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Our Story

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Early days: Dora Scarlett's Seva Nilayam clinic

VST was founded in the 1970s to support health work that Dora Scarlett started in Theni District, Tamil Nadu. Over time this evolved to support other grassroots partners in Theni District.

Our partners helped build the women’s self-help group movement in Theni District and took up work with tribal people and the disadvantaged Arunthathiyar community.

Our Principles

Focus on marginalised communities that experience discrimination and deprivation

• Work with community organisations such as women’s self-help groups and children’s clubs

• Aim to empower people so that they can address their problems themselves

• Seek to uphold people’s rights such as those in India’s Domestic Violence Act, the Right to Education Act and the Forest Rights Act (for tribal people)

Our Inspiration

Dora Scarlett was an English women who in 1962 started Seva Nilayam, a rural clinic in Theni district giving free treatment to all comers.

Her efforts attracted volunteers, visitors and admirers from around the world.

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For 20 years Dora Scarlett wrote a newsletter every two months to her friends and the supporters of her clinic. Elegantly written, there are more than 100 letters offering a thoughtful insight into Indian rural life of 40-50 years ago.

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