Friends of Rural Development Trust (FORDT UK) is a registered charity in England and Wales working for the welfare of marginalised and oppressed communities in South India. These communities consist of untouchables (condemned so due to some distorted views in the Indian caste and religious systems) also known as Dalits; illiterate forest dwellers; nomadic tribes herding livestock, working as migratory labour cutting stones, working at dam and mine sites; individuals and families driven to extreme poverty due to various types of congenital and traumatic malformations; and those outcasted on reasons of health like aids, leprosy and tuberculosis.
A non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Rural Development Trust (RDT) has been involved in the uplift of this unfortunate population since 1969 onwards and has made significant contributions so far.
This parent organisation was started by Vincente Ferrer of Spain and Anne Perry of United Kingdom. What started as the vision of a committed couple aimed at a few villages in the drought prone area of Anantapuramu has now grown into a massive organisation encompassing health, education, livelihood training, animal husbandry, arid region agriculture, water conservation and so on.
The following demographic data speaks for the magnitude of its undertaking:
- Villages in the project: 3662
- Project area: 7390 sq. miles
- Target Population: 4.08 million
The area of coverage is constantly expanding bringing in more population into the project (http://www.rdtfvf.org/).
The current chairman of FORDT, Koppada RajaRatnam, has been associated with the NGO since 1981. When the medical facilities within RDT were in the nascent stage, RDT sought help from nearby secondary and tertiary hospitals for their patients. As soon as he qualified as an orthopaedic surgeon he started rendering orthopaedic and orthotic support through the institution where he trained and worked.
In 1987 he travelled to United Kingdom in pursuit of further qualification and training and started working for the National Health Service. He reconnected with the NGO in 2002 and started visiting the NGO as an orthopaedic volunteer. In 2006 he joined a group of Spanish Orthopaedic Voluntary surgeons (ACOV) who had set up a long-term collaborative contract with the NGO in 2004 (http://www.acov.org/index_en.html).
Appreciating his commitment to the NGO, his departmental colleagues at Macclesfield District General Hospital joined hands with him resulting in the formation of FORDT UK. It was formally registered as a charity in England and Wales in 2017.
The aim of FORDT is to work hand in hand with the Indian NGO augmenting the welfare schemes. Activities of FORDT are gradually evolving beyond the medical field. A number of UK sponsors are financing the care of vulnerable children and funding has been provided for livelihood schemes for young adults. The website provides useful information on various ways of supporting the charity and contribute to the good work it is doing.