… putting something back into our adopted Goan community
Tue 18 Jun 2013
Well folks, just to update you our little shop The Gallery (in Cobblestone Walk, Steyning, West Sussex) will be one year old at the beginning of July!
The Gallery has raised significant sums from the sale of our jewellery and things – we have extended our original range into cushion covers, clothes and much, much more.
As our stock range has expanded, so must we… we are moving to a larger, better positioned hut in Cobblestone Walk! Our grand opening for the move is on Saturday 6th July. Put it in your diary as we would love to see you if you are free and fancy a trip to (hopefully sunny) Sussex.
Here’s a little Google map so you can find us:
There’s a car park directly opposite (and a bus stop if you are very adventurous!). If you’ve never been to Cobblestone, then you go through a high street doorway, down a crooked passage (watch your head if you’re a bit tall!), past a really dinky medieval tea room and magically it all opens out into a wonderful Alice-in-Wonderland type rabbit hole of wondrous offerings! Amble around inside and you can’t fail to find us.
Tue 18 Jun 2013
I just wanted to sing from the roof tops the success of the Standard 10 children from Mandrem School. They have just sat their exams and obtained their results. For the first time they have attained a 100% pass rate!!!
Well done to the teachers for all their hard work in getting the kids ready to sit their exams, and extremely well done to the lads and lasses for their hard work, sweat and tears! It was all worth it and I’m sure you are all feeling great.
Plus thank you to everyone at our end who has given money in any way, shape or form – it’s contributed to the resources that have been needed by the school to help the pupils in their endeavours.
Fri 10 May 2013
Now a few weeks have passed, it’s high time to write and reflect on what a fantastic evening we all had on the 23rd March!
Well, we were certainly well fed and watered by Fran and her team at Julia Robinson Catering and wonderfully cossetted by Sarah and her team at the Brighton Pavilion – which was great as it was freezing outside! After welcome drinks in the old kitchen and a great private tour (emphasising the Indian side of things) it was time for dinner…
Everything looked great and the tables were augmented by herds of elephants to add to the Indian and Chinese style decor – that is we were selling miniature elephants instead of raffle tickets for the glorious prizes on offer! We also had a small selection of goodies from our Steyning shop on sale that seemed to go down well, all to the background of some wonderful harp music played by the gorgeous Andrew. And the ladies (and a couple of guys) won’t forget the amazing henna designs by local artist Sylvi either!
So as well as the money raised from ticket sales, we managed to raise fifteen hundred pounds! Well done everybody! This is certainly enough to get the first year’s scholarship off to a great launch (and there is even some left over to donate some engineering books to the Don Bosco Technical Library!).
Thanks to all of you that sponsored and donated in any form and manner – it’s help like this that makes our events so possible.
It’s a year since dad passed away this weekend, so I’m really glad we’ve managed to do this in his name!
Thu 7 Feb 2013
Once again we are offering huge, huge thanks to Victoria Gray and Give a Book for donating another wonderful selection of children’s reference books!! This is the second year running that our friends Claudia and Andy have foregone a good part of their flight luggage allowance to bring these valuable resources out and Jacinta, our Mandrem headmistress, was lost for words when trying to express her gratitude to people from so far away. As before, we are dividing the books between Mandrem and Sirsi (who haven’t quite got theirs yet!).
Please do take a look at what Give a Book does – it really is extraordinary – and if you believe in the power of books to address needs and spread pleasure across society then do please think about helping out where and when you can.
Back to Mandrem, and we were also privileged to meet two of Claudia’s and Andy’s friends, Henry and Sue Dixon. They are also long term Goa fans and had come loaded with all sorts of reading and arts materials for Mandrem school. We were very touched to learn that Henry had taken quite a lot of time out from a very busy year as High Sheriff of Clwyd in order to source a lot of donated books.
And let us not forget Filomena and Jorge Borba’s continued support in America – this year they have sent an appreciable amount of money to be spent on the library and sports equipment. They fell in love with our little bit of Goa when they visited a few years back, and have continued to support us from Boston ever since. And don’t forget they are sponsoring two more Sirsi schoolkids!
It was a really great ‘feel good’ experience when Henry, Sue and I visited Mandrem a few days back to give the teachers and kids an amazing range of books, to give Jacinta the money, and to show Henry and Sue the quality of our little village school now!
Thank you to everybody again for making this work!
Thu 7 Feb 2013
About a week ago I went with our friends Barbara, Pete and Tracey for another road-trip down to Sirsi. Barbara and I often do these ‘Thelma and Louise’ expeditions, but now we had two more willing, if eventually very tired, companions.
After leaving a very sleepy Goa behind (even the cats and dogs weren’t up), we travelled through the beautiful scenery on mountain roads, crossing into Karnataka and soon persuaded ourselves that we really did want to stop at one of India’s equivalents of a service station. A quick puri baji and a cup of hot sweet South Indian coffee later, we were on our way, skirting the Ashi National Park on the way to Yellapur and finally dropping down into Sirsi.
