the tamil nadu connection
THE HINDU METRO PLUS.
Susanna Turcotte and Jesse Joseph Tincher, Katrina's mother and step-father, are household names in surrounding villages of Usilampatti Taluk in Madurai. They are the unlikeliest of paati and thatha who have silently helped scores of villagers combat female foeticide and infanticide during the last decade in areas notorious for the malpractice. But their glamorous identity as actor Katrina Kaif's parents is something the villagers perhaps do not quite relate to. Their low-profile couple prefers not to flaunt its Bollywood connection.
The news of her daughter selected as Reebok’s new brand ambassador, of course, makes Susanna proud. "Katrina is very passionate about fitness and extremely disciplined. I have known her to come back from a day's work late at night and hit the gym for an hour. She doesn't allow excuses," she says. "I'm so proud of Katrina for being able to promote health and fitness to the young people, she 's a good example for all to follow".
Jesse says he has always admired Katrina for her dedication to physical fitness and health. She is a perfect fit to represent the iconic brand," he adds. The duo came to India as charity workers post-Tsunami and founded the Relief Projects (India) in 2007 to transform the lives of girl children.
One of their early projects was to fight gender discrimination by setting up free evening tuition centres in several villages near Usilampatti, to help children, especially the girls, improve their grades and not drop out from school. Several hundred children have benefited from free tuition centres, with many showing noticeable Improvement in their grades and a new-found interest in learning," says Jesse. The couple also supports the government anganwadis in five villages by way of supplying educational items and also nutritional support to the under-weight children. Susanna says, the Integrated Child Development Services has now sought their intervention in setting up the other andganwadis in the region.
One of their key programmes, S.H.E (Services, Health and Education) is committed to improving the life of the villagers through several awareness programmes for teenage boys and adolescent girls and on community health, cleanliness and environment. They have also tied up with few hospitals in Madurai for free health check up camps for the villagers and personally go around interacting with pregnant and lactating women to make them understand the beauty and values of giving birth to a girl child and the importance of breast feeding and nutrition.
Susanna and Jesse are most thrilled about running a primary school now, the Mountain View School in E. Pudhupatti, with 200 poor children. Started four years ago, they provide high standard English medium education for the children for whom such an education would otherwise be out of reach. "The School uses many modern learning techniques to help the children make good progress, while enjoying their studies," says Jesse. “With every passing year, more number of children are applying but we need to create more space for them," adds Susanna.