Little Lilies Crèche
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Little Lilies Crèche

Little Lilies Crèche

The History

Little Lilies Crèche lies in the heart of the village of Pallangi, about 10km from the town of Kodaikanal, and it now supports 50 children, aged 2-5. It was opened after considerable hard work by students from the International School of Geneva in 2002. Students converted an abandoned shed into a school building in the course of one week of project work, and they named the crèche after the lilies growing on the property.

Ecolint students have returned each year to work at Little Lilies and have invested work and funds in maintaining and renovating of the building and site. From 2002 to 2010, Ecolint project work in Little Lilies included painting the interior walls with educational murals, adding a tin roof classroom, a bathhouse and relaying the roof tiles. In time, a new kitchen was built, releasing more classroom space and the number of crèche children increased to 50.  The playground has also been transformed to include a strong boundary wall, a stage for performances and a vegetable garden

As a rental property, Little Liles was under constant threat of eviction or rent increase. In 2010, Ecolint students donated funds to secure the purchase of the site of Little Lilies. Between 2013 and 2016, Ecolint collaborated with other donors to replace the old building with a newly constructed brick building, with three furnished classrooms, a separate kitchen and bathrooms. The Ecolint team is not the only donor to support Little Lilies. The annual running costs of the crèche are supported by Help Kids India, funding partners of the Betsy Elizabeth Trust.

The Ecolint team also provides for the health of Little Lilies children to ensure access to basic healthcare through their crèche nurse, first-aid medication, and a weekly doctor’s visit for sick children. As well, the students spends time purchasing crèche supplies during their project week, to provide the crèche with blankets, floor mats and kitchenware, as well as clothes and shoes for the children each year.

Another Ecolint initiative is to provide the 5 year old children who are about to graduate with a learning kit, comprising a small back-pack with notebooks, pens and the supplies they need for a positive start in primary school.

The Evolution of Little Lilies – A Timeline

In 2002, the Ecolint team helped to secure the rental of a small site and abandoned shed in the village of Pallangi. After one week of hard work, the students and teachers had converted the dilapidated shed into a crèche building.

In 2003, the roof of Little Lilies was renovated with tin sheet and new tiles. The classrooms were painted and students planted a vegetable garden, a source of nutritious food for the children.

In 2005, the crèche welcomed a new group of inhabitants – chickens! Ecolint students built a chicken coop, and the new sandbox became the children’s favourite place to play.

In 2006, students demolished the dung floors of the classrooms to lay cement floors. The walls were decorated with educational murals to brighten up the dark classrooms. The crèche cook proudly stacked her new pots as the kitchen became better equipped to provide three nutritious meals a day.

In 2007-8, the team, under the guidance of Sixton a local expert in construction, dug the foundation and built a new tin sheet classroom. The chickens reluctantly moved to the back of the site as the children enjoyed more space to learn and play.

The new classroom was decorated in 2008-9 when the student team painted the inside and added shelving.

Mother nature decided the project work in 2010. As students waited for rain showers to pass, they came up with an idea for Little Lilies. A new porch would provide a sheltered outdoor space for learning and play. The project involved lessons on timberwork and construction by a local, and very patient, carpenter, Bala. The outdoor classroom was a big success as teachers and children used the space for lessons, dance and games.

Between visits in 2010 and 2011, with funds raised by the India Project team and wider Ecolint community, BET was able to seize the opportunity to purchase the site. Eviction was no longer a threat, and Little Lilies Crèche had a bright, secure future.

In 2011, the team brought the jungle to Little Lilies! Students added a colourful and vivid mural to the tin sheet classroom. The little children eagerly greeted the tigers and elephants that appeared over the course of the week. Students learned about gardening from Pakyium, the green-fingered gardener, and they planted an additional vegetable plot under her watchful eye.

By 2012, Little Lilies crèche was steadily becoming a centre for the whole community of Pallangi. That year, Ecolint students constructed a stage, the perfect setting for the crèche children’s performances and workshops for their mothers.

As part of their participation in World Water Week that year, Year 8 students at LGB (Ecolint) had raised funds to help the India team promote water access and hygiene in Pallangi. That year the team constructed a bathhouse at Little Lilies, saving the mothers one extra burden on their long walk to fetch water. To limber up for the day’s work, students learned yoga from the crèche children, the latest educational activity in the crèche programme.

By 2013, the renovated shed building, still made of mud walls and tin sheet, was no longer standing the test of time and use. The India Project team raised funds to contribute to the efforts of BET’s funding partners Help Kids India to completely renovate Little Lilies. During their annual visit, students painted the furniture and improved the drains and gutters.

By 2014, construction of the new building for Little Lilies was well underway. As well as helping and learning from the masons, the students also set about constructing a stone boundary wall to secure and protect the site.

With limited classroom space during the renovations, students kept the children entertained with puppet shows in the outdoor classroom. The LGB students enjoyed a proud moment as they finally saw for themselves the bathhouse, still standing, that they had funded as middle schoolers in 2012.

By 2015, Little Lilies had a new building of brick and cement. The Ecolint team helped to plaster and equip the kitchen, paint the woodwork and educational posters in the classrooms, and add a front gate.

Thirteen years after the first opening ceremony, Kate and Dave Harrison, the founding teachers of the project, once again joined the team and were honoured guests at the blessing of the new building. There were new toilets for boys and girls, and the washbasin was located inside, a novelty for the children. Naptime was a treat on the new mattresses and bedsheets.

The 2016 India team continued the work of the crèche renovation, helping the team of local masons to plaster the exterior walls. They also built shelves and varnished the desks and benches, which had been donated by a student in 2014.

In 2017, the new building got a fresh coat of white paint, with red woodwork. The team also moved the kitchen to separate the cooking area from the classrooms, in accordance with government regulations, and to create a classroom for the 2- 3 year-olds. A new porch was constructed along the pathway to protect Maliga, the crèche cook, from the monsoon showers as she carries food back and forth.

In 2018, the India team set to work on the plastering of the classrooms. Students carried, sifted and delivered the sand along their improvised production line, making the mason’s work easier and faster. The old stage, constructed in 2012, had become unsteady after the years of construction work on site, so the team renovated it to create an impressive setting for crèche performances and community events.