As 2019 comes to an end, we look back on another eventful year at Blossom. This year we went back to the main reason Blossom was started in 1993: women empowerment. In all our projects throughout the years gender equality and women empowerment stood at the center, and in 2019 we have put further emphasis on it. We try to achieve women empowerment and gender equality through health, social, economic and environmental initiatives. Let's look back on the activities of Blossom this last year.
Did you know that tuberculosis belongs to the top ten causes of deaths worldwide? TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Each day, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 54 million lives since the year 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 42%. To accelerate the TB response in countries to reach targets – Heads of State came together and made strong commitments to end TB at the first-ever UN High Level Meeting in September 2018. India has the highest burden of tuberculosis (TB) in the world. In 2017 alone, there were 1.7 million new cases identified while 421,000 persons infected died the same year. According to WHO, 936,000 cases of TB went unreported in India. Blossom has done varies activities to address the stigma and discrimination that revolves around TB. In 2019 we observed World TB Day in March and World Lung Day in September and during the year we went into the community several times to raise awareness about the signs of TB and the treatment.
We also addressed the screening and treatment of HIV/AIDS. During the year, several activities were organized in relation to this. One example of this is the meeting our director conducted in Kanchipuram District to increase HIV screening. Our transgender peer educators in Chennai focus on raising awareness of the risks of HIV/AIDS and provide assistance for screening and treatment.
At Blossom we also focus on the general health of women and girls. In 2019 we addressed reproductive health with the help of Freedom Cups. This organization provided 300 menstruation cups to rural women. Together we went into the villages to educate women and girls on the use of the menstruation cup. Another health activity of this year was our observation of International Universal Health Coverage Day, during which we took to the streets to advocate for an inclusive healthcare system that pays special attention to women, girls and marginalized groups.
Supported by the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board in Chennai, we have been able to support women since 2003 with the use of a creche. Research has shown that child care is a major obstacle for women who try to work. Blossom provides daycare for children, to allow mothers to be able to work and gain control of their lives.
From beginning of 2005, Blossom worked within an Indian government program designed to create and empower Self-Help Groups (SHGs). The SHGs had leadership, training, bank accounts, and internal accounts. Close to 1200 SHGs were created, with 15-20 people, almost entirely women, per group. Blossom named this effort ‘Poomalai Women's Collective’, or garland of many blossoms. Many of these SHGs are still active today.
One of our running projects at Blossom is our Dayspring Farm. The farm aims to produce adequate vegetables, fruit, milk and eggs. This year the site has 2 cows, 4 goats and around 200 chickens. The agricultural side of the farm is booming with the cultivation of many varieties of fresh produce. These include okra, aubergine, corn, spinach, drumstick, mango, guava, banana, coconut and gooseberry. The vegetables in the farm are also often taken care of by the occasional volunteers that come to Dayspring. This broad spectrum of nutritious foods provides the children of Dayspring Home with a balanced and diverse diet, giving them a platform of education on a healthy lifestyle. From our Farm we sell organic plants in our office for very little money, as the neighborhood can then grow their own herbal plants and small vegetable plants, instead of buying them from the supermarket, teaching them about sustainability.
Unfortunately, on the 13th April Dayspring had a fire. One staff member ended up with severe burns on his leg and the fire managed to burn through two sheds, the roof of the volunteers room, and burned some chickens as well as many trees. The cost in damages were in total INR 150,000, a high burden which we only could afford through donations. The new roof is composed of 3 major layers. This new structure will help prevent future fires from occurring! The first layer is made up of slabs, which is the main structure of the roof. The second layer is composed of palm leaves, which keeps the temperature of the rooms naturally cooler. Lastly, the major change was the iron sheet. This is important for the new shed as it will help prevent future fires from occurring.
Our children at Dayspring had another very successful year. All of them did very well during their exam period, which was at the end of the year. Every few months the hospital provides free medical check up for all the children. It is always a nice outing for the kids, as they get a very nice lunch at the hospital as well. We celebrated several holidays this years, including Diwali and Christmas, and went on several trip. One trip took us to the hill town Kodaikanal and at the end of the year we went to the beach at Rameswaram. We hope to have the same fun opportunities again in the coming year!
In 2019, Blossom Trust and Dayspring Home welcomed thirteen volunteers, who took their hands on the Dayspring Farm, the Dayspring Home and spent time with our children, and supported us during different projects. We appreciate the work of our volunteers a lot and are happy to be welcoming the next volunteers already in the beginning of 2020.
2019 has been a good year and we cannot wait to see what 2020 will bring us! We hope you will continue this journey with us!