September 8, 2015
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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

July 20, 2015
by andrea
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Scholarship Fund Success – a big thank you to our donors!

793DFB82-5491-44CC-ADDC-681AC32BFD28Following our recent Scholarship Fund appeal, we are thrilled to be able to award scholarships to 33 underprivileged children for them to attend the new BCV International School in Tirunelveli this year 2015/2016.

The new school year began on 1st June with 130 children now enrolled at the school. The 33 scholarship children are studying alongside paying pupils, receiving a high quality education that otherwise they would have no access to.

IMG_0557The scholarships have been awarded to bright and gifted children who have been assessed for their ability to learn, and where the annual family income is less than Rs 1 Lakh (CHF 1,500). Their parents are mainly coolies – unskilled daily wage labourers. They are all from the lowest castes – officially defined as the ‘socially and educationally backward classes’.

These scholarships will provide a real opportunity for these underprivileged children to fulfil their potential and lift themselves out of poverty.

 

IMG_0413We still welcome further donations to this Scholarship Fund for the coming years – CHF 500 will cover all costs for one child for one school year.

May 15, 2015
by andrea
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2014 – A year of Celebration, Challenge and Change

This was how FOI President Pam Walsh summed up 2014 at our AGM on 7th May 2015, in Bellevue, Geneva.

The Celebration has been recognising the many achievements of Friends of India over the past 15 years. Half a million lives have been changed and many of our projects are now self-sustaining. An excellent film summarising our work was produced by Ted Talbot and Brian Thomas and shown at our 15th anniversary gala dinner last November. Watch the film here:

The Challenge has been our major project of 2014 – the BCV International School, which was inaugurated on 9th June last year. This project was a first for Friends of India, and aims to provide life-changing education to 150 children from extremely marginalised communities, mostly Dalits. A huge amount of personal investment has been given to the project, in particular by FOI Vice President Diana Smith. We have faced challenges of cross-cultural understandings, technical hitches, logistical problems, differing expectations – and the weather! But we now have a beautiful school, and the aim is for it to be self sustainable by 2016/2017. In the meantime, however, we do still need your support and have launched a scholarship appeal – CHF 500 will completely fund one child for one year at the school. We are also still in need of funds for sports equipment. Visit our Donate page here.

The Change has been the welcoming of two new Board members – Clare Schenker, who has been promoted from her role as administrator, and Trevor Greenwood, who returns after a break of five years and will be helping with strategic thinking. In India, the Board has been strengthened with the addition of Usha Somasundaram, who has been doing amazing work in Afghanistan, helping women and young girls. Kris Easter has stepped down from the Geneva Board as she is now living in Ethiopia, working with USAID, but as she says in her own words: ‘I really do miss the good work of FOI… Friends of India continues to be an inspiring example of how good people can make a meaningful difference in the world.’

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Geneva teachers Liz Burland and Pablo Requena recently visited India and spent time helping to train the teachers at the BCV International School.

 

February 22, 2015
by andrea
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February 2015 – Final report from Pam and Ted’s trip to India!

As Friends of India President Pam Walsh and Treasurer Ted Talbot near the end of their visit to South India, Ted has sent us his final report:

Saturday 21st – Tirunelveli

“It doesn’t seem possible that this afternoon we said a tearful goodbye to our hosts, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart – Brothers Victordass, Rajan, Ravi and many others. Goodbye to the teachers and pupils of the BCV International School, to Brother James and the children of the Friendship Home. Diana flew back to Geneva, and Pam and Ted headed for a few days’ rest.

Pam at the BCV International School

Pam at the BCV International School

“The past few days have been frenetic:

“At the BCV International School, a press conference, an open meeting for prospective school enrolments and parents; interviews with parents interested in enrolling their kids, interviewing prospective teachers and a session with a marketing group to help us get those 150 bums on seats!!

At the Eden Home

At the Eden Home

“On the lighter side (wait for the pun) Ted and Advitya visited the Eden Home where there are 15 happy girls and income is being earned by creating decorative strings of coloured lights (pun)!

'Annie Mobile' at the Friendship Home

‘Annie Mobile’ at the Friendship Home

“Finally, at the Friendship Home this morning we had a lot of fun delivering the ‘kid mover’ donated by Ecole Moser with some help from another donor and fondly called the ‘Annie Mobile’.”

