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Latest news and project updates from Lotus Flower Trust - January 2015

Lotus Flower's New Year News

Very many thanks to all our supporters for your generous donations and amazing work fundraising in 2014 - your achievements are changing children's lives. They really are! We have now opened 23 homes for disadvantaged children - many of them groundbreaking and acting as catalysts to give access to education to even more children. At the end of 2014, members of the Trust travelled to North India to visit all Lotus Flower's projects outside of Ladakh. CEO John Hunt covered more than 8,500 miles in 21 days! Read below to discover all the latest news. Many thanks again and here's to helping even more children in 2015...

More than a Whistle Stop

Janet Sheed Roberts Residential School for Special Needs Children, Ramnagar, funded by Women In Travel (WiT): Chair of Trustees, Sarah Branquinho, Trustee and President of the Tax Free World Association, Erik Juul-Mortensen and Trust CEO John Hunt, visited our groundbreaking school in December last year. On arrival they were met by a long clapping line of all the children from the JSR School. They looked healthy and happy in their bright school uniforms and had notably put on weight. The team spoke to each child before being shown the school's interior recently adorned with huge colourful wall murals painted by children from the adjacent Intercollege. Along with the images were meaningful messages like Save the Tigers, Look After Girls and many more. 

The Trustees were particularly moved to see the JSR students 'music therapy' session run each day by two dedicated girls from the Intercollege. It was touching to see the children with their varying special needs performing Bollywood dance routines under the smiling gaze of a picture of the home's namesake, Janet Sheed Roberts. One little girl has learned to walk and joined in the dancing without her wheelchair! We are hoping to install handrails in the building for her and others to use. 



The children from the Intercollege were also in charge of buying and wrapping 51 Christmas presents for the JSR students with money donated to the Trust by Gerry Munday. The close and caring relationship between the two schools is warming and inspirational and we are all so proud to be a part of this very unique and special family.

The team brought a number of footballs, kindly donated to the Trust by Tina and Maurice from Bournemouth, and had great fun pumping them up with the children. Remarkably, when our photographer Philip Dean blew the football whistle, two of the deaf children's faces lit up indicating they could hear the noise! We are planning to take these 'deaf' children and two others to Delhi to get them properly assessed in case they can be helped to hear with hearing aids.

There is still an urgent need for two teachers - one with special needs training and another to teach the blind and deaf children. Please do Contact Us if you have any expertise in this area and can offer help.

We are now raising funds to build a Skills Centre on the roof of the JSR building. When the children reach the age of 17 they will be faced with having to make lives for themselves in the outside world. Skills learned in the Centre will prepare them for this. The cost of this project is £36,000.

Slum Kids Relocate! 

Brahmaputra Home for Railway Children, Guwahati, Assam, funded by TFWA Care, the Evan Cornish Foundation, The MacAndrew Trust, Dorfred Trust and many other generous individual sponsors: we visited Number 2 Slum - the original home of the first 25 children we have now rehoused. It is utterly appalling that humans are allowed to live in these desperate conditions along the side of the railway tracks. The first little boy we saw was in school uniform. He ran over to say, "Hello John, how are you?" All have remembered the promise we have made to them to try and help improve the lives of these families. We then spoke to some of the mothers, and to children who are about to move to the home.

We need funds to build a second storey, as well as staff quarters, a permanent kitchen and storage facilities, so that we can make room for a total of 100 children and continue to help more move away from the dreadful conditions in the slums. The cost of this project is £24,000. 

Whilst visiting the project, the Trustees met with sSTEP, the NGO managing the project, Action Aid who have promised us they will help, as well as the local village elder (Sar Panch), the Child Protection Officer and others. With more funding, this little acorn will grow into an oak tree and help to move more children away from the slums and hopefully inspire more homes just like it. 

