Our new masthead. As the abbreviated ‘Venkat Trust’ is less cumbersome and used more often than ‘Venkatraman Memorial Trust’ we have adopted the shorter version.
May 2020
Every penny donated goes to the Venkat Trust. All UK costs are met by the trustees.
Update from Sylvia Holder, Founder Trustee
Newsletters should start with happy news, the latest projects and achievements. But not this time I’m afraid. Since I was in an untroubled Kovalam a few weeks ago, in other words a lifetime ago, the world has been turned on its head and we have been plunged into the horrors of Coronavirus.  

I hope that all of you and your friends and family are keeping safe and well.

India’s Coronavirus numbers have been kept in relative check, thanks probably to Prime Minister Modi’s speedy lockdown of the country, but inevitably cases are creeping up. The worry is that with a 1.3 billion population living cheek by jowl, things could easily become catastrophic.  
With the lockdown has come serious deprivation for the people of Kovalam.  No fishing: no income. Prices have risen and there are no school lunches to fall back on.   The Tamil Nadu Government has provided two payments of £10 to the poorest families but that is the only official help forthcoming.  Venkat Trust to the rescue. Thanks to donations we have already received from supporters, we have been able to arrange for the 2500 most needy families to receive 10 kgs of rice, a lifeline for them. Some fishing is now allowed but more help is badly needed. 

Any contributions to the Venkat Trust Coronavirus Hardship Fund would be very gratefully received and will ensure that none of the children go hungry.  Donations can be made online (Venkat Trust, 40-24-10, 11349406, reference Hardship Fund), via our website ( http://www.venkattrust.org.uk/how-you-can-help/make-a-donation ) , or by cheque to 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP. Thank you very much for any help you are able to give us at this very difficult time.

The first of three consignments of rice bags which were stored in the JR Community Hall.  
All aboard the Kovalam Express
The train standing at Kovalam Station is not going anywhere, alas, but let’s hope it will soon be chuffing its way around the village again. The model railway was a present from a supporter and has been a source of great delight to the children. Aarthi made the wonderful sea and beach, complete with fishing boats, and most of the buildings on the train’s scenic route - the High School, Primary School, church, temple, mosque – and the High School bus -have been made by the children. A winner!   
One good thing leads to another
We were delighted to be selected for an award of £7,500 by INTO Giving, a global charity which supports educational projects in the developing world.  It focuses particularly on projects that support girls’ education and its staff in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the UK were invited to nominate projects of their choice. Our application was for university scholarships for six of our girls and we were thrilled when we were selected, as will be the lucky winners.  Because of lockdown, we are still waiting for results of the end-of-school exams before the selection can be made, based on academic ability, financial need and good character. We are very grateful to INTO Giving for this wonderful opportunity. 

We’re also grateful to them for another project. As a result of INTO Giving becoming familiar with our story,, they chose Kovalam to make a promotional film for the use of their offices around the world. INTO Giving director Chris Walker, cameraman Chris Goulden and two members of the international team, Vanessa Girling and Emily Harmon, spent a week shooting VMT projects and village life and the six-minute clip has been acclaimed.   Here it is: 
INTO Giving are very kindly allowing us to use their footage to put together our own promotional video and Chris Goulden will be editing it for us. Coronavirus permitting, it will be shown at the rescheduled Curry Lunch on 18 October.  
English spoken here
Our new English language lab is a great success. There’s always the fear that interest will fade after the initial enthusiasm for something new but it hasn’t wavered and we are getting some very good results. Venkatesh comes from an illiterate tribe and had had no schooling until he joined the Primary School this year. Given his background, he would have been expected to struggle with all subjects, let alone a foreign language, but he loves his lessons in the lab and is already speaking English well and able to answer questions and operate the software.  Although Kethural is a bright pupil at the High School she always struggled with English and was barely able to speak one word – until the lab did its magic. She’s progressed by leaps and bounds and now speaks and answers questions with confidence. Another winner!  
Howzat girls?
The last bastion has fallen. The girls are playing cricket. Two boys look on incredulously at their pitch hijacked by the girls. It’s just not cricket! The enthusiastic girls are progressing well under the coaching of Ali who is encouraged by their batting and fielding “but their bowling needs to improve”.  When they’re up to speed they’ll need to seek out private schools for matches as, another First for the Venkat Trust, we’re the only Government high school in Tamil Nadu to have a girls’ cricket team.  
What does the Venkat Trust mean to you?
The spotlight for this issue’s “What does the Venkat Trust mean to you” falls on Trustee John Whelan and his fiancée Alex Smallman.

