May 2022

 Every penny donated goes to the Venkat Trust. All UK costs are met by the Trustees
Update from Sylvia Holder, Founder Trustee
Happy Times in Kovalam
At last I made it there. My first attempt to go in January was foiled just days before take off when increased Covid restrictions imposed by the Tamil Nadu Government put paid to that idea.
Finally, three months later, I was away, together with fellow trustee Lindsay and UK sponsorship coordinator Emma.  What awaited us was far beyond expectations as we had feared it would take time for things to settle down after such a long break during the pandemic. Instead, the Venkat Trust was fairly buzzing, the school children and the university students obviously delighted to be back at their schools and colleges. Our first stop was the Janakiraman Hall to visit the sponsored children at their Sunday get together. We had a rousing “Welcome, we missed you” from hundreds of our delightful kids, some of them grown up beyond recognition. What a (tear jerking) start to our return and their delight at normal life being resumed was evident. The upper floor was in full swing too. Every seat in the English lab was taken and the students were piling into the University Club which had barely opened before Covid closed it. The sound of a flute and keyboard were wafting from the music room. A wonderful start to the long awaited visit.
The next day we went to our recently promoted Higher Secondary School to meet the new headmaster, teachers and more than 400 new students! It was thrilling to go from classroom to classroom, bulging at the seams until the new block of 12 classrooms is built. I'd hoped to tell you that it was well on its way to completion but unfortunately the JCB revealed that the planned foundations would not be suitable for a three-storey building. Back to the drawing board. As the Government had to approve the new plans, bureaucracy inevitably had its way and we had to wait patiently (impatiently in my case) for their nod. Building has now started and good progress is being made. Meanwhile and close to completion is a block of six “temporary” (but likely to last many years) classrooms which will give the students adequate accommodation in the interim.
The Primary School where we also had a wonderful welcome – a march to the strains of Colonel Bogey - has also increased its numbers by more than 50 per cent. The children are simply adorable and all learning well as are the toddlers in the Kindergarten, some of them only just born before the shutters came down on our visits.
When the District Collector laid the foundation stone for the Higher Secondary School’s extension, he wrote in the Trust’s visitors’ book
 It's an honour to visit this school where such great learning and extra curriculum activities are undertaken by the Venkat Trust, PTA and school management. My best wishes to all the future endeavours of this school. Let this school be an example to other government schools in the District to excel”.
He also gave instructions to the Chief Education Officer to “take special care of the school as it has all the facilities to excel at state level”.
There are 2550 higher secondary schools in Tamil Nadu and we’re on our way to the top, ensuring as we progress that all disadvantaged children are given the same opportunities as anyone else. 
Casting our catchment area net further afield
The Trust is now the proud owner of two school buses which have enabled us to provide a school run for many of our students who live in the outlying villages. We went along for the early morning ride, initially the bus’s only occupants but soon, after numerous pick up points, there was standing room only.
Some of our graduates, now busy pursuing successful careers, delighted us with their visits to see us. Our man-about-town, Kather Mytheen, now sporting a bright orange motor bike, has an excellent job with Cognizant, the global technology company. For him and his family this has meant a move from their one room house to two bedrooms with running water and sanitation and his father no longer needs to work. Engineer Uthaya Kumar’s father was killed before he was born and his mother struggled to provide for them by working in a clothing factory in Chennai year in and year out. No more, she is now a very happy housewife, thanks to her son’s earning capacity. Our naval officer, Muthumani, is making his mark. After a year away sailing the seven seas, he is back on dry land for six months to study further, specialising in safety, and will then set sail again, this time with the rank of Third Officer. Shipana, one of two sisters orphaned in the Tsunami, was always a shy girl with little confidence. Now she’s a happy extrovert. She bounded up to us and in excellent English, told us all about her job in a Chennai hospital as a scrub nurse and Cath lab technician. What a joy to see these young people seeing their dreams become reality. Our job is to educate them. They’ll do the rest.
Kather Mytheen - from Primary School boy to Man-about-Town
English spoken here
There’s been a huge improvement generally in spoken English, for which the English language lab takes the honours. Lela, one of IntoGiving’s university scholarship students, sent me a lovely card explaining her experience in the lab: “I have learned so many things in this spoken English class. It’s very useful for us, before the English class I was not good at English. Now I can speak English fluently and confidently. In my college also I can speak English more confidently and nicely, without fear”.
The six very happy undergraduates awarded scholarships by IntoGiving. Lela is in the front row, right
Hampstead School adopts us as their charity
We were delighted to be adopted by the South Hampstead Junior School, a member of the Girls’ Day School Trust, as their charity for the 2021-22 school year. Lindsay and I visited them in November to tell them about VMT and how they could help. They’ve already raised money for our Primary School and there are more fund-raising activities to come. We’re planning on another visit to Hampstead soon, this time to include parents who we hope will have deep pockets! We’re very grateful to the supporter who recommended us for the school’s charity of the year.
Our Coming of Age
We’re working on an online leaflet to commemorate our Coming of Age – it’s 18 years since the Venkat Trust was set up and our achievements will be shown in a series of photographs. Ours really is an acorn to oak tree story, thanks to dedicated VMT teams in Kovalam and the UK and, of course, our generous supporters. You have made it possible to turn a poor Indian fishing village, bereft of any schools or further education after the age of 12, into a tower of educational excellence. By the next academic year we’ll have 1000 pupils at our Higher Secondary School, 75 at university and 400 sponsored children. Hurrah for us all!
Join us in Kovalam in January 2023
I’ll be back in Kovalam in January with other UK trustees and we’d be delighted if you could join us for our Coming of Age Open Weekend from 21 – 23 January. This will be a more informal gathering than my Birthday Bash in 2019 to give you more flexibility. We’ll leave travel and hotel arrangements to you, but will, of course, give you suggestions and hopefully offer reduced hotel prices. We’ll arrange visits to the schools and sponsored children’s activities and arrange for you to see your sponsored children - and there’ll doubtless be impromptu get togethers for meals. We’ll also organise a barbecue on the beach.  I hope our Open Weekend will be of interest to those of you who haven’t yet visited Kovalam as well as those keen for a return visit.
Further details will be sent in due course but in the meantime please drop me a brief e-mail ([email protected]) if you’re interested in joining us for another supporters’ happy weekend. 
DONATIONS are very gratefully received and every penny you send will be put to excellent use in Kovalam. They can be paid online to Venkat Trust, sort code 40-24-10, account number 11349406, through our website or by cheque to 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP.

Sponsorship enquiries should be sent to Aarthi at [email protected].  


Our thanks go to Expat Academy for the printing and distribution of our newsletters, Sandra Huggett for administrative help and Georgina Dunn for designing our Coming of Age leaflet.
The Venkat Trust is a registered charity No.1104363
The Venkat Trust, 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP
Tel: 01273 719362
UK Trustees: Sylvia Holder, Lindsay Swan, Sarah Da Silva, Nick Goslett, John Whelan
Kovalam Trustees: Janakiraman (JR), M. Ali