 

Pam, Diana and Ted even made into the New Indian Express paper, with their seminar on Child-Centred Learning…

New Indian Express, 21st February 2015

New Indian Express, 21st February 2015

February 17, 2015
by andrea
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February 2015 – More news from Pam and Ted in Tirunelveli, South India

Sunday 15th The Friendship Home for vulnerable and orphaned children living with HIV

FOI Vice President Diana Smith arrived in Tirunelveli from Geneva, and after a 20-hour journey was immediately whisked away to a third birthday celebration of the opening of the Friendship Home!

Pam, Ted and Diana were entertained with 3 hours of song, dance and speeches – followed by a monster feast. Exhausting – but giving out the presents of bags and cards from Ecole Moser, special birthday hats and sweets was so much fun…. and they all loved it!

There are now 45 wonderful children living at the Home, including the newest additions – Robert who is only 18 months old and his 5-year-old sister – both their parents died of AIDS in the last few months.

IMG_0253IMG_0259Monday 16th – BCV International School / Friendship Home book-binding unit

Pam and Ted again visited the school and potential hostel building – to complete some filming . Poor Diana developed laryngitis and a chest infection so could not be with them. Pam interviewed a candidate teacher while Ted put on his auditor’s hat to check the books of the book-binding unit, after a visit to the production line. A real success story of self-sustainability as this unit is now generating enough profit to cover the basic monthly costs of the 45 children at the Friendship Home.

IMG_0264IMG_0272IMG_0265Tuesday 17th The Chris Powell Multi-Purpose Centre, Maderai

While Pam finally had a bit of a rest, and Diana, who is feeling a little better, had a quiet day, Ted went to a slum area in central Maderai to visit the Chris Powell Centre run by the amazing, beautiful and indefatigable Dr Ammu Amirtham.

They run health camps, provide special coaching for teenage girl school drop-outs and provide skills training – benefiting 2,300 women and girls over the last year. Their major success is in tailoring where 20 women who received training are now producing garments at the centre for 4 shops and individual clients.

At present they are in rented accommodation at a high rent. They would love to have their own building – but this would cost CHF 60’000 to buy and equip…

February 15, 2015
by andrea
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February 2015 – Ted reports direct from Tirunelveli…

Pam Walsh and Ted Talbot have now travelled down to Tirunelveli, further south in Tamil Nadu, to visit the BCV International SchoolIn Ted’s words:

IMG_0180” How does the song go? ‘What a difference a day makes’. In this case it is what IMG_0185a difference 8 months makes! The school is finished with a magnificent glassed entrance, long shining marbled corridors and classroom walls full of the children’s work. There is still a lot to achieve before June, however, when 150 students should be enrolled. 4 classrooms and a computer lab still to furnish – the computers are there thanks to Firmenich India and we met the supplier and chose classroom and computer lab furniture, library cupboards and tables.

“Outside the weather has caused work to be held up for a couple of months and so there is still a driveway to build and playground and sports areas to create. We are meeting the architect on Tuesday to try and agree on a phased plan of implementation.

IMG_0165“The kids are just so enthusiastic and we were amazed at the level of English of the 4 to 7 year olds after starting from zero only 5 months ago. Well done to the teaching staff.

“Today we bought a TukTuk – well, a king sized TukTuk called a Tata Magic – a lightweight people carrier that will hold 15 children! An enormous thank you to Ecole Moser Geneva for funding most of this.

IMG_2235IMG_1700“Finally, after inspecting the Firmenich-supplied computers, we visited the building that we hope to convert to a hostel for 100 dalit children that live too far away to be able to attend the BCV school.”

February 13, 2015
by andrea
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February 2015 – News from Pam and Ted in Arani

FOI President Pam Walsh and Treasurer Ted Talbot are now in Arani in Tamil Nadu, South India – an area where we have been involved in a number of projects.

The SUEB Women’s self-help groups

In 2014, FOI contributed CHF 10’000 towards advanced skills training courses for self-help groups run by the SUEB. These not only covered practical techniques such as jewellery-making and sewing, but also marketing skills, how to get bank loans etc.