Thank God my house needed painting.  Otherwise, I would never have met two remarkable people whose contribution to the Venkat Trust has been exceptional.

Eight years ago John came into my life wielding paints and brushes.  When I told him about the Venkat Trust he offered to go to Kovalam for a week to smarten up the Primary School.   It was his Road to Damascus moment. “On the day I stepped foot in the village, my life changed for ever” he said. “When I saw the poverty in the village, overnight I became a different man, aware and grateful for all I had, and determined to do whatever I could through sponsorship, help in the village and fund raising for the village. Instead of a me, me, me attitude to life, I saw life in another perspective and I had a vision for the future I never had before.

“I was so pleased and proud when Sylvia asked me to be a trustee and Kovalam has become a very important part of my life. I simply love it and, in spite of the language barrier, I have made lifelong friends and have enormous respect for everyone in the village – their way of life and how they cope with such hardship. Despite their poverty, they are cheerful and friendly with strong family values”.    

Enter Alex into John’s life – a bundle of dynamic energy programmed to help others. She told me what the Venkat Trust meant to her: “When John told me about his involvement as a trustee with the Venkat Trust I could see a beautiful future supporting something very special. I think it’s very important to have something in your life that’s for others and the Venkat Trust is the place for my time and energy. It makes me feel excited, humble, grateful and extremely privileged to be able to give back to others, filling a place in my heart like no other. The work of Sylvia, the trustees, the people on the ground in India is nothing short of amazing and it means the world to me to be able to play a part in making such an impact”.

Alex runs a fitness movement - the “Uber Mummies” - and her enthusiasm for the Trust has rubbed off on them to the extent that they raise thousands of pounds every year for us running in the Brighton Half Marathon.

For me, the best thing of all is to know that the Venkat Trust will be in good hands in the years to come with dedicated teams - the still youthful JR and team in Kovalam and John and Alex in the UK, both in their thirties. The future looks bright.

Note: John and Alex are getting married in October and later they are planning a wedding party in Kovalam for their UK and village friends. We wish them every happiness in the years to come.
John and Alex with one of John’s sponsored children.
In the “What the Venkat Trust means to me” item in the next Newsletter I would like to include some contributions from our supporters. I believe we have the most loyal and generous supporters any charity could hope to have and I’d like to know what particularly appeals to you about us. Or, indeed, anything that doesn’t appeal to you. Please send your thoughts to info@venkattrust.org.uk or by post to Venkat Trust, 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP.
Thank you
Our thanks to everyone who has organised fund-raising events for us and sent us money in lieu of giving Christmas presents and cards. I’d just like to make special mention of the 12 Uber Mummies (see “What the Venkat Trust means to me”) who in the filthiest weather imaginable completed the gruelling 13.1 miles Brighton Half Marathon in February and raised £8,500! Bravo! Thanks, too, to the band of brave supporters who were almost blown away on Hove’s seafront as they cheered on the runners.         

I’d also like to thank Sandra Huggett for the help she gives VMT keeping the accounts up to date, the Expat Academy for the design and distribution of the newsletter, Georgina Dunn for the design of our new masthead and supporter John Sargent of Image Studio who took some of the pictures in this newsletter on his February visit to Kovalam. 
Curry Lunch
We all hope so much that life will have returned to near normal by October 18 and we can put the horrors of the Coronavirus behind us and enjoy getting together over lunch. I will send details out as soon as we’ve had the all clear. I hope very much to see you then.

Meanwhile keep safe, keep well.
There's nothing like a good old giggle.
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