The Venkatraman Memorial Trust
October 2019

Every penny donated goes to the Venkat Trust. All UK costs are met by the trustees.
Update from Sylvia Holder, Founder Trustee
Another first for VMT – The English Language Audio Visual Laboratory
Another notch, a big one, on our belt: we are now the proud possessor of an English language audio visual laboratory, an amazing piece of kit. Trustee John and I spent a very instructive morning finding out its whys and wherefores and were immensely impressed. We think the children will benefit hugely from this enjoyable and very effective way of teaching them spoken and written English.  The lab has been installed in the Janakiraman Community Hall and lessons for primary and high school pupils are included in their curriculum. All will start with the easiest lesson and progress through eight modules at their own speed. They each have their own monitor and earphones and the specially trained teacher can speak to them individually or collectively.  
The lab has been kindly donated by two benefactors, James Morton and The Peter Cundill Foundation, for which we are very grateful. It is a truly wonderful gift which will be of great benefit to all the children. 
Now we are Six
The High School celebrated its sixth birthday this year.  It’s been a winner since day one and, not surprisingly, its reputation is spreading. The students thrive in a happy and stimulating atmosphere which encourages good academic, vocational and sporting achievements. 

Supporters who have been with us for several years will remember our frustration at the endless delays in getting the Government’s green light to start building the school, despite it being a joint Government/Venkat Trust project. Bureaucracy reigned for 2½ long years but we finally got the ubiquitous rubber stamp to go ahead. The actual building of the school was mercifully in our hands and thanks to JR and Ali, it shot up in nine months and the gates were opened to its first pupils in January 2013.  
There are 5,705 Government high schools in Tamil Nadu and we probably top the list in terms of our facilities. I did a recce of some other Government high schools in neighbouring villages and judging by them, there’s no contest. Sadly, the Government is not investing enough in its schools; walls hadn’t seen a paintbrush for decades and the important stuff – science labs, libraries, computer facilities, sports etc. were of a minimum standard. 

Happily for us, our classes are smaller, we provide more teachers, have a state-of-the-art science lab, a 5500 book library, a music room and two snooker tables. And a bus providing safety to and from the school. Our poorer students are sponsored and the academically bright have the chance to win university scholarships. We offer a variety of sporting activities on our well-kept sports ground and our cricketers have practice nets and a bowling machine to hone their skills. 

Most of our pupils come from poor homes, many of them sponsored, so it’s satisfying to know that for once disadvantaged children are ahead of the game and getting the excellent education they deserve. Thanks to you, our wonderful supporters, we have a blue riband school for our children of which you can be very proud. 

Third party endorsement comes from the Indian TV news channel Sun News, whose story about the school was seen nationwide and could also be viewed on their world-wide channels. You can see it on our website at
News has just come in that two of our High School pupils, Gopal Krishna Mohanta and Sanjay, beat 114 other schools to win first prize in the Maths section of a Maths and Science Exhibition. Congratulations to them for their top award Clinometer for measuring angles.  
What does the Venkat Trust mean to you?

Flanked by pupils, Mr Chandrasekar stands proudly on the steps of ‘our school’ on the very first day. "
Continuing our regular “What does the Venkat Trust mean to you?” column, I asked Mr Chandrasekar, the first headmaster of the High School, for his thoughts which emphatically endorsed my comments above. “Without doubt” he said, “our high school is the best in Tamil Nadu”. It was touching that during my chat with him he constantly referred to the school as ‘our school’ despite having left us some time ago for the dizzier heights of schools’ inspector. As a consummate headteacher liked and respected by students and staff, he left an indelible mark on the school. He and VMT were an excellent team working together to create a very caring, welfare-conscious school, determined that each child, be they academically inclined or not, should have the opportunity to reach their potential. Their achievements are testament to that. 
Mr Chandrasekar has an ear to everything going on in the world of education and told me that everyone is talking about the school. “Headmasters are anxious to see it and many teachers would like to teach there” he said.  “I’m very well known in the district but not because I’m an inspector. It’s because I was headmaster of ‘our school’.”

And that is what the Venkat Trust means to our erstwhile and much missed headmaster. 
Success of sponsored children
In a few years’ time our alumni should include a brain surgeon, naval officer, lawyer, medical technologist, several engineers and lots in other professions. We currently have 72 sponsored ‘children’ at university and other colleges, our best tally so far, and among them we have some exceptional students.   

