A 94-year-old Kulandhaiammal sports a shy, toothless smile as she walks slowly to the dais to collect her medal. She has every reason to be happy and proud as she has learnt to read, write and even sign, all thanks to the members of RC Coimbatore Zenith, RID 3201. Kulandhaiammal and 22 other neo-literate women received their certificates and medals from DG AV Pathy and spouse Veena at a special event held at the club’s adopted Kunnathur village.
Over the last four years, the club is running Adult Literacy classes here with help from a retired teacher. “We empower the women with basic functional literacy and awareness on health and hygiene practices, child care and also teach them to open a bank account,” says Club President Raviraj Krishnan. He was pleasantly surprised when Rukmani, a beneficiary, thanked him profusely as she is now able to deposit her government pension and other surplus cash in her own savings account. The club’s annual medical camp is a much sought after programme at Kunnathur. “Patients get free supply of medicines prescribed by the doctors for a year,” says Project Chair Samuel Raj.
More recently, the club launched the 20,000 Trees Mega Project which aims to create a green and healthy environment in the middle of an industrial hub. A vast, barren patch of 132 acres at Karamadai on the Ooty highway is being turned into a green hub.
But developing a social forestry in a patch of land ironically called ‘Shanti Garden’ is not easy going for this 12-year-old club. “First we did a field survey with the help of soil experts and agronomists from the TN Agriculture department. They advised us to begin with planting neem seedlings as it cleans the environment, absorbing large quantities of CO2 and release oxygen,” says Krishnan, So far 8,000 neem seedlings are being nurtured with drip irrigation sprinklers and “we will be planting teak and other varieties such as red sanders and even banyan trees in the near future.” Two borewells and two open wells irrigate the nursery farm ‘which will be transformed into a Shanti Vanam (forest) by June 2020.’
The mega greenery will be a giant natural filter against pollution, besides providing the much-needed lung space for the expanding city, he says. With the enthusiastic feedback from locals, the club has extended the goalpost to 50,000 seedlings of various trees at the Shanti Garden. So far, the green mission has cost ₹18.5 lakh — including the expenditure for motor pump, borewells and plantations — with the club pitching in with ₹4.5 lakh. The balance amount was contributed by the main sponsor Arun Basna and his family, owners of Shantiniketan Silks.
Other initiatives of the club include installing a smart classroom and providing classroom furniture under a global grant worth `4 lakh at the Corporation Middle School, Sanganoor. “We had spent around ₹6.5 lakh for revamping the school with furniture, stationery, academic books and play equipment since we adopted it last September,” says Project Chair Gokul Raj.