This year has seen a welcome resurgence in numbers of volunteer applications. The fall in the value of the British pound after the Brexit vote will make our fees even cheaper for non-UK applicants next year, but the downside is that it will reduce the value of the money we send to India and Nepal.
Barbara Porter undertook this year’s inspection visit, and visited the schools we support in Ladakh and Uttarakhand. Nothing is easy about these visits! Last year the problem was political unrest in Nepal. This year it has been the Indian Government’s decision to invalidate (or ‘demonetise’) all 500 and 1000 rupee notes without warning. The stated aim of this act is to defeat corruption, but the acute shortage of newly issued notes has caused huge disruption to Indian life, and a big headache for Barbara. Luckily, HELP‘s contacts were able to keep her solvent!
She was encouraged to learn about the impact HELP volunteers were making, and not just in the classroom. In a community school in west Ladakh, They had been accommodated with the family of one of the school’s English teachers and that had resulted in a real improvement in that teacher’s English language and confidence in speaking. The volunteers benefit too, staying in a remote village involving a lively journey of over an hour in the school bus every day, travelling through some spectacular mountain gorges.
Getting to Dehra Dun is one thing. Getting from there to the Serve & Share (SASA) Academy in the mountains is a very gruelling experience involving a whole day of bone-jarring travel over poorly maintained roads. This school serves 12 small villages in a remote valley providing education for the children of poor rural families, but its remoteness is a problem when it comes to placing volunteers there.
An inspection visit is our opportunity to discover new schools that we can help. While she was in Uttarakhand, Barbara was taken to visit an inspiring ashram school, which provides residential schooling for over 70 girls. The Ashram has a strong community and environmental focus and is committed to providing girls with the skills needed to become strong leaders in their own communities, opportunities that are rarely given to girls. All the students come from remote villages. 25% of them are also orphans. We will consider sending volunteers there.
|What have we achieved this year with your help?|
As previously reported, the WEC is a Nepalese charity that provides legal aid to abused women to help bring their abusers to trial, and offers them a place on their sewing training programme to enable them to support themselves and their dependents.
Annie Taylor returned to the school yet again this year (the sixth year running!). She has been an invaluable ally over the years in checking up on the way our money is used, and in meeting the sponsored children in and around Kalimpong. With the money sent last year she reports that the school has completed a concrete safety barrier, and chain link fencing around the school. They have also reinforced the open shelter in the playground (in the background of the picture). It now has concrete posts and a tin roof and should last for years as an extra teaching/eating/shady space.
This year she visited each one in their homes and took photos and gathered news for the sponsors.
|Liam and Dinesh Rai, principal of the Gyan Jyoti school|
Liam Campbell’s campaign to raise money for two badly needed classrooms has made good progress in reaching his target of CAD$20,000 (about £12,000)
Liam hopes to be able to re-visit the school in February 2017 to supervise the building work, and also to do some teaching. Ben Coleman and I will be in Kalimpong at the time and look forward to meeting him.
SASA Academy (Uttarkhand)
This is a very remote school, which Alan Coleman visited several years ago. Getting there and back with a day to see the school and staff takes up three days, a big time commitment for one school. This year Barbara bit the bullet and journeyed there in the company of Serve and Share’s (SASA) director, Shailender David.
Last year, SASA lost a major sponsor, so HELP stepped in with £1,800 to fund the salary of a local teacher for one year.
After a slightly disappointing year in 2015 we were delighted that in 2016 we were able to place 12 volunteers in schools. Volunteers came from all over the world, from Australia, Canada, the US and in Europe from the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. We were also delighted to welcome back some returning volunteers including one couple, experienced teachers, who have now volunteered for HELP three times.
This year we have been able to send volunteers to two new schools in Nepal as well as supporting schools that have had HELP volunteers many times, such as our two schools in Sikkim. Reading the end of assignment reports is always inspiring: a mixture of laughter and tears, frustration and triumph run through all the volunteer accounts of their time working in school. We are grateful to those who continue to support HELP’s work beyond their assignment: fund raising for new classrooms, working with UK schools to send children’s books out to improve school libraries, returning once, twice, sometimes more, to teach in a school.