The drive takes about four hours and is worth every second – we competed to be the first to see an azure flash of kingfisher flight, and the large outlines of a hornbill as it soared across the sky.
Before we knew it we were being warmly greeted at Sirsi by the kids and staff alike. Fr Avin was hugely grateful for the support you are all offering which has enabled the twelve kids to be sponsored through their education and more books to be purchased for the library. We spent hours causing mild chaos in the school – interrupting classes, dancing (very badly!) with the girls as they practiced for their own cultural show, handing out sweets and so on – interspersed with more serious chats with Frs Avin and Felix on the issues surrounding the school.
And then we were ready for the long trek home. It might be a slog to get there and back, but the rewards are high. Karnataka is a large state with some prosperous cities (you might have heard of Bangalore?) but the small country towns are still very short on facilities so everything we do here has a big impact.
Fri 25 Jan 2013
Hi again! Another instalment from India…
Yesterday was finally time for the road trip to the Don Bosco school at Sirsi in Karnataka – which is the state that lies south of Goa and is the location of another project funded by Helping Elsewhere… and all the generous people who contribute to this worthwhile effort. So four of us (Barbara, Helen, Tracey & I) joined together at 6am in Cavelossim in south Goa to drive the 4.5 hours to Sirsi.
St Anthony’s is a Roman Catholic school, part of the Don Bosco group of schools in India providing a good education to local children irrespective of their faith. All are welcome at Sirsi – Christian, Hindu and Muslim. This school is for standard 8, 9 and 10 children, which in England are 13 to 16 year old pupils. The school has 360 fee paying places, 120 pupils to each year, split into two classes per year.
Sirsi is a rural town with little in the way of employment opportunities and the school fees, even at £50 per year, are outside the means of some families. The school’s reputation means that parents want their child to attend this school though and Helping Elsewhere sponsors those children whose families cannot afford it. Sponsorship is a bit like free school meals in the UK – it has a stigma for these proud people and therefore the identity of the sponsored pupils is known only to the Headmaster, Fr Avin, and the parents concerned.
Our travelling companion, Barbara, has been involved with the school for some time and brings a phenomenal amount of energy to everything she does. A veritable dynamo! She introduced Helen to the school and in turn Helen introduced us to the school. Barbara is a good lady! The driving forces on site are Fr Avin and Fr Felix (the priest from the attached church). For a badly lapsed Catholic, I have to say that I personally found them inspiring; their mission is to provide their pupils with the best education that is possible and that is what they do. I wish I had gone to this school!
We visited all the classes and were made so welcome. Every pupil in uniform, standing as we came into the room and speaking to us in good English (better than mine). The smiles were genuine and the enthusiasm was palpable.
The photos tell the story and I put you all on notice that I am taking up cudgels for these two schools and there is nowhere to hide. When I get back I will be putting together a presentation on these two projects and if your Company has a charity programme I would love to come and speak to the people holding the purse strings – I am sure I can loosen them for a cause that has really reached me, Tracey, Gemma and Stuart [Pete and Tracey's daughter and son-in-law].
By the way, a big personal thank you to Gemma & Stuart and the staff at Kenwood in Havant who are sponsoring three pupils at the school!
Thu 24 Jan 2013
If you’ve already read the post from our Guest Blogger, Pete, you’ll know already about the appalling serious sexual assault of a 7-yearold in her school in Goa. The big bad world has truly entered village life in Goa. I could not believe the other day that I was sitting in Jacinta’s office in Rosary School, Mandrem discussing child safety in the same way as has routinely happened in the UK or America for the past many years. Bad times indeed.
As Pete has mentioned, Goan schools now have to arrange CCTV monitoring within their own means. Mandrem is blessed with an itinerant tourist market passing its doors and so there is obviously an increased risk of trouble in our school. Time is thus of the essence to rig up an effective system at Mandrem.
Indian schools are not generally designed with security in mind (unlike in the UK when once everybody is in, then the key can be turned) and Mandrem is no exception. Yes there is a lockable gate at the front, but the back and sides are open. The design needs careful thought and that was what was happening when we turned up. Costs are still a bit speculative, but £2,000 seems reasonable for a good system.
We have diverted some of our funds to start the process going, but obviously more is needed…
I feel saddened that I have to write this post but child safety is now just as important as our other aims.
Tue 22 Jan 2013
As next door neighbours of Helen in England, and just two villages apart in Goa, both Tracey and I wanted to see how the money raised in the UK benefits the children and people in India. Tracey works with Helen at the shop in Cobblestone Walk in Steyning helping to raise some of the funds that help here in India.
On Monday, Helen took Tracey and I to the very north of Goa to a school at the village of Mandrem that Helping Elsewhere has supported for the past 6 or so years.
We were made warmly welcome by the Headmistress, Jacinta, and Fr Dominic and the other members of the staff. At the beginning of the relationship with Helping Elsewhere, it was a school of 120 students, just a few dedicated teachers being paid one fifth of the average teachers wage, no Government recognition or funding and nothing more than the students and staff enthusiasm to hold it all together.
