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Cause Celeb: Salt of the Earth

3rd June 2004

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Salt of the Earth - Women of Tamil NaduActor, Jeremy Irons, presents this programme showing how an Indian NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) and a UK charity are transforming some of the poorest rural communities of Tamil Nadu in southern India. The aid programme helps families build better lives for themselves.

Reaching the ‘unreached’ (as the low caste rural poor of Tamil Nadu are known) the film shows how the aid programme enables the residents to support themselves and their families. It is at the centre of an ambitious programme run by the Indian NGO, SCAD (Social Change And Development) and Salt of the Earth - a UK charity based in Leicester.

Over twenty million people live on the edge in Tamil Nadu, earning the equivalent of £300 per family a year. They’re a mixture of salt pan workers, landless agricultural workers, rural women/children and those with leprosy or other disabilities. Now, 200,000 of them are actively engaged in SCAD’s development programme.

The programme covers the basic needs of water, health, education and livelihoods. The 400 villages currently in the scheme get safe water supplies and basic health facilities and support is given to education at primary, secondary and higher levels. It also funds kitchen and herbal garden projects so that families can grow healthy food.

Education is key to reducing poverty and the statistics given in the film are impressive. More than 95% of children in the scheme, who once would have worked in the salt mines, now complete primary education, compared with 10% when SCAD started in 1985.

The single most important outcome of SCAD’s work has been the setting up and training of women’s self help groups. There are 30,000 members and they are now taking on group and village leadership roles. These self help groups can also set up credit schemes which in turn help them pay off their debts, start small businesses, buy a cow or weatherproof their houses.

The founder of SCAD, Cletus Babu praises SCAD’s 350 volunteers, describing them as the “strength of the project” enabling it to “get better wages for those who work in the mines, so that they can save and send their children to school”. SCAD’s villages have to sustain themselves and Babu withdraws funds after six years, putting them towards helping other needy communities.

SCAD Gramudhaya Institute in Tamil Nadu, Southern India, is supported by Salt of the Earth. For more information visit their website at, or contact them by email:


Salt of the Earth
Salt of the Earth is a charity founded in 1988. It was set up to support a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in southern Tamil Nadu called Social Change and Development (SCAD). It helps the low caste, disadvantaged and the very poor people. The people SCAD help live in great poverty, often without fresh drinking water and, without external help would be unable to improve their lives.

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International, Race/Ethnicity/Refugees

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