Quarterly update august 2005

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Dear Friends of The Banyan,
Greetings to you from The Banyan family.
Yet another quarter of the year is over, and The Banyan tree just keeps growing. The past few months have been a time of great development, of new ideas creeping in and the implementation of those ideas taking place. Thanks to the continued support of our dedicated donors, we have been able to be open to new ideas, and to realise those visions…
The Banyan tree is finally branching out! This year our impact has increased from 20% to 80%, stretching beyond the comfortable shelter of Adaikalam to reach out to a larger community in need of mental health care. Through our current projects, we aim to aim to accomplish a larger recognition and awareness of the issues affecting the mentally ill in the community at large, and to maximise the involvement of stakeholders from all walks of life. The team are very excited about the plans for expansion!
With this in mind, the past few months have seen further developments in the creation of the Protected Community, the Community Health Centre, and the Resource and Training Centre at Kovalam. Thanks to the immediate support from our generous donors, Dr Walter and Dr Lakshmi Walter, Mr M.A. Vellodi, Dr Gerhard Fischer, and E-Funds, we are ready to start construction in December once the monsoon rains are over.


The first community workers’ training camp was organised at Kovalakuppam on June 26th. The workshop was held by The Banyan team at Kanniamman Temple and was assisted by a group of hard-working volunteers, bringing in 32 community members. The team gave the villagers an introduction on mental health issues and addressed the needs of the community at large. We have since then conducted two community mental health screening camps in the area to carry out simple psychiatric assessments with the help of volunteering health care workers from the community. The workshops have turned out to be very popular and will be held once in three weeks. Regular follow-up is being done with the help of the trained community workers who are assisted by The Banyan team.

We have recently joined hands with an accomplished theatre group through which we are spreading awareness in the community in the form of street plays – an easy way to engage people from all sections of society by using entertainment as a medium. Theatre also acts as a therapy form for the residents themselves, allowing them to express themselves through drama. The Street Theatre was officially launched at Kovalam following the first community mental health screening camp on July 10th. A Sunday evening, the beach was packed with visitors, and the actors’ loud beating of drums attracted heaps of curious villagers, making the play a huge success!
We also tied up with Jeppiaar Engineering College for spreading awareness on mental illness. The students took on the concept of mental health for their annual cycle rally from Chennai to Kanyakumari on July 30th. The NCC group of students who partook in the rally, were trained in Street Theatre for spreading awareness on mental illness in various locations around Tamil Nadu. It is thanks to the students that we were able to make the rally a huge success and reach out to many remote communities.
Our plan for September is to go to local schools and colleges to conduct awareness workshops with schoolchildren and students.

Amanda Tetrault, a Canadian citizen, is currently visiting The Banyan, working on a photographic book called ‘Look at Me’ that will put a human face to the countless, nameless women suffering from mental illness in India. The photo book will be released next year. Her debut book, ‘Phil and Me’, was released a couple of years ago. This personal, visual account, features photographs from a period of 8 years, documenting Amanda’s journey into her father’s schizophrenic world and her own struggle to overcome the shame associated with the disease. Both books are aimed to increase awareness on mental illness in the public and to encourage the acceptance of the mentally ill in our society.

There have been further developments on the Resource and Training centre front as well, as our networks with partner organisations have become more active. Dr Sudarshan from VGKK/Karuna Trust (Karnataka) visited us in June for an orientation on The Banyan model of care for homeless persons with mental illness. The Banyan team visited them in July to conduct an analysis of areas where The Banyan can extend support and to prepare a plan of action for training for the partner. We were very impressed by the scope of their activity. Karuna Trust’s Mental Health Programme will replicate a transit care home and rescue helpline in Mysore and work on the rehabilitation of persons with mental illness at the Beggars’ Home in Mysore, similar to the system that The Banyan has established with the IMH. They will also scale up their existing community mental health care in two Primary Health Centres (PHC’s) to the 20 PHC’s that they have implemented across Karnataka. We have also held discussions with Ashadeep in Assam, who have set up a transit care home in Guwahati based on The Banyan experience. During our visit to Ashadeep, we also had the opportunity to interact with LGB Institute of Mental Health, the government psychiatric facility. We have been invited for a consultation for drafting a Mental Health Policy for the North East. We are excited about the plans and are preparing a detailed training programme for both the training partners.

Vidya Sagar conducted a four-day training camp for community level functionaires in July for the project on Community Mental Health they are implementing as partners with Basic Needs. The Banyan was invited to give a presentation on the rights of the homeless mentally ill, which provoked a great response in the other CBRs, who shared their experiences of the homeless mentally ill in their communities who had undergone various violations. The partners are keen on working towards establishing a legal aid cell for the mentally ill in each district.

