Vignesh, lovingly called “Pondy-Vicky” by all the VTC classmates will soon complete his one year training in the Sharana carpentry training program. He lives in a small hut in a tiny fishermen village, Manalmedu, near the Pondicherry lighthouse.

Vignesh’s family consists of his mother, his paternal grandmother who has lost many of her digits on her hand and feet to leprosy, his younger brother- a 9th grade dropout goat-herd who sometimes sells local snacks on the beach, and his younger twin sisters-on in the 10th grade and 1 who failed her 9th grade and is repeating her 9th grade.

However they are a very unusual family- today only Vignesh, his younger brother and the grandmother live in the small run-down hut; one of sisters lives with his uncle in the hut next door; and his mother and another sister live in yet another hut. On most week days, the only food Vignesh has is that which he eats in the VTC program. On weekends, if there is a good fish haul, then the family has a good meal.

Vignesh’s father is an alcoholic- who spends most of his day in the local arrack shop- 6 months back when he went for a blood check up at the Certh India hospital, he was diagnosed HIV+. He left the family four years ago, and spends most of his nights staying at the arrack shop; in the morning when he is conscious he sometimes goes fishing, sells the fish, and starts drinking all over again.

The story of how Vignesh joined the VTC course is very interesting. After passing his 10th grade exams, Vignesh wasted away his life by roaming the streets with the older boys. When the older boys drank- Vignesh was made to go buy snacks or to sing and dance for their entertainment. His mother and uncle noticed this, and decided to put him to work instead. Vignesh came with his uncle the Sharana resource centre in Aranganur, to help with the harvest of the Sharana Banana plantations.

During his visit, both he and his uncle observed the VTC program and realized how it was a true chance for a change. Vignesh applied for the course, and although Pondicherry is very far, 25 kms one way, we took him in because he truly needed this opportunity.

Today, Vignesh has changed a lot- he has matured and has become a young responsible adult. He looks forward to working in Chennai in some of his relatives’ workshops, in helping to make large wooden ships along with another of his VTC friend Selvakumar.

In his free time, Vignesh loves to sing, and dreams of becoming a successful carpenter as well as a famous performer. He also dreams of building a small house, where all his family members can live together.