Many small charities do excellent work in India. VST is special. My wife and I lived in India for five years (1991-96). We were struck by the size of the country and its diversity. From the Himalayan ramparts to the palm fringed shores of Kerala, from the mountains and jungles of the neglected north-east to the salt flat desert of the Rann of Kutchch, the Indianness of India is easy to recognise but difficult to define. It has problems built to scale – poverty, population, illiteracy, disease; casteism, communalism, criminalisation and corruption. Above all we were impressed by the vitality of Indian democracy and the determination of its people to help themselves. The special skill of VST is to recognise this, to listen and respond to the enthusiasm of those who will benefit.
We first encountered the redoubtable figure of Dora Scarlett, working amongst the really poor in Tamil Nadu on issues that directly affected them: leprosy, TB, basic health care for mothers and children. The work has moved on and expanded now. In addition to the control of TB, leprosy, HIV/AIDS, and community health care, VST works with women’s self-help groups, developing credit unions for micro-enterprise, resisting violence against women and encouraging them to band together into federations. And it works to make a reality of the Panchayati Raj, so that village councils become agents for the development of their villages, and to eradicate human rights abuses and discrimination against Dalits – not telling them how to do it but encouraging their own determination.
So why do I support Village Service Trust?
- because, in a nation which is no stranger to poverty, it works among the poorest;
- because its purpose is the empowerment of disadvantaged people;
- because it works alongside these people, engaging their enthusiasm;
- because expenditure on administration is minimal: the money we give goes to India.
Such a charity deserves support. Let’s make it happen!