In July we were invited to attend two national conferences in Delhi. The first one was the National Workshop on Urban Poverty organized by AAI and AAA, where we gave a presentation on the Banyan experience of working with the homeless mentally ill. We had a positive response from some organisations that seemed to agree on our concept of a balance between the right to care and individual liberty.
The National Helpline Conference was held in early August. It was the third annual meet of the informal network of help lines in India to share skills and advocate with government departments for issues that helplines face. In the conference, we were invited to give a presentation on our mental health helpline, Dial 100. The feedback from partner organisations was encouraging - many organisations commended the fact that The Banyan has been able to achieve so much in terms of advocacy for our helpline. We were interested to learn that HRLN is planning to establish a legal aid helpline and they were also keen to extend legal aid to persons with mental illness. They are also planning on a PIL on sexual abuse that women with disability face and the loopholes in current laws that prevent justice. Schizophrenia Awareness Association (SAA) from Pune has agreed to support us with rehabilitation and follow-up in the state of Maharashtra.
We recently received a visit from Pradnya Deshpande from Vishaka (Rajasthan) who are planning to open a day care centre for women in social distress, which will also look at a mental health component. The Vishaka visit proved extremely fruitful as they have agreed to help us with the follow-up of our ex residents in Rajasthan. We are currently in the process of linking with other organisations across the country to assist us with follow-up.


To ensure the continuous monitoring and care of our rehabililitated residents, The Banyan has rolled out a monthly Disability Allowance scheme. The DA acts as a financial incentive for attending reviews as well as to decrease the financial burden of the families.
The first roll out took place at our Out Patient Clinic on July 14th. The clinic was packed with ex-residents and their families on that day. Their faces lit up when they signed in and got the money in their hands. A sudden rise of self-esteem could be seen on their faces as they handed the money over to their families, telling them with pride that ‘I am no longer a burden to you’. The gratitude of the families proved to us that Disability Allowance really can make a difference to the lives of our ex-residents.
The next distribution will take place in September and we are hoping to increase the number from 40 to 75 ex-residents. We are currently working on networks in other parts of the country so that DA can be rolled out across the country, as part of our advocacy plan.
We had a meeting with Action on Disability and Development (ADD) at the Tamil Nadu Regional Office of ADD in Trichy to explore networking opportunities with ADD for extending the Disability Allowance (DA) to our ex-residents across Rural Tamil Nadu. They have given us a list of partners and we will follow up to discuss how Action Aid could help us with the follow-up of our ex-residents.

The Police Commissioner, Mr R. Nataraj, came to The Banyan on July 9th for an orientation visit. After the visit, on July 28th, The Banyan organised a conference with The Police where a working agreement was signed between The Banyan, the Chennai City Police, and the Institute of Mental Health for the Mental Health Helpline. It was agreed that The Banyan team would coordinate the helpline process, the rescue mission and admissions, the IMH would arrange the treatment, and The Banyan would take over the relocation and follow-up processes.

As a result of the publicity created by the conference, the number of helpline calls has increased drastically, from 35 in June, to 66 in July and 65 in August (by August 25th)! This year we have already received 349 calls, and the number of admissions into the IMH has crossed the 100 mark!
The vision of The Banyan is to ensure that every homeless resident at the IMH receives the same attention and care for their rehabilitation as the residents of The Banyan. Therefore we are planning to appoint a social worker at the IMH on a permanent basis, to facilitate the smooth running of the helpline and to ensure that the patients are well looked after. We will also see to the complete rehabilitation and follow-up processes for the Helpline patients, to ensure their continued well-being.
Thanks for all your calls, friends, and your support for running the helpline!

There are currently 321 women residing at Adaikalam, our transit care home, while another 58 women are resting at our Long-Stay Home in Otteri. Our innovative Group Home houses 7 women who are all in regular employment.
As many as 275 women are included in our follow-up programme. Out of that, around 115 ex-residents frequent our weekly Out Patient Clinic. Every week, there are around 30 visitors to the Out Patient Clinic.
May- August 25th 2005





Admission to IMH



























Since May, we have reunited 35 women with their families across India and experienced several touching family reunions.

Jyothi comes from rural Kancheepuram where she used to live with her family, ploughing and herding cattle. Her daughter had passed away early, causing immense grief in Nilavu, which had lead to the onset of mental illness. In her grief-filled delusion, she had wondered away from home, ending up in the streets of Chennai. She had been stumbling down the streets, falling over without feeling any pain, and was discovered with a broken leg. Following her speedy recovery from mental illness, The Banyan took Nilavu back to her husband. The family had lost everything, including their house, and were severely in debt. Nilavu says that she is determined to start reconstructing her life with the help of the money that she has made during her stay at The Banyan.