New Extension at Berinaag

Ambedkar Ardash Middle School, Berinaag, Uttrakhand, funded by TFWA Care: A very sturdy extension built of Indian style breeze blocks has been made on site. The construction has sunken supports and earthquake foundations. There is also a deep concrete tank to collect rain water which will be pumped into the school for toilets and washing.

The school now accommodates 250 children from scheduled castes and tribes, plus orphans and semi-orphans. The numbers will increase to 300 but the Amedkar Ardash Society tell us there is still a need for many more! There are only eight teachers, all paid by the Government, but when the building has been completed, the Society can apply for more.

During our visit, there was a Bhoomie Puja foundation stone ceremony for the school's extension. For such a poor community, this celebration, which included the children singing and dancing in traditional dress, was truly delightful. Almost all the school children and 30 adults attended which is amazing for a community who live dotted around the hillsides.

There are 15 destitute women, between the age of 20 - 35, with their children, living overnight in five of the classrooms. The Trust hopes to fund purpose built rooms for the ladies which could release the rooms they are using as classrooms. The ladies vacate the rooms during the day when the children come to school, but their beds and belongings are still stored here, taking up most of the space.

To be opened in 2015

Satyam Shivam Sundram Skills Centre, Rajasthan, funded by CBD Charitable Trust
Ram Tirth Vidyalaya School, Uttrakhand, funded by TFWA Care
Ambedkar Ardarsh School, Uttrakhand, funded by TFWA Care
Paravaour Primary School, Tamil Nadu, funded by BSkyB staff in the UK, Mumbai and Bangalore
Plus a number of Anganwadi
 

Projects in Need of Funding

Women's Refuge, Ambedkar Ardarsh, Berinaag, Uttrakhand - A refuge for women, releasing five classrooms for school extension. Cost £54,000.
Skills Centre for JSR Residential School, Ramnagar, Uttrakhand - Children will be taught life and vocational skills to use after leaving school. Cost £36,000.
Brahmaputra Home for Railway Children, Guwahati, Assam, Second Phase - The construction of further living accommodation. Cost £24,000.

Girls Residential Accommodation for Middle School Pupils, Nyoma, Ladakh - Nyoma is a small village on the Changthang Plain, one of the remotest places in India and the Himalayas. The children who attend the residential Middle School and Intercollege in Nyoma come from mountain villages. The girls attending the Middle School used to live in an old 1960s tin building which has become unsafe. They are living temporarily in a hostel meant for villagers who come to visit Nyoma from remote areas. The girls need purpose built accommodation.  Cost £66,000.

Anganwadi/Kindergartens, Ladakh - We continue to fund the construction of these much needed education facilities for very young children. Cost per Anganwadi £10,000.

 
If you feel you might be able to help us financially with any the above projects, please Contact Us or Donate here.

Okhalkanda Officially Opened!

Okhalkanda Girls' Home, Nanital, Uttrakhand, funded by TFWA Care: A wonderful drive across a mountain ridge with a panoramic view of the Himalayas, then down into the valley on a bendy road to the river brought us to the remote village of Okhalkanda where we have funded the construction of a large extension to the home for 105 girls.

We were met by senior girls in traditional dress with a band of 30 or more marching and playing drums, pipes and bells. We were literally carried along with the procession through the village lined with residents on roofs. With a deal of help, we scaled the long, steep, zigzag path up to the girls' home which is a truly wonderful spectacle to behold. White, with blue windows and doors, it is perched high on the hillside which has been cut into to make room for the building.

With funds left over from the build, three computers have been provided, a number of sewing machines and three-tiered bunk-beds for all the girls to sleep on.

The opening ceremony itself was as moving as our welcome, with speeches, dancing and singing... all the Trustees were overwhelmed by the experience and the impact the project has had on the girls and the community. 

