It was with great sadness that we recently heard from ACCORD that Manoharan had passed away after suffering from cancer.
In over 20 years working with our friends and partners in south India to create our Chembakolli resources for schools in the UK, Manoharan was always there to respond to our often urgent requests for more images, more artefacts or just more information.
I was lucky enough to finally meet him and his family in Gudalur on my first trip there in 2010. He and his wife, Durga, invited me for tea and dinner whilst talking about our lives and work. For Manoharan, life and work were one and the same and to me he seemed to work tirelessly, but always with great humour. In fact, this is what I most remember about the short time I spent with him and his family – his capacity to make you feel welcome and at home and to enjoy your time. I also learnt a lot about some of the issues of working and living within the community in Chembakolli and the surrounding villages and he always made sure that we understood these issues so we could communicate these in engaging and innovative ways through our resources.
He worked closely with our first volunteer teachers, Liz and Katy, who remarked on how welcoming both Manoharan and Durga were to them. Liz still misses popping round to their house for a cup of chai. Katy adds that Manoharan, Durga and their daughter Vennila were the people she visited most regularly in Gudalur. She has many very happy memories of the time spent in their home, talking about work, drinking tea, learning to cook, playing games and watching films. She was always struck by their willingness to welcome and help anyone. He was a kind, gentle and patient man and a loving father.
Manoharan was always enthusiastic about the potential of the Chembakolli blog and what it could bring to the children of Vidyodaya School and those in UK schools. He was excited about the possibility of new technologies to bring people together to share, learn or debate. His work lives on through the popularity of the blog and the Chembakolli resources.
He will be greatly missed by us all in the schools team at ActionAid.