After four short days in Kovalam, India, we’re feeling very blessed and happy but a little sad to have left behind the beautiful children who surreptitiously snuck inside our hearts during our stay. This was “up there” in our list of life enhancing experiences and we’d like to share with you why it has left us with such a great feeling of well-being and purpose. We’re also hoping we can inspire you all to get involved😉
Expat Academy, with the support of our training partners and network sponsors are making an amazing difference to 3 children in Kovalam, India, through the Venkatramen Memorial Trust.
Last week we were invited to visit the work of the Trust, meet our sponsored children and celebrate the 80th birthday of the Trust’s founder, Sylvia Holder (who also happens to be James’ Aunt).
From the minute we arrived, the excitement and love from the village and the children was palpable. On arrival at the high school we were greeted with beautiful flower garlands and shawls and beaming smiles from the children. They were so happy and enthusiastic to communicate with us in their limited English and keen to show us around.
Our next stop was the primary school where we heard the children read, listened to them sing and James showed them the wonders of an Apple-watch! The oohs and ahhs of the mickey mouse clock face mesmerised them.
The highlight of the trip had to be meeting Expat Academy’s 3 sponsored children. We boarded our tuk-tuk, feeling rather nervous, and shortly arrived at the home of our youngest child Jeevan. Jeevan is 6 years old. He lives with his parents, grandmother, sister and 3 brothers. They all share one small double bed. Dad is a fisherman and gets up at 2.30am every day to go to work.
Next stop was to visit Nivethithia. She is 9 years old. She lives with her parents, younger brother and grandparents. Her father makes Indian breads on a stall in the village and earns about £2.50 a day. Her mother is a maid. They live in a palm leaf house. Nivethithia would like to be a doctor when she grows up. We promised that we would support her all the way through her education.
Our last stop was Joseph-Edwin. He too is 9 years old. He lives with his mother and four year old sister. His father became sick and no longer lives with them. The family have no income and rely on help from the local church. We had met Joseph-Edwin at the community hall the day before and when we introduced ourselves, he smiled back shyly. For the rest of the morning his eyes had followed our every move. When we arrived at his home visit he was excited to see us.
Chatting to his mother, we found out that she hardly sleeps at night because the roof on the dilapidated house they live in is so unsafe. She lives in fear that it will fall in on them one night when they are sleeping.
When we asked Joseph-Edwin whether he would like to go to university one day he replied no – he would like to be a policeman. We sensed that he knew he was the man of the house and needed to look after his Mum and Sister.
We left Joseph-Edwin’s house uneasy, knowing that he was carrying a lot of weight on the shoulders of a 9 year old boy. We were also hopeful at the thought that perhaps with the help of the Expat Academy community we could club together and donate a couple of pounds each to repair Joseph-Edwin’s house.
If you’d like to give up your morning cup of coffee one day and donate a small amount towards this, we would be eternally grateful. Your generosity would make a very beautiful young boy secure and safe at night and would make life just a little bit easier for his young mum, bravely looking after two children on her own.
To contribute to Joseph-Edwin’s roof fund, please click HERE:
More information on the Venkatraman Memorial Trust
In the 1990s, Sylvia Holder (James’ Aunt), during her successful career in PR, was working in India. One day, she decided to go for a short walk on the beach of Kovalam. There she met a young boy called Venkat who asked her for £10 to sponsor his year’s school fees which she happily gave him. Having had no children of her own, a strong bond grew between Sylvia and Venkat and she continued to pay for his education throughout school and university. They stayed in touch over the years during which she visited him and his family. But sadly, in 2004 Venkat was killed in a road accident aged 27 which led Sylvia to return to Kovalam. Seeing the abject state of the primary school and wishing to give the village children the chance of the education Venkat had had, she set up the Venkatraman Memorial Trust.
Sylvia has dedicated the Autumn years of her life to the Venkatraman Memorial Trust and was recognised in the 2019 New Years Honours list with a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to education.
What has the Venkatraman Memorial Trust achieved?
- the charity has built a 1,000 pupil high school
- the run-down primary school has been completely revamped
- the village now has a community hall
- 400 of the poorest children now have sponsors to support them through their education. Of these, 60 are now at university and 49 have graduated
To find out more about the charity, visit: www.venkattrust.org.uk