. The Sisters would no longer have to worry about how they are going to feed 127 people each month!

There are only three children in the Colony, a new baby girl and two little brothers( who go to one of the Stella Maris orphanages for schooling and return home during the holidays).  At present there are eight able-bodied residents, (males) who are fit and qualified to drive. These men would take responsibility for drawing up a ‘Rota’ to maximize the use of these vehicles, giving each driver time off and rest days. Vehicle care and maintenance would also be under their supervision, with the sisters providing any funds needed for repairs.

The vehicles would remain the property of the Stella Maris Institute.  By paying the first 250 Rupees over to the Sisters, the drivers would then be motivated to keep busy for the rest of their shift, in order to have ‘a good days’ earnings in their pocket!  Drivers would pay for petrol out of a join petrol fund. The cost of a Piaggio Auto-rickshaw starts at 170,700 Rupees each.

The income given to the Sisters would be used towards basic food stores the Colony, maintaining the vehicles and help towards all other living expenses met by Stella Maris – electricity, medical care, schooling expenses for the children and maintenance of Colony buildings. To cover any shortfall in the Auto-rickshaw income the Sisters plan to keep back some of their 'Weener' pigs this year and start their own breeding programme....selling on the piglets later in the year. Their poultry programme will also be increased in the same way....selling on the baby chicks.

The decision not to 'give' the Auto-rickshaws to the Colony drivers is so that the project can be controlled by the Sisters. The vehicles will be stored here every night at the Convent, checked over and maintained in a good condition. Insurances paid on time etc.In this way there is no reason/excuse for the drivers not to appear with their daily payment at the end of their shift.

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pledged of £1,000 goal (GBP)

78% pledged



This project ended on 16 July 2016

This is a take what you raise project. At the end of the funding period the project owner receives all of the pledged funds.

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£25 – Stella Maris T-shirt

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A t-shirt with the slogan "So much to share, so much to give".

Available in Small (chest 34"), Medium (chest 38"), Large (chest 42").

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£500 – Three night stay at Stella Maris B&B, Kanyakumary, Tamil Nadu, India

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Three nights stay for two people at Stella Maris AirB&B, Kanyakumari, with dinner included. This 'Reward' is transferable to family/friends. (a code will be given)
Here at the the most Southern tip of India, in a tropical climate are pristine deserted beaches. Pretty white churches dot the coastline between the fishing villages, lotus ponds and groves of coconut palm and bananas.

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