IMG_0103IMG_0109IMG_0110This week, Pam and Ted met with representatives of many of the self-help groups from the surrounding districts and as far away as Chennai. They gave entrepreneurial encouragement speeches to the group, and heard many success stories – including the story of Andal:

At the age of three, Andal developed polio and this left her severely crippled in one hand and one leg. She had then lived with her mother (who died last year) and earned a tiny salary as a labourer. Six years ago she was introduced to a SUEB self-help group. Having dreamed of setting up her own business, the SUEB helped her to take a loan to buy a small silk bobbinating machine – putting silk yarn onto bobbins ready for weaving.

 Today she supplies weavers with bobbined silk at around CHF 1.20 per kg. Her plan is now to buy her own silk yarns and to sell it on at nearer CHF 4.00 per kg profit.

 The Richard Walsh Music School for the Blind

IMG_0123 IMG_0121Visiting this school always brings back strong emotions and wonderful memories. It is so great to recognise the children and see the progress they have made – not only musically, but as a result of the loving care they receive under the guidance of Brother Leveil assisted by Brother Babu.

IMG_0144IMG_0142The whole atmosphere is one of warmth, care and progress. The farm with pigs, chickens, calves and paddy are thriving and producing good revenue to pay the upkeep and salaries of the music school.

The children give paid concerts and music is part of their general curriculum with support from the government. They are now requesting help for equipping a room for recording their music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baby Jesus Orphanage

IMG_0155This orphanage received a donation from our friend Noelle to build a dining and study hall. This prompted another donor to build a girls dormitory. However, the government is now insisting on a compound wall around the buildings if girls are going to sleep there. This is a real challenge as the wall needs to be 180 metres long and will cost CHF 12’000!

The children are wonderful and put on a brilliant dance display under floodlight. This was followed by silly games led by Pam after which we were treated to a wonderful feast by the Sisters.

 

 

February 8, 2015
by andrea
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February 2015 – update from India

This week, FOI President Pam Walsh and Treasurer Ted Talbot have arrived in Chennai, India at the start of their three-week trip visiting our projects. A very busy time lay in front of them!

Already they have visited Tulir – the association dealing with child sex abuse, and ASSCOD – the women’s entrepreneurship programme funded by proceeds from our 2013 Bollywoood by the Lake event. Both very interesting and (thanks to FOI) successful projects.

They have also visited the school run by Share and Care Children’s Welfare Organisation where 300 Dalit/tribal children are currently studying free of cost. Just under a quarter of these children are orphans and live in two dormitories on campus. Share and Care looks after all their needs – from personal wellbeing to educational.

FOI has helped to fund the setting up of a dairy unit here – and to date, 12 buffaloes have been purchased. This dairy project is now achieving its goal of providing some self-generated funds towards the running of the school.

Pam meets the buffalo babies!

Pam meets the buffalo babies!

However, there is still a significant shortfall in the school ‘s financial needs.

To address this shortfall and enable the project to become self-sustainable, Share and Care is proposing to develop 15 acres of their best land into vegetable cultivation. FOI is now looking at ways to help them with this – and to secure the future of the project.

Watch this space for more details…

December 2, 2014
by andrea
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Indian-styled birthday party for Friends of India

Around 140 FOI supporters gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Geneva last month to celebrate FOI’s 15th birthday. Guests were treated to a superb Indian meal while seated at tables beautifully decorated and with little Indian candle lights to take home as souvenirs. Small notebooks made at FOI’s very own ‘Friendship Home’ for vulnerable and orphaned children living with HIV in Southern India were also handed out as gifts.

birthday choirbirthday dance

During the evening we were treated to entertainment by singers from the UN Choir in national costumes, and to lively Bollywood dancing

We were also delighted to be joined on the evening by Mrs Dorene Bernard, Chair of the FOI Board in India, who together with Mrs Pam Walsh, FOI President, spoke about the current work of Friends of India.

Dorenebirthday pam

One of the main highlights of the evening was a 20-minute film summarising the many achievements of Friends of India since its creation 15 years ago. Watch this film here:
 
With the help of a tombola and auction, and thanks to our many loyal supporters, the evening raised over CHF 20’000. This money will go to help equip the BCV International School in Tirunelveli, South India.

Happy 15th Birthday Friends of India!

birthda cake