Betel Nut/Tobacco Abuse Awareness

Reproductive Health Awareness

Environmental Health Leadership Initiative (EHLI)

What we have done:

From December 22-24, 2013, Parthu Kalva administered a 10 question survey to over 60 children to get an understanding of the children’s habits and knowledge surrounding waste management, environmental sanitation, and hygiene. Around 25 of those children were from the Health Club at PRG Middle School, a government primary school in the Siruvani region. The ‘Health club’ is a concept that has become increasingly popular in government primary schools in India. Health clubs empower children to voice their concerns on sanitation and health issues affecting their school and work together to complete a project on it. 

One of the questions administered on the survey was, ‘ There is a lot of trash in the back of the school. Your teacher tells you to clean up the trash. What do you do?’ Although the correct answer was to segregate the trash upon collection, many of the students chose the answer that they would collect the trash and then burn the trash! It was at that point that Parthu realized that waste segregation was something highly worth focusing on.  

The next day, Parthu bought two large plastic bins, one red and one blue. He drafted a Powerpoint presentation featuring red slides listing out what to put in the trash bins and blue slides listing out what to put in the recycling bins. At PRG Middle School, he presented these slides to the kids with the help of a translator. He also was sure to emphasize NOT to burn both trash and recyclables.
After conducting a practice waste segregation activity with sample pieces of waste, Parthu handed out small garbage bags to half of the students and gloves to the other half. Then, he asked those with bags to pair up with someone with a glove and go out into the playground and pick up 30 pieces of trash.
After 10 minutes of collecting trash, Parthu had the children form a circle outside, with the red bin on one side and the blue bin on the other.  The children then came into the middle of the circle two groups at a time and dumped their trash in the center of the circle. Running between each bin, the children of those two groups proceeded to segregate the trash in the two bins. Aside for placing papers in the red trash bin a few times, the children did a very good job in segregating the trash.

Health Club members proudly show off the results of the Waste Segregation Activity

What Parthu noticed during lunch was that though the students washed their hands at a wash station, there was no soap to be found or was being used. Asking one of the boys where the soap was, he proceeded to take Parthu back inside the school and asked an older girl to take out the soap. She proceeded to go into a storage area, where a bar of soap was stored on the top of an old shelf. Apparently, the soap was not being used by the children to wash their hands.
As a result, on the third day of working with the kids, Parthu focused on the importance of washing one’s hands before eating, using analogies, videos, and pictures to get the message across.

Schoolchildren eating their noon meal

In order to ensure the students continued to segregate their waste, Parthu drafted a list of what goes into the trash and recycling on two separate posters and attached them to trash cans. In order to ensure the students continued to segregate their waste and use soap to wash their hands, Parthu told the teachers that each week, a new group of 4 Health club students were to segregate trash disposed in the bins twice a week. A different group of 2 Heath Club members were assigned to enforce the usage of soap before meals. To help enforce this, a sign up log for the kids to keep track of those on waste segregation duty and soap duty each week was created.

Parthu Kalva holding the Recycling lid sign and list of recyclable materials. The amount of money provided per kilo for each material when given to the scrap store was also provided.
For more info on scrap stores, read the post entitled "Don't Throw your Waste, Give your Waste." under December 2013 trip.

The signs to be attached to the compost bin, trash bin, and recycling bin. The compost list contains items such as egg shells, bananas, leaves, etc. The trash sign states that anything not belonging in either Compost or Recycling must be placed into it

What we will do:

This experience motivated Parthu, Naman Gupta, and Shyamprasad Radhakrishnan to further construct and execute the Environmental Health Leadership Initiative (EHLI).  The ELHI program includes a leader-ship oriented curriculum that empowers school children to construct and lead projects addressing environmental health issues in their community.

The course will involve both taught curriculum and hands-on projects. The goal is to  train students to teach the curriculum to younger students, ultimately having the program be mostly student-run. Here is the structure of the Curriculum:

Curriculum A topics(6 classes + 1 class for final project presentations)

Class 1: Waste Management- Education

 Class 2: Waste Management- Critique/Solutions

Class 3: Water/Sanitation- Education

Class 4:  Water/Sanitation- Critique/Solutions

Class 5:  Hygiene- Education

Class 6: Hygiene- Critique/Solutions

Class 7: Final Projects

Curriculum B topics( 6 classes + 1 class for final project presentations)

Class 1: Pesticides- Education

 Class 2: Pesticides Critique/Solutions

Class 3: Air Pollution- Education

Class 4:  Air Pollution Critique/Solutions

Class 5:  Carcinogens- Education

Class 6: Carcinogens- Critique/Solutions

Class 7: Final Projects

In addition to the curriculum, there will be an annual competition in which children construct functional items out of recyclable waste found in their local community. Given a month to complete, the submission deadline will be at the end of September 2014. Finalists will be announced in November, and will be given 2 months to prepare a presentation at the culture show in late January. A winner and runner-up will be selected by a panel of judges and will be rewarded in late January.

