The site in India is located in Podanur Junction, near the city of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu State, in south India. The languages spoken are primarily Tamil, and English. The site is comprised of a number of houses, all of which are owned by FFC.

FFC has a large Special Care Center for young adults who are mentally and/orphysically handicapped. We have a number with cerebral palsy, post-polio children, and those with a variety of special medical needs. Excellent locally hired Special Educational teachers are employed to care for these children. FFC offers vocational training for destitute women and certain of the older children who have not made it through the regular school system. In 2013, the House of Hope was opened across the street from this centre that offers training in cooking, sewing, our upcycling and paper projects, a class for rudimentary learning and afternoon outdoor sports.

The Lower School is divided into three classes that have been given colour names. The Red Group are educable and working at a Kindergarten-Grade 4 level. The Blue Group have difficulty learning and are at a Nursery-early Junior Kindergarten level. These groups share the large space on the ground floor of the school. The Yellow Group are of trainable ability and their classroom is in the ground floor of the girl's building. All groups get together every day after lunch for Circle Time, a fun period of music and rhymes in English and Tamil. Many children in the Lower School receive daily physiotherapy and several others get speech therapy.

Sue Dutton, above, is a teacher and heads up the school in India for Families For Children. She is in touch with the staff on a daily basis, and visits the India site twice a year at her own expense to make sure things are going well there. She is seen holding Daniel, one of the children.

Our elementary school became one completely dedicated to children with special needs in the 2019-2020 school year. It consists of a High School of 13 children and a Lower School of 29. Head Teacher Shanthi and Susan Dutton run the school. Until the pandemic crises, Susan visited the school twice yearly. The High School occupies the second floor of the school building and is for children with physical challenges who are not able to attend schools in the neighbourhood. Many in this group have cerebral palsy, but this also includes Jessie who is a paraplegic and Harini who has a rare genetic disorder. They are working at a Grade 5-Grade 10 level and some will be able to write the standard government grade exams. Last year Jessie and Sarika passed Grade 8 and Aravind passed Grade 10, true achievements for which we are very proud.

At present we have a total of 56 kids attending schools in the community. These range from primary school through to college. At left, Kalimuthu, who is studying computer science in college. Above, some of our younger outside school students. Click On Photos

The school educates all FFC children in its preschool and kindergarten programs. Then at Grade 1, those children with families and who are physically and mentally able, attend local schools in Podanur village. The orphans and those with various special needs and circumstances stay at our school.

The majority of the kids being treated have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, but we do have some other exceptional cases. Muki has been working with Baby and we are pleased to see an incredible amount of progress.

Physiotherapy Room

In 2020, our new Physiotherapy room was completed. It is far more spacious and we are gradually upgrading and adding new equipment to assist with our kids treatments.

  FFC Library

Years ago, on a regular trip to the Indian project Sandra ran out of books and this was a catastrophe! But matters got worse when she found out there was no library in Coimbatore. At least not one that our staff were aware of. So we did what FFC always does! We started our own lending library. This for our village of Podanur but also to get our kids reading.

At right, the older boys play games when they are not doing online classes.

Thangeraj, our amazing gardener, agreed to be our librarian as he is fluent in Tamil as well as English. It was and is a great success. Since the lockdown only our children can attend but we look forward to the future when our regular readers return!

Once a week, our music teacher, Dinesh Bharath, connects with a small group of kids by leading a fun-filled music class and choir. Despite the lockdown and her inability to travel, Sheila contiinues to work closely with Dinesh to support the continuation of these music sessions. In the past while, these classes have been happening virtually, but we look forward to having Disnesh back in person once it is safe.

  Special Care Music Class

One thing that we always notice about our Special Care kids is their great love of music. For this reason, Sheila Veerkamp, who is a long time FFC volunteer and a music teacher in Montreal, decided to start a music class and choir.

The choir spans all ages and abilities amongst our special needs population. The kids have been learning new songs as well as singing some popular favourites. Dinesh has also included rhythm instruction as well as basic piano skills which requires a great deal of patience. We are thrilled about this special activity and feel that it is an excellent activity for these kids. We look forward to the choir being able to sing in the communisty in the future.

Library Kids

Every Saturday the big girls take the smallest to our library in India

Susan Dutton Reports

Susan Dutton has sent along some photos from the India project. Paul, shown at right, who was born blind, is seen here with 2 of our specialist teachers in the Blind Stimulation Class. Selvalakshmi, on the right, is a Braille specialist who comes to the project several times a week to supplement thedaily work of Nageshwari, on the right.

