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

 

July 9, 2014
by andrea
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Inauguration of BCV International School in Southern India

9th June 2014

A year ago this month, Friends of India (FOI) was delighted to learn  that they had been awarded the 2013 BCV (Banque Cantonale Vaudoise)  Solidarity Prize of CHF 150,000.  This prize was awarded to FOI to help build a school in Southern India to provide quality education to children from all sectors of society.

Just one year later on June 9th 2014, members of the FOI Board, led by Pam Walsh, and a BCV delegation, led by Christian Jacot-Descombes,  inaugurated the BCV International School, in Caussanelpuram, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu.

It was a lively, animated celebration including a local orchestra, lighting of the ceremonial lamps and a welcome song in English by the teachers and students.  Each member of the BCV delegation proudly cut the ribbon at the doorway of every new classroom.

There followed a wonderful ceremony of  dancing, welcome speeches, votes of thanks and words of encouragement attended by some three hundred very involved local people.  It was a very moving and special occasion because this school is not just another educational establishment – it is unique.

The BCV International Primary School Teachers

It is unique, not because it is the first school in Tirunelveli built to full standards required of an English Language International School – but because it is open to all children, whatever their social class, including the most under-privileged population. One third of all students from this sector of society will be granted 100% scholarships to attend the BCV International School.

The school is still to be completed and so this opening ceremony was like a rose showing its first petal and promise of splendour yet to be revealed.  There are only fifty students today, but like a little swarm of bees finding a new precious pollen, once the school is finished it will turn from a small swarm to a great hive.

Friends of India is so proud of the vision, enthusiasm and tireless dedication to this project by Brother Victordass and all the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. We are also deeply grateful to the staff of the BCV who believed in our vision and provided the spark to light the flame of what will become a school of the highest calibre, bearing the name of the Cantonal Bank of Vaud with similar goals of excellence and accessibility to all.

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison”. Victor Hugo

June 2, 2014
by andrea
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Meeting Advitya at our AGM

Friends of India was delighted to introduce our ‘man on the ground’ in India to a packed room of members and supporters at our recent AGM.P1000934 - Version 2

Treating us to a detailed update and slide presentation on our projects in India, Advitya Thapa, FOI’s Projects and Operations Manager in Chennai, impressed us all with his knowledge of local issues and genuine passion for his work.

This was Advitya’s first visit to Switzerland and his busy week was filled with valuable meetings and discussions.

As Advitya says in his own words:

 “It has been, and will continue to be, my endeavour to deliver my best, to Friends of India and the work done for its beneficiaries.  I have, and will continue to be grateful, for being a part of Friends of India and being able to do what we do.

It was my intention to show our work in a transparent and clear manner, if I have been successful in doing so, then it is indeed, most gratifying.

I once again thank everyone for their support and encouragement”

November 28, 2013
by andrea
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Victoria Hall concert raises over CHF 17’000

The sound of Le Corps de Musique D’Elite filled the Victoria Hall in Geneva on Saturday 23rd November. An appreciative audience was treated to a rich and varied musical programme, from works by Bach and Schubert, to Verdi and Puccini, and a touch of Broadway too.IMG_1585

IMG_1577

They were joined by soloist Kirsty Griffiths, the Victoria Hall organ and the Proms Choir – finishing off the evening with the rousing ‘Finlandia’ by Sibelius.

We were also delighted that Miss India 2013 was able to make a guest appearance at the concert.

The funds raised will to go Friends of India’s campaign to help abused women and children in South India. In particular, we will be working with our local partner Tulir – an organization based in Chennai and committed to working against child sexual abuse.

 

Friends of India would like to thank all those who made this concert possible. 

November 8, 2013
by andrea
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Investing in women entrepreneurs to help lift them out of poverty

Our new project to invest in women entrepreneurs is taking off thanks to the money raised at our recent Bollywood by the Lake event.
See our video below for an overview of this project:

 
The CHF 25’000 will support 85 women entrepreneurs organized into 17 micro-enterprises. These are all women from poor communities and we will be helping them grow their businesses and create local jobs – helping to lift them and others out of poverty.
 
Working with our local partner in India, we have already identified and selected the first four micro-enterprises, and are now beginning their entrepreneur development training.

November 4, 2013
by andrea
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A big Thank You to all our Donors!

We are always grateful to our supporters, and for donations large or small. And we are touched by the lengths taken by some to raise money for our projects.

One example is David Lude and his girlfriend Melissa who have raised CHF 6,000 for Friends of India from their sponsored 2,000 km cycle ride from Geneva to Belarus.912645_e018e174b9e36d33a2a593d631f6de93.png_srz_385_285_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzScreen Shot 2013-11-04 at 2.01.00 PM

This money will be divided between two of FOI’s projects in Tamil Nadu – providing solar lamps to tribal villages and the Richard Walsh Scholarship fund which allows underprivileged students to attend college.

Says David: “We are delighted with the outcome! It took us just over a month to get to Minsk – cycling through Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Poland. Though some parts were tough, it was definitely worth it and we would like to warm-heartedly thank all our sponsors.”

Meanwhile, another generous donor has very kindly doubled the amount we raised at our recent Bollywood by the Lake event. All this money will be going to further our mission to empower women in India.

To these and to our many other loyal supporters and donors, we thank you all!