Off for a RIDE in Kanchipuram

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July 20th 2005
Published: July 28th 2005
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Women in UniformWomen in UniformWomen in Uniform

The blue saree is worn (not everyday) by the women who are members of RIDE as a sign of strength, community and togetherness
Kanchipuram (Kanchi) is located about 50 km south west of Chennai and is famous for two reasons, temples and silk. There are over one thousand temples in and around Kanchi, we did not see them all (three was enough)! The second reason was the main driver for our visit. We heard of an charity organisation called the Rural Institute for Development Education (RIDE) whose aim is to take children out child labour in the silk industry and put them into education instead. RIDE give the opportunity to visit their headquarters, meet their leaders and be shown around the rural villages to view the impact of their work and meet the people whose lives they have helped to improve. In 1996 there were 40,000 child labourers in Kanchi alone. The only reason that the parents allow their children to work in the silk looms is because they are poor or they perceive that they are poor. The loom owner who has employed the child will pay the parents an annual rent, the child will work very long hours and receive no education and no pay. RIDE have a very good way of addressing this problem and at the same time addressing other
Loom workerLoom workerLoom worker

A loom is a very complicated machine, there is twine and silk everywhere. It takes 10 days to make one saree!
issues in the community. Through self help groups, women are brought together and taught how to better manger their families' finances, how to get jobs and save for a better future. For the families that are serious about adopting better practice RIDE will pay the loom owners to release the child so he or she can then go back into education. The parents are then encouraged to make savings and come up with business ideas or the woman finds a job to replace the money that they lost from the child's additional income from working on a loom. It is a very simple concept and has worked very very well, there are now less than 5,000 children employed in the silk industry and RIDE aims to completely eradicate the problem of child labour in Kanchi. It was really good to visit a rural home to see how they lived, it was basic but as with every Indian home there was a TV! We were shown a temple in Old Kanchi which had fantastic views over an empty lake. Similar to our churches, in times of war temples were often used as forts with this one being no exception, there was
Colourful templeColourful templeColourful temple

Many temples are painted of 5 colours only. This was the new temple in the linear Old Kanchi, a small town of around 7,000.
even a secret hiding place for the king. We had lunch and dinner with Mrs J Britto (the Madame) who is the wife of the founder of RIDE which provided a great opportunity to discuss in more detail their aims, methods and most importantly, their successes. The silk looms are amazing devices and we thankful for being shown a few (being operated by adults), it takes on average 10 days to make one sari, which is a lot of work, the only reason the children were used is because they were cheap relative to adults and their small fingers fit work well with the complex looms which contain miles of thread. It was a really good experience to see how one persons vision can become a reality and make a difference to so many people, especially the children.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


On the road with RIDEOn the road with RIDE
On the road with RIDE

En route to the papier mache factory/house with two of our guides
Very Imposing Horn God'sVery Imposing Horn God's
Very Imposing Horn God's

Don't mess with these guys
Blessed outBlessed out
Blessed out

Post blessing by the priest at the small temple adjacent to the Horn God's
Children of RIDE memberChildren of RIDE member
Children of RIDE member

Children of the in the kitchen of their rural home. The girl in orange was very attentive serving us tea made of the freshest milk I have every tasted!
Call the AACall the AA
Call the AA

Quick tyre change for the Autoshare, 3 minutes later we were off!
Kailasanatha TempleKailasanatha Temple
Kailasanatha Temple

Dedicated to Shiva, this is the oldest temple in Kanchipuram, the priest gave us a very good tour of the inner sanctum. Light plays off the carvings changing their appearence when the direction is changed. The old stone work is being covered with plaster to restore the detail, up close it looks awful.

23rd October 2005

fabulous trip
I'm going back to India after 33 years. I think the trip to see RIDE would be really interesting. Did you stay there? Do you have to book the place in advance? I love your pictures there, and of Hampi. I can barely remember it, just that the musician inside sound like Benny Goodman (my diary)
6th November 2005

More in Kanchipuram
You'd like to see more in Kanchipuram: Visit the Kattaikkuttu Youth Theatre School where 6-16 year olds from villages get a professional training in the local Kattaikkuttu theatre in combination with basic education. The project prevents child labour in rural theatre companies and stimulates kids to think critically and independently through the arts. The school depends on Indian and foreign donations and grants. For more information visit the website

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