Silo India – Believe the Unbelievable

Friday 9th May 2014 – Launch of Silo India





Silo India is a social enterprise in Manur, Tamil Nadu set up to work with local communities, NGO’s and private companies to increase the life chances of those living in rural villages.


The website is evolving everyday, our presence on social media is increasing and we have started the first of many sport projects.  Its an exciting time for the organisation and community as Silo India commences work with an official launch and traditional martial art classes.

Community Event

Banner up, chairs set out, welcome drinks ready, all set, its 3.50pm.

The launch is due to start at 4pm.

4.15 no one here

4.30pm a few people

5pm a few more

Ok 5.30pm and we’re ready to start. Indian time at its very best!


First some welcome speeches;

Firstly a very warm welcome from Swathi Johnson, founder and managing director of Silo India.  Silo India has been two years in the planning so a great moment for Swathi to finally announce that Silo India is ready to commence its work in the community and receive international volunteers.

I then said a few words about my involvement in sport and how it had helped me as individual, not least of all leading me into my career and current employer, Sport Wales.
Although this week my involvement in sport has been much to the amusement of the locals.  I decided I should start running again so Mohan kindly offered to come with me as there’s no real safe route.  I think the phrase ‘all the gear and no idea’ is quite apt.  There’s me in shorts, dri-fit t-shirt, Nike running shoes and an ipod, there’s Mohan, bare foot in a Dhoti (traditional dress) and shirt.  2 months of inactivity and I was feeling it.  I was sweating buckets, Mohan hardly looked out of breath!  Which is a good job as he had to keep saying to the locals ‘running, running’ as they looked at us with great amusement going past.  Clearly he had to say this as we were going that slow it wasn’t that clear that we were running!
But if we’re going to get kids involved in sport then perhaps I need to lead by example.  Particularly as after 7 months of it being held in customs (for reasons still unknown!) the bag of equipment kindly donated by Sport Wales arrived today!  This will no doubt be a huge asset to the local community.

Then on to the Silabam instructor who talked passionately about this traditional martial art which is one of many cultural activities that is slowly being lost to Tamil Nadu.  He raved about the positive impact that this has had on his life not least of all maintaining his health, not many people can claim to have only suffered from a common cold during their lifetime!  Silo India want people from every community to have the opportunity to take part in this highly skilled, dynamic martial arts, you’ll see what I mean when you watch the videos at the end of this post.

Then on to our chief guest –  Professor Karunakaran – who is a retired professor specialising in English.

He spoke from the heart about how important it was to have organisations like Silo India working for the community.  He switched between Tamil and English so I was able to understand much of what he said. There’s no doubt that he will become a real advocate for Silo India but for me there were two key things that he spoke about that really stuck in my mind.

1.  That young people in India are not the leaders of tomorrow but the leaders today.  They need to be well educated, full of confidence and aspiration as it is these people that will really shape the future of the country.  I couldn’t have agreed with him more.  When I went to a womens college back in December I was struck then by the young womens drive for change, to have greater opportunities and challenge some of the conventions which perhaps stifle growth and development in this country.
This is a key aspect of Silo India’s work, a great focus will be placed on providing opportunities for young people from poor families in rural villages who currently receive less support and opportunity than their counterparts living in cities.

2.  The treatment of women in India and again particularly in the more rural parts of the country.  He simply said that for too long women had been treated as second class citizens, given no choice about their life and this had to change.  I wasn’t just pleasantly surprised by what he said but impressed with the level of commitment and honesty that he made this point.  I don’t know, but I can’t imagine there are that many men in India that would stand up in that situation and be so plain about it.
Womens empowerment is becoming more important here, more and more self-help groups are being established, women have better access to education and in the big metropolitan cities women really are challenging the status quo.  Which for a westerner is good to see.  Whilst people would argue that we haven’t quite achieved equality in the west what we do have is a huge amount of choice and freedom, something I think we often taken for granted until we’re in a situation where we have to curb some of this.
I’ve certainly had to make adjustments here, the clothes I wear (considering the heat), the things I say, the people I talk to and physical contact with people are all things that I’ve had to adjust.  On the whole its fine.  I respect the culture and values here so its no big deal but I never forget that I have the luxury to bend these rules if I want, to escape back to the west at anytime where simple things like having to be home by 9pm just wouldn’t apply.  But women here don’t have that choice to pick and choose when they want to ‘play by the rules’ and when they don’t and its for this reason that the womens empowerment project is so important as it really has the potential to transform peoples lives for the better.

So after the trials and tribulations of the last few weeks its great to finally say;

Silo India is up and running and ready to accept international volunteers to support this great cause.

Now its all about getting Silo India out there, known as a high quality volunteer and internship programme, but for this I need your help.


We need as much input from our potential customers as possible so please leave your comments and tell us:
What would you want from a volunteer experience and what would make you chose Silo India?
And of course if you know of any opportunities where we can market Silo India please get in touch.
If you would prefer your comments not to be public please send your views to

If you’re still not inspired take a look at these videos.

Live demonstration of Silabam by some local students.

 This was the basic moves!

 Pretty impressive hand eye coordination

 There’s no way you would want to get in the way of this!

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