Staff Quarters for Salt Workers

Ashram Shala Savada Staff Accommodation, Little Rann of Katchchh, Gujarat, funded by TFWA Care: We found the residential school, opened in 2013, to be in excellent order. It was clean, tidy and obviously well run by the teachers. The new staff quarters are almost finished with just plastering and paintwork to be done. After speeches, Trustee Erik Juul-Mortensen cut the tape to officially open the new staff accommodation.

There are now 70 children here, all looking bright and clean in their uniforms. But many of the children have discoloured hair, it is thought due to the impurities - primarily excess salt - in the water. If tests confirm this, we will fund and install a water purification plant for the school.

It is amazing to think that the first time CEO John Hunt discovered the plight of the 'Bakshi Panch' salt workers and the dreadful conditions in which they live, was 12 years ago. Now there is a wonderful home for these beautiful children, who now have the chance to better their prospects and break away from their harsh lives on the salt flats.

Tamil Nadu looks Skyward 

Paravaour Primary School, Tamil Nadu, funded by staff of BSkyB in the UK, Mumbai and Bangalore: A new project has been set up working with staff of BSkyB UK, Mumbai and Bangalore. This team is funding a new school for children in Paravaour and adjacent villages. Currently, children here do not have a proper school to go to and because they are 'dalit' castes, their prospects are very poor, particularly if you are a girl. This new school is going to revolutionise the childrens' lives.

CEO John Hunt and Philip Dean, our photographer, whose photos illustrate this newsletter, met with villagers and their local authorities. The children are very excited indeed about the prospect of a new school, as were their mothers. It is hoped construction will start in March and a team from BSkyB will come and work on site with the local villagers and builders.

Skills Centre Opened!

Women and Girls Community Hall and Skills Centre, Nua Village, Jhunjhunun, Rajasthan, funded by CBD Charitable Trust: The building is not quite finished but under the supervision of Mr Amar Dabas, it is certainly one of the most well constructed projects we have achieved. The 100 or more women and girls who attended the opening event in their beautiful saris were very happy about the opportunities the Skills Centre will give them and there was considerable media coverage. Vibhar Khetan, Deputy Registrar of the Dept of Cooperatives, Rajasthan, will be assisting with the marketing of the products made at the centre, and Mr Mani Ram, General Manager of the District Industries Centre, Jhunjhunun, has also offered support. Both were very grateful for the work the Trust is carrying out in the community.

Kalu Siddi and Lalitpur

Kalu Siddi Primary School, Ramnagar, sponsored by DFNI Ball: The team was very pleased to see the school running so well after almost five years. There is a lovely new headmistress working at the school and 53 children from very poor families, most of them road labourers, attending.

Lalitpur Primary School, Ramnagar, sponsored by DFNI Charity Ball: The team found 73 pupils and the same excellent Headmistress and Deputy still in attendance here. The school has a deaf and dumb child who would benefit from a move to the JSR School, and several destitute children who receive vital support at the school along with a daily meal to sustain them.

Lotus Flower Trust Team

Chair of Trustees - Sarah Branquinho; Trustees - Dr Ann Hunt, Erik Juul-Mortensen, Dr Jamie Hill, John Wilbourn, Richard Wollaston; CEO - John Hunt; Photography - Philip Dean; Public Relations - Laura Cowdery; Finance - Becky Hamilton-Ross.

A Very Big Thank you!

On behalf of the children with whom the Lotus Flower Trust works, we would like to say a big thank you to all of the businesses, trusts and individuals who have contributed to changing their lives. We can assure you that through the smiles and laughter that we experience at every project opening, all the children are very grateful for what you have done for them. Through your generous help, we have now completed 23 projects in the past six years. We have much more to achieve and desperately need your help.
 
If you feel you might be able to help us financially with any the above projects, please Contact Us or Donate here.

Don't forget to look at our website to find lots of new photographs and up-to-date project information.
To see more images, find out about projects, how to help or even join us on a life-changing trip to India, visit www.lotusflowertrust.org or email johnhuntnfo@lotusflowertrust.org.

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