Rachel attends our "high school" class and is working at a Grade 7 level. This class serves our children who would like to continue with their education, but their physical handicaps make it impossible for them to go to a neighbourhood school. She is seen here working on a laptop, a great accomplishment for her as she has severe spastic cerebral palsy.

Susan posts more photos from FFC India on her Instagram account, susan.dutton

Poornima is helped with a puzzle in the Preschool class in FFC's Elementary School. She was born with a rare brain malformation and although her physical milestones are delayed, has made great progress in both the preschool and stimulation classes. She has begun standing on her own and I hope to hear that she has begun to walk before my next visit in the fall of 2016.

Colette has since been back to India, and has sent photos of her visit. At right, one of the children playing in the Stimulation Room. Below, the girls from the FFC cooking class.

Colette has written about her trip to India: I recently travelled to India to volunteer at Families For Children. For two weeks, my primary role was to look after six new babies, but during this time, I also assisted with other children as part of the Volunteer Program. A typical day started with feeding the babies breakfast, followed by bath time then play. At 10.30am we had Stimulation Circle time with the babies that were awake and the older children with cerebral palsy. Clean up was around 11am, then play time with the babies who have woken up. Lunch for the little ones started around 12 noon, followed by quiet play before settling the babies down for an afternoon nap. My lunch was provided at the canteen from 1pm. This meal was the only one provided so it would be the biggest meal for the day.

After lunch I would take advantage of the wifi in the office, sending emails, texts etc to family before going home for a rest. I would be back at the baby room by 5pm for a little play and dinnertime with the children aged 1-2 years. My day would end at 7pm with a 10 minute walk back to my cottage, shower, light snack and bed, before starting all over again the next day. This is my fourth trip to India. The first two visits were to adopt my 2 beautiful children. My last two visits have been to participate in the volunteer program. While this is not a relaxing holiday, it is very rewarding. I thoroughly enjoy my time and I feel so lucky to be able to be with these amazing kids. Thank you to everyone who generously donated money, toys and bought chocolates throughout the year to raise money.

Australians In India

Colette Slingsby and Tania Millican, two wonderful volunteers from Australia, visited the FFC site in India in March and worked closely with the children. Colette is from Townsville, and before leaving for her trip she had raised funds which were used to repair and renovate the Stimulation Room. The amazing new appearance of the Stimulation Room, brought about by Colette's fund-raising efforts, can be seen HERE

Colette and Tania are shown at left with Kalai, our FFC India office manager.

Below, Colette and several of the special care children.

Up-Cycled Hats

The hard-working Up-Cycling team has come up with another great idea. They are again making good use of old, used and cast off clothing, saris, and dresses, and using them to create new products. This time they are working on producing a line of very fashionable hats. As seen in the photo at left, the hats are very colorful and perfect for a day out in the sun.

Three Volunteers

Three volunteers have recently spent time in India at the FFC site, and all of them were originally adopted children from FFC. Shown in the photo, from left to right, are Kristi McLaughlin, an occupational therapist from Ontario who will be spending an month at the FFC site, Amyn Mawani, who is also from Ontario and who is now on a tour of India, and Rani Ferris, a child care worker from British Columbia and a long-time volunteer with us in India.

Dollies Making A Difference is an organization that helps children around the world, and you can learn more at their website, HERE DMAD was involved in donating dolls and teddy bears and Bhakti handed out these special gifts to the special care children. In Bhakti's words, "The kids LOVED the dollies and teddy bears! What a gift. Bless you. The wedding was amazing and the kids brought so much joy to it."

Wedding In India

Bhakti Foster, a yoga instructor and Ayurveda wellnes counsellor in Portland, Oregon has been a long time supporter of Families For Children. Recently, Bhakti decided to get married, and appropriately enough, the wedding was held in February of this year in India at the FFC compound. To add an extra special touch to the proceedings, Bhakti had the wonderful people from Dollies Making A Difference take part in the wedding activities.

Rotary Club Grant

In the spring of this year, FFC was fortunate to receive a very generous grant from the Rotary Club of Etobicoke. Thanks to this timely donation, new computers and other pieces of equipment were purchased to replace the current outdated and broken machines, allowing for much smoother operations in the office and other areas. This has been a tremendous help in allowing the staff to work more efficiently in taking care of the more than 300 children and adults at the FFC site. For the Special Care children in particular, the new equipment makes it much easier for staff to keep their detailed medical records. The Rotary Club grant also allowed for the construction of a new washroom. This new and accessible washroom was badly needed and allows for easier access for the Special Care adults who live here and work in the nearby buildings.