When Brinda was found in the street, she was filthy and she did not say a word. After she had been at The Banyan for a while and started feeling better, she began telling her story, saying that she wanted to go back home. She wrote a letter to her husband in Pune and her husband informed us that he would come to pick her up with the children. On August 1st, Brinda was waiting for the family to arrive. She was feeling very tense as she had lost her jewellery on the way and was worried that her husband might scold her. On the contrary, the whole family were relieved to see her. The husband told The Banyan that when Brinda went missing, they had lodged a police complaint and searched everywhere for her. A full year had passed since they had last seen Brinda, who had wandered away from home and they had been convinced that she was dead! Tears of happiness were flowing down the cheeks of the husband and the children, as they embraced their long-lost wife and mother. Her husband told The Banyan that they had recently met an astrologer who had told them that Brinda was safe at an ashram and they would receive news from her on July 29th - Brinda’s homecoming was a miracle!

Romba thanks to Manjula Krishnan from the Rotary Club of Meenambakkam for donating Rs. 10,000 towards providing external training for 10 residents in Tailoring at the Mogappair Industrial School and Weaving and Block Printing at the Weavers’ Service Centre in Besant Nagar. Five of our residents who took up tailoring have now successfully received their certificates.
Paul Arumainayagam from Axes Technologies placed an order for 1000 jute bags for the Tamil festival, Thamizhar Thiruvizha, held at Dallas, Texas in the US. The jute bags are the first big order that we have undertaken, helping us to create a self-sufficient unit in Vocational Training. Thanks to Mr and Mrs Ranganathan together with Vinay and Indra who helped us immensely with the project.
We would like to thank Sudha Umashanker for helping us set up the aari embroidery unit. We are pleased to see the residents learning fast, and the work is starting to look very beautiful and intricate.
Asha for Education has donated Rs. 50 000 towards the functioning of one of our most popular Vocational Training activities, the Tailoring Unit. Thanks for making it possible for us to continue imparting these useful skills to our residents. Thanks also to Ajitha Balan from the Rotary Club of Chennai Samudhra who donated Rs. 3000 towards our reoccurring training costs.

The ever-popular Cupshup, our resident-run canteen, has recently started increasing the number of working residents, introducing a Baking Unit and a Cooking Unit. These units are in full force and have been so popular that the residents have turned them into a small business within The Banyan, selling yummy cakes and snacks to the staff and fellow residents! They have even started taking on small orders for cakes and biscuits. Besides the regular tea and coffee, Cupshup has now started dispensing soft drinks at the Banyan Bazaar. The new Gardening Unit is making our back garden look all lush and green.

An eye camp was held at The Banyan on July 1st and July 17th. The camp was held by Dr Murali Arigha from SMF with his optometrist, who screened all our residents, including the Long-Stay Home residents. They suggested glasses for a couple of our residents and surgery for many of the patties.
This quarter has focused on preventive healthcare for our residents and staff. In June, all our health care staff received sponsored typhoid vaccinations from Amway. After that, the Rotary Club sponsored three doses of Hepatitis B vaccinations for all our residents, including the Long-Stay Home residents.
Having slept in the streets for weeks, months, or even years, and having been exposed to all forms of abuse, our residents are vulnerable to various types of illness and ailment. The types of illness vary from anything like epilepsy and tuberculosis to ulcers and scabies, causing much pain and discomfort for our residents. Since May, 22 residents have been taken to hospital for treatment. Thank you SMF and SRMC for your continued support.
As a basis for future strategic planning for the organisation, HR Consultant, Mr Ravikanth has devised an Organisation Plan for The Banyan. He presented the Plan in a workshop on July 14th, introducing a revised Organisation Structure, outlining our roles and responsibilities and highlighting our aims and targets, motivating us to strive for results! He has also introduced an effective Staff Appraisal system to be implemented this year.

Residents received their share of entertainment when the famous drummer, Sivamani, visited the Banyan in early August and performed for the residents at our auditorium. The residents (and staff!) watched ecstatically, as Sivamani was banging the drum set ordered specially for the occasion, and demanded for several encores!