Our medical technologist and lawyer to-be are a wonderful example of triumph over appalling adversity. Shipana and Sulayka Banu are sisters who were living in Chennai when they were orphaned in the Tsunami aged just 5 and 3. A peripatetic childhood with various relatives followed this tragedy until, still schoolgirls, they made their way to Kovalam with an older sister and enrolled at the High School. That was their lucky day as they were taken under the wing of the Venkat Trust and have wonderful sponsors. Shipana is in her third year of a medical technology degree and Sulayka Banu is in her first year reading law at a very prestigious Government college where only those with excellent exam results are admitted. 
Fisherman’s son Muthumani is in his final year at AMET naval college which attracts applicants from the whole of India for its very limited number of places. He will graduate next year and after further exams become a fully fledged naval officer with an exciting life at sea ahead of him.
Muthumani has an exciting life at sea ahead of him.
And then there’s Sanjay, a tuktuk driver’s son, in his first year at a prestigious Government teaching hospital where medical places are like gold dust. Bursting with brains and personality, his ambition is to be neurologist. And I have no doubt a neurologist he will be.

Without sponsorship it’s unlikely that many if any of the 72 would now be in further education. Their future would have been bleak, their earning capacity minimal and poverty would have continued its wretched cycle.  
Music lessons
Music lessons have now been added to extra curricular activities at the High School and are proving very popular. Ten pupils at a time can take part and enjoy learning to read music and play a variety of instruments – keyboard, guitar, saxophone, drums and Indian and Western flutes.  
Supporters' fund raising

Gwyneth with her Pointless Trophy
The most welcome fund raising efforts by our supporters include Gwyneth Powell’s prize of £250 for almost winning in the BBC’s Pointless Celebrities. The show featured some of the characters in the long-running 1980’s soap opera, Grange Hill, in which Gwyneth starred as the headmistress Mrs.McClusky. She kindly nominated the Venkat Trust to be the beneficiary which, of course, got a mention from Alexander Armstrong. Roger Pennington took part in Ride London, pedalling his way around the capital for 100 miles, Tamsin Matheson held a barbecue in Scotland, once again Kevin Ross undertook a sponsored walk and Expat Academy held a raffle at their annual conference. Very many thanks to you all. All your contributions have been very gratefully received.
Even the washing machine is decorated with flowers
JR and Aarthi taking part in the festival
The Hindus love their festivals and hardly a week goes by without one. I took part in the Ayudha Pooja which means the worship of instruments. Cars, buses, tuktuks, tools, musical instruments, books and even washing machines (not many in Kovalam) are venerated and adorned with flowers and banana leaves. The courtyard of the Janakiraman Community Hall was decorated with fruit, rice, sweets, books and car keys to honour Saraswathi, the goddess of education and instruments.  
Christmas Shopping List
As our undergraduate and postgrad numbers increase, so too, of course, do our costs. Contributions to our university fund to help pay students’ fees would be very much appreciated. 

As ever more sponsors are needed as there are always more deprived children desperately hoping for sponsorship. See our website f or more details.

Standing orders to go towards our general costs are always very welcome.
Thank you for any further help you can give us – and thank you for the help you already give us.
VMT Achievements
1 High School for 1000 pupils, 2 Primary School buildings - The Ganesh Building and Dining Hall, 1 Janakiraman Community Hall, 72 undergraduates and postgraduates, 63 graduates, 400 sponsored children, 80 subsidised students at the Primary School, 2 sports grounds, 1 cricket bowling machine and nets, 2 English teachers, 1 Tamil Teacher, 2 PE Teachers, 1 IT teacher, 1 Snooker Room, 2 snooker tables, snooker coach, 1 English language audio/visual lab and teacher, 1 Music Room and music teacher, 13 desktop computers and 16 laptops, 5500 books at High School library, libraries at Primary School and Community Hall, 1 fully equipped science lab, 1 bus for the High School, 850 sets of uniforms twice a year, 300 pairs of sandals and school bags, 2200 sets of text books and stationery twice a year, 1 LCD projector at High School, 2 electricity generators, 3 children’s excursions a year, Lots of wells, walls, water pumps, desks and benches, tables, lockers, fans …
And Please Note...
A reminder:   our PO Box number is now obsolete and all mail should now be sent to our office at 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP.
About Us
When the Venkat Trust was set up in 2004, the only free education for the children of Kovalam, a poor fishing village near Chennai, was a dilapidated primary school. It has since been transformed into a village of educational excellence, offering opportunities for all its children and young people to realise their potential and see an end to the poverty which has blighted their families for generations.
DONATIONS are very gratefully received and are always put to excellent use in Kovalam. They can be sent by cheque to 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP, online to Venkat Trust, sort code 40-24-10, account number 11349406 or through our website, . Sponsorship enquiries should be sent to [email protected]
Special Thanks
Our thanks go to Expat Academy for the printing and distribution of our newsletters and Sandra Huggett for her admirable administrative help.
The Venkatraman Memorial Trust is a registered charity No.1104363
12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP
| Tel: 01273 719362
| e-mail:  [email protected] | website:
UK Trustees: Sylvia Holder, Lindsay Swan, Sarah Da Silva, Nick Goslett, John Whelan
Kovalam Trustees: Janakiraman (JR), M. Ali