Get Involved/Contact Us

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Email: cordusaucsd@gmail.com


December 2013 Trip

Mahila Mandals and Self-Help groups

The self-help groups include those from other panchayats as well, while Mahila Mandals have started up across a total of 11 villages within a variety of panchayats but all are located in the Thondamathur block.

Group of women in on CORD Siruvani's 11 Mahila Mandals

Leprosy in Coimbatore district

A leprosy awareness program was conducted to one of the Mahila Mandals on the morning of December 17th, 2013. The awareness program discussed topics such as the signs and symptoms of leprosy, the diagnostic process of leprosy and the importance of early treatment. They also discussed public health precautions surrounding leprosy as well as the number of local cases that their team had treated in the past. Treating roughly around 6 cases per year and 30 cases in the past seven years, their team strives to provide financial government compensation for those who are affected as well.

 Guest speakers conduct a leprosy awareness program to a Mahila Mandal


CORD Siruvani has made efforts to construct toilets for the community in an effort to curb open defecation. Dr. Meera explained that they first built a honeycomb structure surrounding an open space, dug a deep pit, inserted cement rings to prevent the liquid from collecting. This allows the fecal water to leave through the rings and the fecal matter to decompose into the ground.

Dr. Meera explains the engineering behind CORD Siruvani's latrine. 
Unfortunately, due to an increase in labor prices, CORD was unable to build more toilets within the community. CORD Siruvani intends to continue to build toilets utilizing the twin pit method, which takes advantage of nutrient cycling in order to provide future fertilizer.

Another issue that arose in many villages was stagnant water in miniature wells. Stagnant water can cause dengue fever and it also serves as a potential breeding ground for infectious diseases such as hookworm and malaria. Underdeveloped sanitation systems is a large concern as it is one the leading causes of the spread of infectious diseases.

A potential mosquito breeding ground and harboring of dengue fever.

Dr. Meera pointed out the open drainage system, in which we could see food wrappers, maggots, and a thick black-green slime. She explained that there needs to be a grassroots initiative to clean up and maintain the open drainage system. Since the system was not built on a slope, there is stagnant water, which leads to a multitude of health issues in the area.

An environmentally healthy practice and a preventative of TB, the spread of cow dung was traditionally widespread. Recent media marketing, however, has popularized a powdery substance called chaani (meaning cow dung) powder within the community. Regardless of being known to be carcinogenic and toxic, chaani powder is regularly spread out in the front of 75% of people’s homes for an aesthetic appeal.  As a result of its usage for suicide, the selling and usage of the powder was deemed illegal by the state government. Unfortunately, due to poor enforcement and smuggling of the powder, chaani powder continues to be used.

An example of a chaani powder covered ground, as evident by the green tinge.

A practice that is currently being used in order to retain the benefits of cow dung and the aesthetic appeal of chaani powder is to mix the two. To test this, Dr. Krishna, Dr. Meera’s husband, carried out an experiment in his micro lab in Coimbatore to test this assumption using yogurt curds, filled with lacto bacilli. Dr. Krishna added a small amount of chaani powder to a sample of yogurt and looked at it under a microscope. Within 30 seconds of adding the chaani powder, all the lactobacilli were reported to stop moving completely. Thus, it was inferred that the powder reversed the beneficial effects of the cow dung.

The chaani powder stains the hands of the women, potentially having carcinogenic effects.
Agriculture and Organic Farming

A highly common form of agriculture in India is rainwater and groundwater harvesting. During the monsoon season, massive amounts of rainwater and groundwater are collected in open wells and canals. In a very interesting yet straightforward irrigation system, water is channeled to flow between rows of crops at will.

During the 1990s-2000s, much of agriculture shifted towards the usage of chemical fertilizers as the central government of India began to subsidize farming on a macro scale. Currently, many farmers are transitioning back into organic farming, in which natural biofuels such as manure and vegetable compost are used. Though producing fewer yields than fertilizer, organic farming is ultimately healthier for the soil and environment.

