This was how Friends of India President Pam Walsh began her summing up of 2015 at our AGM on 24th May 2016.
She went on to say:
“ It has also been a year of focussing on three primary targets and not taking on major new projects:
– The Friendship Home, our home for HIV infected children;
– The Richard Walsh Music School for the Blind:
– Our International (BCV) School, integrating the lowest castes and minority poor into our classes.
We had an event in October – ‘Shakespeare’s Women’ – in aid of underprivileged women in India. And we have helped flood victims with Life Starter Kits, and created scholarships for the Dalit children in Tirunelveli.
Our aim has always been to help these projects become sustainable, so that as Peter Ustinov said, “We can sneak away once we have done our job!” What amazes me is what people are doing to help us with our sustainability plan. We have been the humble receivers of many birthday gifts – with supporters requesting donations to FOI rather than gifts – this is true philanthropy, and these people believe in what we are doing and they trust us. As Adolf Ogi said last week “Believe in what you do and do what you believe in“.
Next year will be the 18th anniversary of my first visit to India – FOI has got to the point where our dream of sustainability is coming true. Most of our projects have reached this point – the school for the severely handicapped, the music school for the blind, women’s self-help group training – and providing clean kitchens with smokeless stoves for kindergartens is now sustainable because the government has taken over our initiative in the whole of Tamil Nadu.
We still need to make sure that our school in Tirunelveli can become financially autonomous before the end of 2018. And we need to continue to improve the quality of the education there – teacher training is our priority. But we will not be taking on new projects. It is becoming more and more difficult to raise money for India – there is still an enormous need, but many people say “Why should I pay when India can send space ships to the moon? India is full of millionaires. Why can’t the government do something…?”
FOI is now 18 years old and none of us are getting any younger. I feel it is right to start winding down and focus on one extremely valid project – sitting the poorest children next to the wealthy – helping people to live with those from different castes. That is our aim.
Thank you for hanging in there with us!”