More fun followed when Santosh Sivan with Trilok and Shardha, visited The Banyan to make a documentary over three days in August. Never before have our residents had so much fun during filming, as the crew took our residents for an outing to the beach and for a nice meal at a restaurant to follow!
On August 27th, we celebrated the 12th Anniversary of The Banyan. Coinciding with Krishna Jayanthi, Adaikalam was decorated with trees, kolams and ribbons in screaming colours, to lift up the festive spirits. We also enjoyed a special meal donated by E.N. Thambidurai. Very delicious!
Another BIG thanks to Sir Ratan Tata Trust for your continued support for The Banyan. With your help we have been able to maintain a standard quality of care for our residents and your support will also enable us to start a bright new life for our long-term residents at Kovalam. Thanks also to M/S Florindon Stiftung Foundation for coming forward to support our community outreach projects. Your commitment has made it possible for us to follow our dream and bring mental health care to the doorsteps of people. Your continued backing is vital in sustaining the project and establishing a replicable model for community mental health care.

Without the support from Zurich Financial Services, where would we be? Your continued support is essential in facilitating the smooth running of The Banyan. We met our new contact person, David Nash, who came to The Banyan for an orientation visit in May. It was lovely to meet you and we look forward to working with you.

Thank you Miblou for funding the rehabilitation trips for our recovered residents. You have made it possible for us to achieve our aim and to reunite our rehabilitated residents back with their families and communities where they belong. We look forward to your continued support for creating ever more happy endings.

Thank you ever so much, Mrs Toggenburg and Colour the World, for donating $5000 towards our follow-up programme. Your support is making it possible for us to ensure the continued welfare of our ex-residents.
The Tamil society in Texas, Thamizhar Thiruvizha, donated $2300 towards the running of The Banyan. Thank you for remembering the women of your homeland!
We would like to thank C. Vanniarajan who gifted 50 000 towards The Banyan’s reoccurring needs. Your support means a lot to us.
The Oberoi Foundation donated special meals for four Saturdays for our residents. We celebrated Vivek’s Birthday with our residents by singing a birthday song and we enjoyed a nice birthday cake. Thank you, Vivek, for making weekends special for our residents! Support from celebrities like you has always been very meaningful to The Banyan. We hope to see you soon again!
We would like to thank Shirdi Sai Trust and Rangoonwala Foundation for covering our reoccurring medical expenses month by month. You have made it possible for us to provide the medical care to our residents, which is vital in restoring their mental and physical wellbeing. What would we do without you?
No words can express our gratitude to our neighbourhood newspaper, Anna Nagar Times, for their commitment to donate every month towards the running of The Banyan. Your enthusiasm and support for local initiatives is admirable. Thanks also to Sujata Paulouse and VS & B Containers for making the commitment to donate to The Banyan month after month. You came to rescue us at a time when funds where very hard to come by. Thank you so much for your continued support.

We would like to thank our regular financial contributors ITC Ladies Social & Welfare Society and the TVS Sri Chakra Group, , Tripura foundation and The Bridge. We are also grateful to Food World, Jeppiaar Engineering College, and Lalah Masala, for donating us provisions month after month.

Unfortunately, our huge fundraiser, Netru Indru Naalai, was postponed due to rains. We would like to thank the Creative Team, that is Mani Ratnam/Vasanth/Sabu Cyril/Rajiv Menon/Revathy/Rohini, as well as Kala/ Brinda and Anu/Sai, for all the energy that they had for months and months despite the difficulties that we faced. Thanks to Chairman, Mr and Mrs Wilson from Jeppiaar Engineering College for all their help. We would also like to thank the scores of volunteers who helped us out during the hectic preparations for the show. Thank you ever so much for donating your time and energy to help us in our cause!
The rains may have washed out the show but not our spirit, which is all set to rise again when the show takes place later this year. We are currently working on the venue and are trying to create an even bigger, better show this time. We would like to thank Vijay TV for making the show possible. The support from Madras Table Round No 1, in particular Amarnath Reddy and Suniel Lulla, has been admirable. We look forward to a long-term partnership with you. The proceeds of the show will go towards building the Health Centre at Kovalam. We would also like to thank the media, especially The Hindu and The New Indian Express, for standing by us and taking the show to the masses.
Thanks to all supporters for standing by us despite the difficulties!

The Banyan’s website is up in its full Banyan-red glory on www.thebanyan.org. Please have a look at the new flashy design and keep up-to-date with happenings here at The Banyan.

And don’t forget to convey the Banyan message further… spread the message of women who have faced extreme hunger, deprivation, and abuse, but with a little encouragement and support, are willing to lift up their chins and live to laugh once again - in their spirit we will continue to fight for many more happy new beginnings!
Thanks so much for your support, which is invaluable to us now and in the future, as The Banyan branches out to help more women in need…
Thanking You,
Yours sincerely,

Vandana Gopikumar & Vaishnavi Jayakumar

Founder Trustees

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