Reaching the Unreached (RTU) was founded in 1974 by James Kimpton with the aim of empowering some of the most marginalised and destitute people in rural South India.

"Our mission is to serve the poorest in our area by whatever means are needed and suitable and possible, according to the felt needs and priorities of the people, and empower them towards their overall economic development and self-reliance." James Kimpton

The work of Reaching the Unreached has evolved over the years to meet changing needs, but we have remained true to our original mission: to empower the most disadvantaged people in poverty-stricken rural areas of South India.  

1974: One of James Kimpton's first challenges was the lack of medical care available to impoverished villagers, who often lived 60 or more miles from the nearest hospital and were unable to pay for medical treatment. The Pushparani Clinic was opened in G.Kallupatti, providing free treatment and a dispensary service for those living in and around this tiny village.  It also housed a mother and baby clinic and helped people with leprosy, which was incurable at that time.

1976: RTU's housing programme was launched, providing safe, secure homes for the poorest families. To date, 8,850 houses have been built. In the spirit of empowerment, families are encouraged to help build their own homes using materials and equipment provided by RTU. The photo below shows both old and new houses side by side.


1978: The parish priest brought to James Kimpton four small children whose mother had died of TB and whose father had also died, of starvation, whilst trying to keep the children alive. A widow was employed to be the 'mother' of the family. This was the first of the foster families who still live in the Children's Villages today.

Reaching the Unreached was registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act in the same year. James wrote of the aims of the new 'Society': "To provide housing, food and financial help for the poorest of people including the elderly and families; free medical care with a follow-up programme of preventative medicine and with the charity paying for the most serious cases to be sent to hospitals; sponsoring boys and girls through education and providing a midday meal, clothes and books; the 'substantial care' of people with leprosy – housing, food, clothes and a weekly sum of money to allow them to lead reasonably happy lives in their terrible affliction; providing mothers and babies in danger of malnutrition with food, vitamins and clothes; offering training in cottage industries for those who could not find employment elsewhere, with all the profits going to the workers themselves".

“It is in these ways and many others that our dreams of quietly lifting up villages not far removed from the most primitive conditions to a level of decency and self-sufficiency, security and happiness are coming true.” James Kimpton

1980: Following a series of droughts the water and well-drilling programme began. To date 2,500 bore wells have been drilled. 

1981: The first day-care centre was opened for children under three years old. 

The same year saw the start of the mobile health clinic and the leprosy treatment, support and eradication programme, prompted by the immense suffering James Kimpton witnessed. He wrote of one leprosy sufferer:

“The other day one poor woman somehow walked the five miles from her village to our gate. I saw that her toes were missing and that there were only fresh red wounds where the toe stumps had been. She told me, with great simplicity, that during the night the rats had gnawed them away.” James Kimpton

Adults with leprosy were given employment in batik and loom weaving workshops which they managed, while children were educated and given the opportunity to learn a trade at special schools. This work was to be the foundation of our education and training programmes.

1982: Reaching the Unreached was established as a registered charity in the UK.

1983: James had observed the condition of local schools which came under the authority of the village elders, describing them as “wretched and sometimes shockingly so". In response, he opened evening study centres to improve the educational attainment of children attending the local schools. There are now two RTU primary schools, a middle school, plus a secondary school and a Sixth Form, as well as a number of balwadies for pre-school children. Increasing numbers of children perform sufficiently well in the state examinations to enter further education, increasing their career prospects and opening up other life opportunities. 

1985: The Anbu Illam Childen’s Village was built – the first community for foster mothers and children. Three more have since been added in response to the demand for homes for orphaned children and destitute women.

1990: The first of nine hostels for teenage girls and boys were built. These provide an environment where the older children from the Children's Villages can live a more independent life, enabling more young children to join the small family homes with foster mothers.

2000: With the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly in poor communities, the home support programme for AIDS-affected families was set up and children affected by the disease were helped to attend school and continue their education.

2017: James Kimpton died on 5 October aged 92. He is buried in the small cemetery attached to the first Children’s Village he built. Hundreds of thousands of people travelled long distances to pay their respects to the man to whom they owed so much.

James Kimpton's love for the people of Tamil Nadu is still in evidence today in the continuing and evolving work of Reaching the Unreached, which is run by an all-Indian team, many of whom were helped and trained by him. His legacy and vision live on in the work they do every day to support and empower the most disadvantaged people to whom he dedicated his life. 

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