We were delighted that Anne and Bob Summers, who have volunteered for us in Ladakh and Nepal were able to to join us once more, this time in West Bengal.Here is Anne with two of her pupils.
Click on these links to see some visuals (including a great video clip) and reports a couple of this year’s volunteers have submitted in our blog:
- Lance Kerwin (Vidya Sagar Gyanpeeth school, Sikkim)
- James Dix ( Shikha Higher Secondary School Nepal)
And Bart Hermans sent us these great pictures of himself and his class at his school in Sikkim:
|Barbara conducting a seminar at the Serve and Share Association (SASA)|
In both Ladakh and Uttarakhand, Barbara was able to work with the teachers of most of the schools she visited, delivering one or two day seminars to help the teachers learn ways of using the school course books more effectively and discovering enjoyable and fun ways to learn and teach English, while having fun themselves. These short, school-based sessions proved very successful and popular.
Currently 42 sponsors are supporting 51 sponsored children and young adults through primary, secondary school and college.
Supporting a young person through school and college is rewarding, but it’s extra special when such a sponsorship develops into a friendship. Anne Tallantire, an old friend of HELP, and Joe Mahon her partner, have just shared their holiday in Kerala with one of the students she and her daughter Rebecca O’Brien have helped through school and college. You’ll see a photo of Kritika Nair and Anne at the bottom of this newsletter. Kritika has posted an account of her trip with Anne and Joe in this blog.
Sponsorships are long-term in nature, and require staying power on the part of the sponsor. Many thanks to all our sponsors for staying the course for so many years for very little in return.
We do our best to keep sponsors up-to-date, but the children are scattered all over the place, and so it is no easy task to track them down, and get them to write letters (an impossible task in a few cases). If you feel you are not getting as much information as you would like or expect, please let Ben Coleman know and he will do his best to get some news for you. Barbara Porter was able to meet a few of the sponsored children in Uttarakhand, and will obviously pass on photos and news to the sponsors concerned. (In the photo: Anujragdwal, a sponsored child in Uttarakhand)
- Unlike last year, when we raised funds for earthquake relief in Nepal, there has been no major fund-raising effort this year. We continue to rely mainly on volunteer fees to fund our programme, and of course donations our friends send our way from time to time.
- We are very dependent on our network of friends and volunteers for the funds we receive, so a special word of thanks to all our benefactors!
- And let’s not forget the Inland Revenue. The taxman has sent us £2482 under the Inland Revenue’s Gift Aid scheme! Gift Aid is an invaluable boost to our income, but we do need your permission from the donor to apply for it, even if we know you are a UK-based tax payer!
|A sponsored child in Uttarakhand with her family|
Kerrie Ann Sullivan, one of our ex-volunteers, ran the Brighton Marathon in April 2016 – her first full marathon, and exceeded her target of £1000 in aid of HELP’s programme. She returned to Nepal this year to volunteer again prior to starting a full-time teaching career in the UK.
Those of you who have been using Everyclick to raise money for HELP through their internet searches, and by making purchases via the site, will have noticed that it is now run by Yandex rather than Yahoo, which is a disappointment since Yandex’s search engine is not quite as good. However, I still find it serves my needs the great majority of times, and so will, as I hope you will, continue to use it. So far we have, between us, raised £192.60.
Why not raise money for HELP by doing your Christmas shopping through the HELP page on this website?
KEEPING IN TOUCH
HELP is on Facebook. Keep in touch and help to raise our profile by joining us!
The HELP blog
And don’t forget to visit our blog, where you can keep up-to-date with HELP news, and news about the communities we operate in. And keep an eye-out for a revised look to our website in early 2017!
Well, that’s it for this year. Many thanks for all your support and good wishes.
Merry Christmas to all of you, and a happy new year!