The Rotary Club grant has had an immediate effect. FFC has a number of post-polio and other young adults with special needs who have grown up under our roof. Our librarian Thangeraj, seen at left, is passionate about his work in the library, and is a great resource to the children who attend the FFC and outside schools. Kalai, shown above, now has her masters in business administration and basically runs the office like a well-oiled machine. Thanks to the Rotary Club grant, having working office equipment makes record-keeping and all their other work possible.

In June 2014, five former FFC young women who had been living in a small house next to the FFC project were given notice by their landlord. Two of the young women are deaf and one is post-polio and confined to a wheelchair. After looking everywhere, we realized that we were not going to find a new rental for them so we decided they should move back to FFC, since they all work for us. We are very short of space but there was a large storeroom that needed some repairs along with a small bathroom. With the help of the Rotary Club grant, we decided to renovate and turn the storeroom into the perfect home for the five young women.

The Rotary Club of Etobicoke has continued their support by show-casing the Women's Co-op items and in particular the recycled sari scarves at their events. They have made more than $700 in sales in the last few months. FFC is very grateful to the Rotary Club of Etobicoke for their generous and enthusiastic support.

  Worm Composting

A few years ago, FFC decided to stop the adoption program, and so we longer admit healthy babies as there are a number of other facilities they can be referred to. At that point the goats milk we produced from our goat farm was no longer needed. And so, the goats were sold and the vermi composting project was enlarged. We started with one small bed, and that has grown to the point where we now have eight beds, producing a large amount of compost each week. Next we will start selling worms as well.

The success of our wonderful gardens and composting project is due to our young librarian Thangeraj, who has the greenest thumb we've seen, and our driver Mani, who has become an expert at vermi composting. They both do this as well as their regular work.

Special Care Parrot ?

It looks like FFC India has a new addition to the family. A baby parrot has been adopted, as shown in the photo at left. Kalai is holding the parrot. Kalai and the children feed the little bird grapes, and since FFC has always put so much emphasis on providing a quality education, the children are doing their best to teach it how to talk.

Crusade Against Polio

Ramesh Ferris contracted polio at an early age and was brought to FFC India by his mother. He was adopted by Ron and Jan Ferris from the Yukon, and so was able to receive medical care. Ramesh later returned to India to meet his mother and when he saw that polio remained a terrible problem for Indian children he made it his mission to help educate the world about polio eradication and rehabilitation.

In 2008 he travelled across Canada by hand-cycle to share his message, and has delivered speeches to thousands of students and parents around the world in such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Australia. Ramesh has spoken at the United Nations, and has met with world leaders such as Desmond Tutu, Queen Elizabeth II, and Bill Gates. Most recently he had an audience with the Dalai Lama in San Jose, California.

Kitchen Apprentice

Working in the FFC kitchen is serious business, and serious work requires serious equipment and clothing. So when Prabakaran became an apprentice in the project, a proper outfit was needed in order to look the part and there was no time for any half-baked ideas. The FFC Up-Cycling team came up with the perfect solution; a very serious hat for Prabakaran's very serious work in the kitchen.

 Visitors From Montreal

Susan Lepan and Ian Beitel, long time supporters of FFC from Montreal, were in India in December and went to see the FFC site at Coimbatore for the first time. They were very impressed with what they saw there. They also visited the FFC library and donated over two dozen books, English and Tamil, to the collection. Susan is shown in the photo with Thangaraj, who looks after the FFC library, displaying the new books.

Tracy In India

Tracy and her daughters Dana and Hailey have returned from a visit to the India project, and Tracy has sent along this email:

In August my daughters and I spent three weeks at FFC India. Our time at the project was so fulfilling and I continue to reflect on our experience and the lives of those at the project. It has touched each of us profoundly. Although the children living at FFC have been orphaned, there is such a strong feeling of family and love. It is very much one large family, with older children looking after younger ones and the ayahs really are the children's mothers. We were impressed with the curriculum being taught but also with the lovely mix of work and play. Whether it was dance class, Phys. Ed., circle time with long term volunteer Rani or chores. The project exuded a happy, positive, calm spirit.

Staying at the guest house enabled us to see the boys at every stage of their day and week. They worked together getting ready for school, meals, chores. Their ayah, Jay-Mary showed such loving patience to her boys. I will remember her caring ways. What a wonderful place Sandra has created and along with many others, continues to run for these worthy children. Thank you for allowing us to share in this special place.