KHI September 2020 News 

"Social distancing is a privilege.
It means you live in a house large enough to practice it.

Hand washing is a privilege.
It means you have access to running water.

Hand sanitizers are a privilege.
It means you have money to buy them.

Lockdowns are a privilege.
It means you can afford to be at home."

anonymous quote from a doctor in India

The Unfolding Drama of Life During the Pandemic in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India

Bruce and Ann Peck left India just before the lock down of Kodaikanal borders in early March of this year. This is Selvam and Sheela’s story shared with Ann over the phone each Saturday morning as the pandemic changes life for everyone, young and old. What is it like living in their shoes?

We are installing stoves again!

One-year old Harini Sri watches Selvam install her new improved cookstove. She is one of ten families who were fortunate to receive this life changing addition to their homes during the June opening of the government imposed lockdown.

Handmade masks cover many who do not understand

Selvam gives out masks made by his neighborhood tailor to people in remote villages where he installs cookstoves. His safety and that of the people he serves depends on these masks and the information Sheela shares with the local women about how to stay safe. Adapting to new changes is survival.

Sheela speeds up the mask making process by cutting fabric for the neighborhood tailor.

150 masks were donated by KHI to provide essential safety for hospital frontline workers early in the pandemic when local supplies were inadequate.

After weeks of transportation shutdown, buses were given government permission to start running again on a very limited scale. The influx of people coming up the mountain brought a spike in new cases to Kodaikanal where there had been very few. Kids Health India donated blankets, masks and utensils to a local hospital until emergency supplies could be requisitioned.

Visuals go a long way to communicate what some cannot read

After the influx in cases, road blocks again stopped traffic with police support to prevent people from moving between village hamlets from one neighborhood to another. The corona virus depicted as a horned devil is painted in traditional “kolam” style on the pavement to warn people of the health crisis in their town.

Stores on wheels during the lockdown

During the lockdown periods only people seeking hospital care or medicines are permitted to go into town with a “scheduled” token from the nearest check post. All shops are closed and there is no weekly Sunday market. Sheela buys vegetables from a young boy managing the “store on wheels.” Only lorry drivers carrying food from the plains could pass through the check posts. These frontline workers risk their own health to supply food for their communities.

Schools are closed... holiday or prison?
Schools in Kodaikanal have been closed since March with no provision for education at home. What seems like a long vacation wears thin when children are not allowed to go outside the home. Confinement in often tiny living spaces all day long seems like punishment. Household chores add some variety to the day.
Albin, age 8, washes fruits and vegetables for the family.
Lea, age 11 cuts, “ladies' fingers” or what we call okra for Sheela to make a curry.
Yoga releases the anxiety of confinement
Sheela is a trained nurse and a former creche teacher. Her family is lucky because she can teach them at home. Even Selvam joins them in a yoga class.
Latest Update: Free textbooks and lessons on TV
Although schools in India have been closed for almost 6 months and will remain closed for the rest of the year, Sheela shared with us that the government is distributing new textbooks at the local school locations, one family at a time, socially distanced to stay safe. The children take them home and will now have educational opportunities on the local TV stations, with classes running during the day at staggered times for each age group, a new solution for virtual learning in India. Not everyone has a TV, but most villages have at least one. Sharing will be vital for these communities.
Selvam hauls a load of grass for his mother’s cow. They are lucky to have “milk on tap” just outside the door. His house is not in view in this photo.
Albin collects firewood with his grandmother for her own smokeless stove. Selvam has made sure his mother’s health is top priority starting with the stove.
One million people die annually in India alone from indoor air pollution related to inhaling smoke from daily cooking, the silent menace. We continue to move ahead inspired by a young leader.
Looking Ahead to 2021: Martina Inspires Us
Martina wrote to me from Switzerland asking for a new project in 2021 after her school trip was cancelled this year due to COVID. She visited Kodaikanal as a student volunteer from Geneva International School in 2019, and worked elbow to elbow with Selvam and Sheela, installing improved cookstoves in Samakadu.
Selvam has chosen a new village for her where a group of women walked to find him and asked him to install stoves for their homes. He supports Martina and her friend Lili Faye by suppling photos and information for these new student leaders to get started raising funds.
“It is always a great pleasure for me to hear back from foreign students who have returned home, and yet have been moved by their experience in India with us and want to come back. It is easy to get discouraged during these times, but Martina is not giving up and neither are we.”
Ann Peck, Executive Director
Each smokeless stove installation costs $35 (US)
Kids Health India, Inc. is a U.S. nonprofit that supports the installation of improved cookstoves for low-income families in southern India to alleviate the suffering caused by daily inhalation of toxic smoke from cooking fires. To learn more or get involved visit our website:

625 stoves installed
benefiting 2,551 people
Samakadu child, age 9, hauls rocks for his new cookstove.
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Copyright © 2020 Kids Health India, All rights reserved.

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