What we saw was a different story altogether. The school has a roll of 170 pupils up to standard 10 (our fifth form in the UK), the teachers are now being paid a living wage by the government and the school has been officially recognised by the Education Department. There is a library, a science lab, a computer room and classes full of enthusiastic, polite and charming students. They even refrained from going into hysterics when I said “thank you” in Hindi to the class. That’s polite!
We were also told that some very generous benefactors from the USA had donated funds for some more books for the library and some sports equipment.
However, this is not the end of the story. The school still has basic needs that the Government cannot provide and the one Helen was there to discuss was the installation of a intercom/tannoy system. There is no assembly hall at the school and as soon as the monsoon starts there is nowhere for all the pupils to gather as a group for the headmistress and Fr Dominic to hold assembly. The intercom system into all the classes would overcome this problem.
But because a 7 year old girl has just been raped whilst in school in central Goa, the Government has now decreed that all schools must be fitted urgently with CCTV to help protect the pupils. The Government is not putting up the money for this work though, the schools have to find the funds themselves. A system to cover the school and play ground will cost in the region of £2000. Not a vast amount of money by UK standards but by local Goan standards this is a monumental amount. Helping Elsewhere can provide about half the funds needed but the school management will have to raise the rest. I wish I was a rich man because if I was they would have the system tomorrow. Any rich people out there want to help these kids and keep them safe?????? …You know who to contact!
More to follow from me soon from another school Helping Elsewhere supports in Sirsi, Karnatika, just south of Goa.
Mon 21 Jan 2013
As I mentioned before, we now have a little flat as a base in a small village called Varca, nearly on the beach but not quite.
On the last flight over, I got to thinking that you might like a small insight into typical Goan village life (that is, not the tourist beaches). So here goes…
I shan’t bore you with travellers tales of the regular ‘commute’ from London – throwing ourselves across Europe, the Middle East and finally, the Arabian Sea; sitting not too cooped up in an elaborate cigar tube. It’s usually night-time on arrival these days, so you just have to imagine crossing the palm tree fringed coastline below as ‘home’ is neared.
Then it’s into running the gauntlet of porters, taxi drivers and the rest of human life that hangs out around airports. There’s one of our normal drivers and we’re on the way to the flat. The first thing you notice is the honking of horns – in India, cars, buses and trucks use a language of their own. ‘Thanks!’, ‘I’m coming past’, ‘Don’t pass, It’s not safe’, ‘After you!’, ‘Hello’ but very rarely ‘What the…’. Then you see the multiple-passenger mode of riding a scooter – dad steering, small child standing in front of him, mum sitting side-saddle holding babe in arms. Bonkers.
And there’s our first cows. They tend to roam free in India which means in the middle of the road, nosing unattended fruit stalls, ambling along the beach and, especially, on the edge of a market. They’re usually very docile, which means there’s no hurry to get out of the way of traffic, but drivers are used to it and do great slow zig-zag loops in the road with great humour. And now it’s a cut-through along a lane beside the paddy fields… and someone is drying their rice on a tarpaulin spread in the road. We sort of get past without ruining their crop though.
Home at last and all is quiet for a few hours. Dawn breaks and the calls/honks/bells begin. The newspapers, the bakers boy, the fish woman, the guy that sells plastic ware – they all come trailing past, advertising in their own way at pre-set times – who needs an alarm clock?
Oh, it’s that Saturday! The recyclers are due to call. Like many things in India, ‘Infrastructure’ can be somewhat patchy whilst provision catches up with an expanding economy from a near-zero base. So this is how we dispose of cardboard, bottles etc. A bit of parcelling up, a bit of negotiation (we made 10 rupees last time!) and its all on those bikes and being wheeled away.
If you’ve never been to India or you’ve never moved off the beaches of Goa, then we’ve usually got a spare room here. Come and see! We only charge the running costs but contributions to Helping Elsewhere are never turned down!!!
Sun 23 Dec 2012
Well, after much pulling and shoving (mainly of the, ummmm, huge chandelier in the Grand Banquetting Room of the Brighton Pavillion) our Gala Dinner has been rescheduled to take place on the 23rd March 2013. Put that date in your new diaries!
We’ve also been given some extra (very generous!) sponsorship by a special friend who insists on staying anonymous – and this means we’ve been able to reduce the ticket price to a much more manageable * £60 *. Anybody that has already paid the old price in full will, of course, be refunded the difference of £25.
All other details will stay the same – the same tour of the Pavillion, sparkling Regency entertainment and wonderful food in a glorious setting – at one of the few grand places in the UK that captures the vision of another Indiaphile!
Hopefully spring will have arrived in Brighton by then so the gardens will be full of new life, and the dinner takes place less than two weeks after Mother’s Day (10th March) so there’s something to potentially treat your mum to as well!
Our information page for this event has been updated and we’ll keep refreshing it as details firm up. Booking, contact and payment details are on there and we’ll always be glad to answer any questions by any means you can get them to us.
See you in Brighton!