More publicity!

Posted by Helen 
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Our name in Sussex does seem to be spreading – we seem to be featured in quite a few newspapers and magazines this year! The most important part of this recognition is that it is definitely driving people towards our little shop in Cobblestone Walk, Steyning, which means we are raising more funds for our Indian projects. The embarrassing part of this is that I keep being recognised by people in the street (what would the young fame-crazed starlets of today give for that?), but that does mean of course that I get the opportunity to wax lyrical about Goa to a whole new audience.

So the latest edition to hit the stands is ‘Etc Magazine’, a really good glossy that is given away all over Sussex (they have other editions for other Southern Counties – check it out when you can). We got a full colour double-page spread and they really seemed to ‘get’ what Helping Elsewhere does. And a photo of Tracey and me that I’m not too ashamed to show people!


Here’s a link to a PDF of the Etc Magazine article so you can read for yourself.

PS I believe another journo from The Herald (editions all over the South Coast) is currently writing us up as well. I’ll post a link if we get it before we decamp over to Goa (very soon, yippee!).


Onwards and upwards…

Posted by Helen 
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At the very same time as the awful news laid out in our last post, we were also celebrating the grand opening of our new space at Cobblestone Walk – life is strange sometimes.

So one year on from when we arrived in our little corner of Steyning, we have EXPANDED!!! We are now in a proper little shop just a few doors down.

Tracey in the new shop!

Our opening was in two parts – we had a ‘press day’ and got heavily interviewed by the publishers of the West Sussex County Times (see their story and a little video they shot here… Steyning shop helps Indian slums) and Etc Magazine and then we officially opened for business on the Saturday when Tracey and I dressed up in our finest Indian glad-rags and handed out Indian sweets to all and sundry. We had a fabulous couple of days with lots of visitors, old and new, in perfect weather.

Inside with friends

And we didn’t do it alone! Hayley Simmons (daughter of Wendie who runs The Faerie Cottage next door) and her friend Charlotte Atkin (with the not inconsequential help of Hayley’s brother Max!) ran a tombola – and managed to raise enough to put an Indian child through school for a year. Huge thanks and doffing of caps to all three of you for a superb effort!

Tombola at the Faerie Cottage

Very sad times in Mandrem

Posted by Helen 
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Last Monday we had an absolutely terrible call from our friend, Barbara, in Goa.

Jacinta Fernandes, the wonderful and talented headmistress of Our Lady of Rosary School in Mandrem had been sadly killed in a road traffic accident as she made her way home from the school.

Some of you had met her, all of you have read on this blog how much we thought of her.


Jacinta was first introduced to us about eight years ago and single-handedly inspired the start of our Helping Elsewhere journey. Although maybe she needed some help with a bit of our funding, she was the lady that made our little school fly. She encouraged pupils to fulfil their potential whether it was educational, personal or spiritual.

She also had time in her busy life to work with youth projects in Mapusa (the chief town of North Goa) outside of school times. She was a wife and mother too.

Saying people are irreplaceable is often overused, but in Jacinta’s case I truly believe that is true. She will be severely missed by everyone.

Helping Elsewhere will be donating a set of encyclopedias in Jacinta’s memory to the school as I know it was her dream to have a full set in their library. Donations are of course welcome for this special ring-fenced project.

RIP Jacinta.



The Gallery – First Birthday

Posted by Helen 
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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, Steyning

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.


Amazing Exam Success

Posted by Helen 
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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.

Kids at Mandrem

The Brighton Pavilion Event

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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!

Brighton Collage 1

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…

Brighton Collage 2

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!

Brighton Collage 3

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!


The power of books…

Posted by Helen 
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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.

Give a Book at Sirsi

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!



Sirsi and beyond

Posted by Helen 
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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.

Culture and Self Expression thru Dance

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.


Another take on Sirsi…

Posted by Pete - Guest Blogger 
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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.

Father Avin at Sirsi

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.

Kids at Sirsi

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!


CCTV in Mandrem School

Posted by Helen 
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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.

Protecting Goan Kids

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.


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