Stories of Success

Our philosophy of "helping people to help themselves" has proven itself for 30 years.

Since its foundation, the Shanthimalai Trust has successfully launched a large number of projects through intensive pioneering work. Some of these projects have managed to take the step into self-employment and are now independent. In inspiring care, the Shanthimalai Trust encouraged and empowered people to rediscover their own strengths and thus their dignity. Each project has its own story.

Women's cooperative and self-help groups

What began in 1985 as Madar Sangham (women's community) with only a few groups in a few villages has now grown into a large organization with over 800 groups. More than 15,000 women are organized in them. 

The women are motivated to improve the standard of living in the villages through joint work. In the process, they learn to shape their lives with self-confidence and responsibility. In various training courses, the women in the self-help groups can learn about management, self-responsibility, organization, bookkeeping and health awareness, among other things. They also receive support in opening a bank account. In 1999, the women received small loans for their own development projects from local banking institutions for the first time, which enabled them to become independent. The current existence of tea stores, vegetable stores, tailor stores and brickworks, run by women, are telling examples of how the women have been able to improve their living situation on their own responsibility by "helping people to help themselves".


The German Committee of UNIFEM awards the annual German UNIFEM Prize, which was initiated and is financially supported by the Apfelbaum Foundation. This prize has been awarded annually since 1999 for innovative and sustainable women's self-help projects in developing countries. In 2005, the microfinance program for poor women received the 1st prize from the German Committee for UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women). It was awarded to our German partner organization, the Freundeskreis Indien, on November 3, 2005 at the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn. In 2008, the project became an independent society, with the groups also receiving training and support from the government.

Free medical support

For 21 years, the health center was often the only way to get medical help for a large region with thousands of people, because those who had no money were treated free of charge and supplied with the necessary medicines. Four doctors treat between 130 and 150 patients daily from a catchment area of more than 90 villages. To provide comprehensive medical care, we have an X-ray department, a modern laboratory, ultrasound, physiotherapy, a pharmacy with allopathic, homeopathic and Ayurvedic remedies, as well as an ophthalmological and dental outpatient clinic. For years, this service was complemented by our mobile clinic, which traveled through the villages to reach people who were unable to come to the health center due to their illness. 

On the first of April 2011, our Sri Ramana Health Centre became the Sri Ramana Health Society. This name change symbolizes the step towards independence of one of the oldest project areas of Shanthimalai. Dr. Samuel, who has been the head physician of the clinic for many years, continues to run the clinic under a new name as an independent society with 15 proven employees.

Ramana Maharshi Rangammal Hospital

With the neighboring Rangammal Hospital, the Sri Ramana Health Society found a valuable cooperation partner. Here the annual examinations and medical care of all children of our two schools take place. In addition, the medical needs of the poor in the region are taken care of, who receive financial support from Shanthimalai within the project section "Help for needy people". Originally planned as a women's and children's hospital, the Ramana Maharshi Rangammal Hospital was built by the Shanthimalai Trust and opened in January 2001. As it was not possible to get enough well trained staff at that time, it was handed over first cooperatively and then completely to the Rangammal Memorial Rehabilitation Society and the Sylvia Wright Trust, who brought leadership resources, manpower and experience.

The hospital today, with 220 beds, about 300 staff, 2 operating rooms, an intensive care unit, 10 dialysis machines, X-ray, ECG, ultra-sound and CT departments, CD4 counter for HIV diagnosis, etc., as the most modern and largest hospital in the district, offers general, internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, obstetrics and orthopedics.

Medicinal plant cultivation and natural remedy production

In den Jahren 1999/2000 entstanden, aus dem von der Regierung im Zuge der Wiederaufforstung geförderten »Medical Plants Conservation Park, MPCP« (Park zu Erhaltung von Heilpflanzen), eine Produktionsstätte. Deren Ziel war es, Heilpflanzen und besonders bedrohte, lokal wachsende Arten zu identifizieren,  kartographieren und zu kultivieren. Durch Dürren, Abholzung, den Struktur- und gesellschaftlichen Wandel sind viele Pflanzen und das Wissen über sie verschwunden. Auch den medizinischen Wert und die einfache, günstige Anwendung dieser Heilmittel wollte man wieder ins Bewusstsein der Menschen rufen. Auf dieser Basis entstand eine Produktionseinheit für verschiedene ayurvedische Kräuterheilmittel, Öle und spagyrische Essenzen, die auch Setzlinge an die Dörfer, die Öffentlichkeit, andere Organisationen und Regierungseinrichtungen verteilt.

Ihr Ziel ist es, die pflanzlichen Heilmittel weiterhin für Klinik, örtliche Patienten und auch den indischen Markt bereitzustellen. Durch die zusätzliche Nutzung des ehemaligen Musterfarm-Landes konnte man die Produktion erweitern. Nun können auch Erdnüsse, Bio-Gemüse und Blumen angebaut werden. In der Klinik werden die produzierten Naturheilmittel mit grossem Erfolg angewandt. Insbesondere die spagyrischen Arzneistoffe sind eine kostbare Hilfe für die Patienten.

Premalaya Handycrafts Trust

This emerged in 1995 from the aid organization Shanthimalai Trust. In 2002, the Trust took the important step of becoming independent. In the beginning, the Trust consisted of individual small handicraft enterprises, which in time developed into economically operating groups of enterprises. Over 300 women produce handicraft products in a cooperative under Indian management. These include a tailoring and weaving workshop, a fabric printing workshop, leaf painting, bag making, a batik department and a palm leaf weaving workshop.

The foundation has supported this branch of industry financially since its inception. By purchasing the items offered here, they directly support the continuation of the Trust and thus a secure job for many people who otherwise have few alternatives to secure their livelihood. Inspired by the Shanthimalai Trust, the women found training and work in traditional handicrafts - regardless of religious affiliation and social caste. In creating jobs, special emphasis was placed on humane working conditions such as regulated working hours, fair wages, friendly environment and medical care.

On the English website of the Premalaya Handicraft Trust there is a product catalog. Many of these products can be purchased in Switzerland at the market stall of Clara Frosio in Lucerne or at the Lädeli Aruna in Kerns, Obwalden.


The first orphanage was built in 1992. Over fifteen years ago, the three orphanages were handed over to the Terre des Hommes Core Trust and have been under its management ever since. Currently, 49 children live in the three houses.

In 2005, five houses were built on existing land owned by the Shanthimalai Trust for approximately 60 children from the east coast who were orphaned by the tsunami.

The houses have now also been handed over to the Terre des Hommes Core Trust, which is in charge of them. The land remains in the possession of the Shanthimalai Trust, which continues to provide educational and medical assistance. The children feel comfortable in this environment and look forward to a more hopeful future with energetic support!

Village development

Village workers financed by the Shanthimalai Trust initially began social work in individual villages. Together with staff from the clinic, they provided health education and helped villagers, who were often unable to read or write, to deal with the authorities and obtain loans. They established contacts between the villages and the Trust, were contact persons and had an overview of the basic needs of the poorest of the poor. Above all, they initiated the first self-help groups with women, so-called "Small Saving Groups".

In these groups (see women's cooperatives), now numbering over 15,000 women, the members pool their money and then also lend to the others, for example when a house needs a new roof. These small groups create a strong social network and great solidarity within the village communities. Meanwhile, the village workers are paid by the state government. The trust only provides a few houses for the work.