PEACH TREE CRÈCHE
PEACH TREE CRÈCHE
Peach Tree Crèche, located in the village of Attuvampatti, about 5km from the town of Kodaikanal, was opened by the Ecolint India Team in 2003. Located on the edge of the village, it was within easy access for mothers who dropped off their children before a day’s hard labour in the fields and quarries. The crèche had two classrooms, a kitchen and an outdoor toilet. The new crèche was named Peach Tree after the peach tree in the garden.
The crèche today serves 55 children, aged 2-5. As the creche’s sole donor, the Ecolint community funds the annual running costs of this crèche, from children’s uniforms, three meals a day and basic healthcare, to classroom resources and teachers’ salaries.
In its first ten years, Peach Tree was located in rented buildings. One of the challenges with renting is that there is constantly a threat of unaffordable rent increases or eviction. For this reason, the crèche has been forced to move four times since its opening.
In 2012, the India Project donated funds for the purchase of the site and a building was secured in the middle of the village. Site work was started by students in 2013, and by 2014, the old building was renovated into a crèche with two classrooms and a kitchen.
Renovations improved the current building, but the living conditions are far from appropriate for pre-school children, with very limited space and natural light, and practically no outdoor area to play. No longer in line with the 2015 government regulations for pre-school buildings, Peach Tree needs a new home.
Each year during their visit, the Ecolint students purchase crèche supplies, providing blankets, floor mats and kitchenware, as well as sandals, sweaters, and caps to keep the children warm during monsoon season. The team also ensures access to healthcare for Little Lilies’ children by funding the crèche nurse, first-aid medication, and a weekly doctor’s visit for sick. children.
Another important initiative is to provide the 5 year-old graduating children with a new school backpack, including notebooks, pens and the supplies they need for a positive start in primary school.
Of all the work invested to construct, renovate and provide, the most valuable experience of all is the interaction and the relationship between Ecolint students and the crèche children.
Each day is punctuated by activities that develop academic, social and life skills, as the children move from breakfast to yoga lessons, on to story time and writing, songs and dance, playtime, mealtimes, wash time, and even naptime. Our India Project students experience real life in the crèche as they accompany the little ones through their day, learning with them and from them. That bond is one they will cherish long after their time in India.
Fifteen years since it first opened its doors, the dream for Peach Tree is to have a purpose-built school with three functional classrooms and a spacious playground.
In 2003, the Ecolint team helped to secure the rental of a building in the village of Attuvampatti, about 5km from the town of Kodaikanal. After one week of hard work, the students and teachers had renovated the old building into a crèche.
In 2005, students constructed a sheltered walkway to protect the children from the monsoon rain when on the way to the outdoor toilet. The playground was busy and noisy, a sign of the children’s approval of the new swing and hopscotch game.
In 2006, Peach Tree was given a fresh new look, with a whitewashed exterior and brightly painted classrooms. Peach Tree took pride of place in the village.
In 2007, students painted the kitchen walls, adding a worktop and shelving to maximise the work area for the busy cook who was now feeding 50 children three times per day. The exterior was whitewashed, after the ravages of a heavy monsoon season. The student team helped the new mason, Selvam, to repair the leaking roof. The crèche children learned about toothbrushing and hand washing through songs and performance.
The India 2008 team was accompanied by an unseasonal cyclone in Southern India. The students also were greeted with the news that the crèche had been evicted and, with no alternative, they had to move to new rental property. Due to the harsh weather, students and children were classroom bound, with little or no access to the playground. The children enjoyed the new educational murals, and the week culminated in a performance by the students and children about hygiene.
In 2011, once again Peach Tree crèche was forced to move on. The threat of eviction was constant and the necessity to move inevitable. Now in their third rental property, the playground was next to agricultural fields, exposing the children to dangerous pesticides. Forced to play indoors much of the time, the children learned games and songs from the student team, and a theatre was constructed for their first puppet show.
In 2012, with funds raised by the India team, BET was ready to seize the opportunity to purchase a new site for Peach Tree in the centre of Attuvampatti village. The building was in need of renovation, but it had potential.
By 2013, the Peach Tree children were eager to move into the new property. While some students made educational posters and classroom resources, others formed a “demolition” team and cleared the new site.
By the team visit in Spring 2014, a new classroom had been added to the Peach Tree Crèche. It was a blank canvas for the student and teacher team, who filled its walls with educational murals, from numbers, and letters to shapes, and, in the absence of a playground, a peach tree.
In 2015, although space was limited, the India team found a way to improve the small playground. The area was levelled and grass was planted, while the building was painted bright green. Inside, after play, the children curled up to nap on their new mattresses.
In 2016, students painted the smaller classroom, making it a better space to learn and play. With its new murals, the classroom took on the feel an aquarium and the sea creatures filled the space to compensate for the lack of natural light. The walls at the entrance of the crèche got a fresh new look.
In 2017, the team painted interactive games on the pathway outside, in an effort to make the most of every centimetre of play area. The fancy dress costumes brought joy and laughter as the students, children and teachers dressed up and performed.