February 1, 2017
by andrea
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Jan Powell visits the Chris Powell Training Centre for Women and Girls

In Madurai, South India, the Friends of India team has visited a training centre for women and girls named after long time supporter of Friends of India, Chris Powell. It was an emotional moment for Chris’s widow, Jan, who visited the Centre for the first time.  She handed out certificates to six women who had completed the three-month training course in tailoring. Most of the women are illiterate and job prospects are extremely limited for them. After completing the course, they are able to earn two or three hundred rupees a day making clothes.

Prevathi (below) has just completed a three-month course in tailoring at the Chris Powell Training Centre.  She has two children and her husband makes a living chanting mantras at marriages and funerals.  But his earnings are irregular and they live on 4-5,000 rupees a month (60-80 CHF). With her new skills, Prevathi will be able to supplement the family income.

January 31, 2017
by andrea
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Friendship Home celebrates its 5th birthday

The Friends of India team has been visiting the Friendship Home for children living with HIV/AIDS, in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. The Home celebrated its 5th birthday with an evening of song and dance. The children were delighted to see the guests from Switzerland and showed off their skills. They look fit and healthy and are clearly benefitting from the regular care and medication provided with our help.

At the Friendship Home, Pam Walsh meets up with Robert, a little boy with learning difficulties.

January 30, 2017
by andrea
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Pam and team visit the BCV International School in Tirunelveli

Friends of India President Pam Walsh is currently in India, leading a team to evaluate the work that Friends of India is supporting in Tamil Nadu.

At the BCV International School, Pam gets a warm welcome as she arrives on the first day of the visit.

5 year old Subasri is one of the dalit children who gets a scholarship to the BCV School. One of the main objectives of the school is to provide first-class education for dalit children – the lowest caste in India. Subasri’s parents cannot read or write and live on just 300 rupees a day (4 Swiss Francs). Going to school can break a vicious cycle of poverty.

At the BCV International School, the children put on a stunning display of dance and drama, at their end-of-year concert.  The youngest pre-kindergarten children to the oldest 7th graders showed off their English language skills for the audience of parents, friends and guests from Switzerland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 16, 2016
by andrea
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2015 – “A fruitful year”

This was how Friends of India President Pam Walsh began her summing up of 2015 at our AGM on 24th May 2016.IMG_1055

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!”

Pam Walsh

FOI President

March 8, 2016
by andrea
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Celebrating 7 years at the Richard Walsh School for the Blind

Friends of India is proud to celebrate 7 years of bringing the gift of music to blind and partially-sighted young orphans.music1

On their recent trip to India, FOI President Pam Walsh and Treasurer Ted Talbot attended the 7th Annual Day Celebration at the Richard Walsh School for the Blind and were delighted to learn that for certain grades, music is now part of the standard curriculum. This means that hundreds of children are now being liberated from the prison of blindness to discover, experience and explore the universal world of music.

Music3Some years ago the Richard Walsh Scholarship Fund was set up with the idea of paying for a student to go on to higher musical learning. The children were still too young at that time, and so the fund has been accumulating, but this year we were told that two students had achieved ‘musical excellence’ and were asked if we would pay for instruments for them.

We were therefore thrilled to present students Jeykumar and Prakash with a drum set and electronic drum pads respectively. Thank you to our faithful donors!

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Another NGO has built a hostel block for the girls at the school, with a paved area in front. This provided a lovely setting for a wonderful evening concert of music, singing and dancing. Their confidence when they play, dance and sing is amazing.

We are also delighted to report that the music school continues to be self-supporting, thanks to their animal farming activities. The Richard Walsh Music School for the Blind really does bring us both pride and joy!

