January 19, 2016
by andrea

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

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

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!

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.


September 8, 2015
by andrea

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

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

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

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.’


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

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

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

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.”