HEAL relies upon individual sponsors to help give severely disadvantaged children the shelter, education and healthcare they need for a proper start in life.
Such sponsorship is a wonderful way to bring hope and lasting change to a child living in poverty.
Some supporters are content to make regular donations, happy in the knowledge that HEAL’s dedicated team of volunteers will see to it that their money is put to the best possible use in helping needy children.
Others stay in regular contact with the children they support and take the opportunity to develop a lasting relationship, often from primary school age through to further education and beyond.
And a few sponsors even spend time volunteering at the HEAL Children’s Village in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, getting to see first-hand the difference their money makes.
The children love nothing more than the excitement of having visitors to their school and many volunteers at the Village have been moved to tears by the joyous welcome they have received.
Some are long-time sponsors who have the added joy of finally getting to meet the child they support in person.
One of these is JAZ BUSHELL, who, after sponsoring a child at the HEAL Children’s Village for 15 years, finally had the unforgettable experience of meeting Jyoti face-to-face when she spent a week volunteering at Guntur.
On her return home to London, Jaz posted her feelings on the HEAL facebook page, where she wrote: “I had a wonderful, emotional and very memorable six-day stay at HEAL.
“It was great to finally meet Jyoti after 15 years of sponsoring her, and all the other children at HEAL.
“The village is run so well by Marudwathi and all the house mothers. I am so pleased that I have been supporting such a great charity.”
ANDREW QUERNMORE also visited the Village earlier this year and wrote an online blog about his experiences in Andhra Pradesh.
“I’ve been sponsoring Amala, one of the hundreds of orphaned and abandoned children that HEAL has brought into its family, and it was great to be able to check on her progress and spend a little time with her and the other children,” said Andrew.
“The village provides a stable family environment for destitute children whose early life has been marked by the most unimaginable suffering. In this poor cotton and chilli-growing area there is no support net when parents are killed or die in tragic circumstances; and any surviving family is likely to be too poor to feed another mouth.
“That’s where HEAL comes in; each child becomes part of a new family unit at the beautifully landscaped village. The children are nurtured by individual house mothers. HEAL knows that these children can have a better life and ensures that their health and emotional needs are met and that they get a fantastic education.
“It is an incredibly happy place and the children take such delight in learning that many of them are now top of their classes. They are really proud of each other’s achievements and so supportive of one another.
“In addition to the family units where the children live there is a school, a rural poverty outreach service, a health centre, and many other facilities all set in beautiful gardens.
“I chose to support HEAL because it is a small and efficient charity; there are no paid workers, big advertising budgets, chuggers or fancy offices in the West – everything here is done by volunteers – so practically all of the money goes directly to meet the children’s needs.
“I’ve been visiting India for 20 years for work and holidays and it is great to be able to give something back, especially when HEAL is so keen that people visit and see exactly how the money is spent.
“It is marvellous to have that personal relationship with your sponsor children and to follow their progress as they are transformed from despair into thriving, well-balanced, young people with a bright future.
“Amala is now 16 and her future is looking good. She is hoping to go to university to study engineering in a couple of years time and is working hard to ensure that there will be stability in her adult life and also for her younger brother, Sai, who also is part of the HEAL family. HEAL ensures that all of its children are supported into adulthood.
“The original HEAL Village has proven such a success that a much larger version, Paradise Village, is now being constructed a few miles away.
“Visiting HEAL makes you realise that really valuable changes can be made in young people’s lives with just a bit of financial support from us and the dedication of its fantastic team.
“The children at the village are some of the finest young people you could ever hope to meet; positive, enthusiastic, caring and determined to make a success of their lives, and they show incredible gratitude for the support they receive.”
HEAL volunteer AMANDA SMITH, who took part in Cycle India 2012 to help raise funds for the charity, went on a fact-finding mission to India last year and was humbled by her visits to some of the HEAL projects.
As always, the children were excited to have visitors and made an incredible fuss of schoolteacher Amanda, something she found hard to come to terms with.
“In many ways I found it very difficult to be treated in such awe. After all, who am I? I am merely a person like anyone else here,” wrote Amanda in a moving account after receiving the warmest of welcomes by the HEAL children.
“The only difference is that I had the great fortune to be born into a life free from poverty. I deserve no plaudits, I’m not worthy of being put on the pedestal these children put me on. If anyone deserves this, it is the teachers who work here every day, it is the children who smile and laugh in the face of adversity.
“But to these children, they do not see that, they just see in people like me, that someone ‘out there’ in the big wide world cares enough about them to want to make their lives better.
“All we are when we visit schools like this is a symbol of that giving and a symbol of hope. In material things the children here have so very little but in heart and spirit they are rich beyond measure and I am honoured to have spent this day with them.”
To find out more about child sponsorship or supporting other HEAL projects please visit our home page at heal.co.uk.