Friday, 30 July 2010

Lighting Candles in K.V.Kuppam

As many of you will know, Bishopston Trading Company grew out of a twinning link that was established in 1978 between the area of Bishopston in Bristol and the South Indian village of K.V.Kuppam. The twinning link is still going strong, and two of its most active members are Sally Whittingham and Pam Morris. Here is something Pam recently wrote for us about one of the projects she runs.

The One Candle Project

“In our village so many poor people are not able to study. Parents have so many dreams about their children’s future. They can only able to dream because they are very poor, but now because of you they are fulfilling their dreams........ Not only you’re fulfilling their dreams, actually you’re fulfilling their golden dreams because you are giving a very good education in English Medium........You people have a place in our heart.”

(Extract from a letter from Balaji who lives in Seetharamanpet village and is a member of the One Candle Fund committee)

In 2004 my husband Brian and I spent several months in the K V Kuppam area, researching many aspects of daily life in order to produce our web site

Whilst carrying out our research, we made friends with a large number of families. We were shown great hospitality and were privileged to hear about the hopes and fears of these families, both from parents and children. Over time, we began to hear more and more distressing stories of hardships, sometimes caused by illness or death. In times of trouble, people usually strive to help out family members if possible as there is no welfare state safety net for this community.

The concept of the One Candle Project arose out of a desire, shared by other visitors from Bishopston, to do something to help out, specifically when family problems mean that it becomes difficult or impossible to keep a child in education. After discussion with Mr Immanuel, who is the administrator of the Rural Unit for Health and Social Affairs (RUHSA), the development organization based in K V Kuppam Block, the simple structure of the One Candle Project was agreed. We made a bursary available for families who would otherwise not be able to afford to support their children to continue in school. This is for approximately £20-£25 per year and is paid by cheque directly to the children we support and administrated by me with a committee of people from the community and Rural Community Officers from RUHSA. We are extremely fortunate to have the support of RUHSA and some excellent local people. We started with eleven children in 2004 and this number has risen each year as we have been able to raise the funds to support the project. The aim of the fund is simply to enable children from lower income families to complete their education and when a child is granted a bursary we commit to supporting them each year.

In January 2010 we once again visited India and celebrated six years of this successful project with almost one hundred children attending a gathering in the new Pachai Kili Centre which houses the play centre and our new centre for the elderly. The One Candle Fund is now helping sixty children and we are extremely grateful to Bishopston Trading Company for their recent generous support which enables us to help an additional thirty four children from weaving families. It was heart warming to meet so many young ‘Candles’ and to hear them express their thanks so eloquently. It is very humbling to realise what a difference a relatively small amount of support can make. If anyone would like to know more about The One Candle Project, The Pachai Kili Play Centre and/or the latest exciting project with the elderly I would love to hear from you. Also if anyone would like to support us please get in touch.

There are further details about the One Candle Project online here, and Pam welcomes emails from interested people:

Sally's daughter, Rosie, will be running the Indian Queen's Half Marathon on August 1st and all funds she raises will be donated to the projects run by Sally and Pam in K.V.Kuppam. Sponsorship donations can be placed online here.

The Bishopston-Kuppam link is a registered charity (number 283659).

The One Candle Project takes its name from a saying sometimes attributed to Gandhi:

‘It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness’

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