January 19, 2016
by andrea
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Chennai/South India floods – disaster relief still needed

Please help us to provide ‘Life Starter Kits’ to households who have suffered in the recent devastating floods. These kits will be sourced and distributed by our long-term partner in south India, the SUEB (Society for the Upliftment of the Economically Backward).Chennai flood

Although the floods are now receding, the initial response to the disaster is over and relief camps are now being closed, many people have no home to return to. With no shelter, they are forced to sleep on the wet ground. Many have no clothes, cooking items or food. They are still in a state of shock and tears, not knowing where the next meal will come from. Although schools are now reopening, many students have lost all their books.Chennai flood 3

CHF 175 will provide a complete Life Starter Kit for one household, and will include:

Household items: a stove with fuel, cooking pots, plates, cups, water and storage containers

Food for one month: rice, wheat, cereals, pulses, edible oil, masala

Clothes and blankets: a set of clothes for each family member, blankets, mats and pillows

Hygienic products: soaps, detergents and cleaning materials, antiseptics, skin ointments, typhoid vaccines, and mosquito eradication products

Other – electric bulbs, portable lamps with back up batteries, packing, transportation, distribution, monitoring and evaluation

An example of what can be provided with smaller donations:

CHF 3 – a dried grass mat, a woman’s sari or a man’s lungi

CHF 4 – a blanket

CHF 6.50 – a kerosene stove

CHF 16.50 – a 25kg bag of rice or basic cooking pots

The North West Monsoon has brought record rainfall to Tamil Nadu and has caused havoc in the city of Chennai, where three of its rivers have overflowed. The official estimate of deaths is 400, but rescue workers have reported hundreds more missing.

Homes and belongings have been washed away. And with factories, companies and small shops also submerged under water, many workers have lost their jobs. It is estimated that 1,500,000 households have been affected, mostly amongst the very poor.Chennai flood 2

These ‘life starter kits’  will help those affected to get back on their feet again. They contain basic household supplies and food for a month. The aim is also to help prevent the dangerous spread of diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis, malaria and cholera.

We will ensure your donation goes directly to where it is needed.

 

December 12, 2015
by andrea
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Devastating floods in Chennai – appeal for donations

flood 1A you may be aware, Chennai and its rural areas have suffered their worst rains for decades, with floods causing widespread damage. Our Share and Care project in the village of Katchur in Tamil Nadu has also been severely affected. The village itself is cut off, with extensive damage at the Share and Care school and hostel. Foundations of buildings are damaged, the paddy fields have been completely washed away, wiping out next year’s rice crops, and stores of food supplies have been ruined by flood water.

flood2Please help with a donation this Christmas time. We will ensure that your money is spent on the ground, wherever it is most needed, to help alleviate the crisis for these children and the aged housed at the Share and Care Centre. We have just sent off CHF 5’000 to help meet immediate food needs.

 

October 19, 2015
by andrea
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Donations of books and computers!

20151001_095827Friends of India is very grateful for two recent donations to the BCV International School. And from the photos here, the children at the school also seem very happy!20151001_094741

A generous monetary donation was used to resource books and educational games for the library and for other classroom needs. The hand puppets in the pictures here will be used as teaching aids. By ordering through local suppliers in India, we can get a lot of things for the money!
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Twenty-five desktop computers have also recently been donated to the school. These have now been set up and can be seen here being used by some of the older children in the school’s new computer lab.

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September 8, 2015
by andrea
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BCV International School celebrates Teachers’ Day

DSC02678The 5th of September is an important celebration for teachers and students all over India. Known as Teachers’ Day, it was set up decades ago by Nehru to celebrate the birthday of the well-loved second President of India who was also a teacher.

DSC02669DSC02686At the BCV International School in Tirunelveli, the day was celebrated with songs, dance and drama. The children in the photos here are performing for their teachers – traditional dance and drama.

 

We are also happy to report that the 38 scholarship students at the school are integrating and settling in well. Their English is improving and the teachers are proud of their progress.

August 25, 2015
by andrea
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Medal success for Ambumalar student at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games

DSC00049Athlete Maran Platini, a student from Ambumalar, attended the World Games in Los Angeles this summer from the 28th July to 3rd August and won a Gold Medal in the 100 metres, a Bronze Medal in the long jump and came fourth in the relay.  Huge congratulations to him and to those at Ambumalar for all their encouragement and support.

Ambumalar is a special school for handicapped children and young adults about an hour and a half north of Chennai in south India, and is run by social worker P. Selvaraj.  Friends of India, together with Le Don du Choeur, have been involved with and supported Ambumalar for many years.IMG_20150806_145529