IFFCO Fertilizer being loaded into storage. Farmers will take a loan from the local bank to obtain a designated amount of fertilizer

CORD Siruvani actively works with local farmers to promote organic farming and addresses needs surrounding labor and resources.


When a few village women speak, we could make out a distinct red tinge on their teeth and tongues. We knew this to be from paan, but Dr. Meera specifically spoke of the ingredient betel nut, explaining how it was commonly chewed by the men and women in the village, along with some children. She explained how the betel leaf was non-addictive and even healthy, but the mixing of tobacco and betel nut, which contains carcinogenic compounds, has adverse health effects. For more information on Betel Nut and our intervention against it, please refer to ‘Betel Nut/Tobacco Awareness Program’ under ‘Initiatives’.

Thennamanullur Rations Shop
Across from the CORD office lies 2 important buildings. One of which is a ration shop. Each family in the scheduled caste, backwards caste, and scheduled tribe community is given a ration card. The amount on each ration card varies with the number of members in each family.  That which you can get at the rations market is less than it is on the public market. For example, a kilo of sugar is 70 rupees on the public market while it is 30 rupees with a ration card. Rice is free for the given amount on the ration card.

“Don’t Throw your Waste, Give your Waste”     -Dr. Meera

Most of the waste generated tends to come from the packaging of products bought at stores. This includes plastic bags, paper, cardboard, polythene wrappers used for milk, and low grade plastic wrappers used for food such as chips and candy. When these are bought from the store and used, two main things usually happen to them. For one, they are usually discarded on the side of the road or in an existing pile of trash. Secondly, if a household decides to throw all their trash away, they will eventually dump it on a pre-existing pile of trash, or burn the week’s trash in a pile. Finally, they may also burn the waste, including polythene plastics, to generate heat to be used for cooking or heating water.

Polythene wrappers and other plastics are being used along with palm tree husks as fuel to heat water.
One of CORD Siruvani’s recent initiatives included having the elderly make newspaper substitutes for plastic snack packets. Paying 8 rupees for each packet, the shop owners were in support of a decreased amount of waste production while supporting the elderly who make the newspaper packets. 

A proud shopkeeper shows off the newspaper packets that he uses to wrap the snacks he sells.
 Another option that many consumers of these products have is to resell their waste to a ‘scrap store’. For example, if I purchased milk regularly, I could collect each of the wrappers until they weighed in at one kilo. I could then take my milk wrappers to the scrap store and exchange it for 18 rupees. In this way, there are differing rates for paper, food wrappers, cardboard, plastic bottles, and glass bottles.

For more information concerning waste management, Look up ‘ Environmental Health Leadership Initiative’ under the ‘Initiative’ tab.

School center for 2-5 year olds.

There is a one-room school for children from newborns to age 5 close to the Siruvani office.
 Stepping inside, one will notice that there is chaani powder, the carcinogenic powder mentioned earlier, smeared all over the floor of the classroom.

As we watched a little girl drop her snacks over the powder-covered floor and then pick them up and eat them one by one, we knew that this had the potential of becoming a real community issue.

See the post on Chaani Powder for more information on this substance.

An interesting weighing mechanism

 Pregnancy data was kept here, with a tracking of progress from each stage of pregnancy in each woman. The current state government of Tamil Nadu under J. Lalitha provides 12,000 rupees for pregnant women. This includes:

-4,000 rupees after 8 months of pregnancy,
-4,000 rupees after delivery
-4,000 rupees after receiving 3 vaccinations.

An ad by the J. Lalitha administration explaining the benefits offered to pregnant women

PRG Middle School-
Further down the street lay the entrance to a small government school called PRG Middle School. The school itself is made up of three large rooms divided into smaller rooms with mobile wooden boards. Behind the school is a large playground with a mound of trash in the corner and toilet stalls lining the back wall. Later on in the trip, we taught english grammar classes to the kids. Parthu also taugh a Waste Management and Hygiene curriculum to the kids. For more information, on this initiative look under “Environmental Health Leadership Initiative”.

An empty classroom in PRG middle school
The school's kitchen, from out of this structure billowed a thick black smoke due to the burning of firewood, the only means of cooking afforded on the school's budget. With little ventilation in the building, and much of this smoke flowing towards the school, the smoke constituted a serious health hazard. 
School's source of drinking water and tap water. Before the evening noon meal, the children wash their hands here, usually without a bar of soap which is available to them.