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HEAL children see their dreams become reality

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

THERE has been much excitement at the HEAL Children’s Village in Guntur recently.

The Annual Day Celebrations at Sri Venkateswara Bala Kuteer were greatly enjoyed as usual, with many HEAL children receiving prizes and participating in cultural programmes.

Annual Day Celebrations

Last year Mrs Rohini Kakani and Mr Srikanth, former students at the school, instituted cash awards for students finishing top of their class at the HEAL Village. Each of the award winners was presented with Rs1,000.

“We feel proud of our children,” said HEAL Village co-ordinator
Mrs Marudwathi. “Following our Annual Day Celebrations we had news of more susccess to share as we celebrated the birthday of HEAL founder Dr Satya Prasad in a joyful atmosphere.

Prizewinners with their awards

“Miss Mamatha, the first child at HEAL Village, is completing B.Tech within a few months with good scores.

“Miss Yasaswini, in her second year at Polytechnic studying electronics and communication engineering, stood at the top of her class for the second year running with 90% pass rate.

First HEAL child Mamatha

“Yasaswini came to HEAL along with her little sister after the death of their father. All through her studies she has been first in the class and scored 100% in maths in her 10th Board examinations. Her younger sister Sri Latha, who is completing 9th class this year, is also first in her class.

“Mr Harsha Vardhan came to HEAL along with his younger sister and widowed mother. He, also, has been first throughout his school study. We admitted him into a three-year civil engineering course at Polytechnic.

Successful student Harsha with Mrs Muradwathi and HEAL children

“He has been first in class in each of the three years – a wonderful achievement. He appeared for ECET (entrance into engineering) and got qualified with a good ranking.

“He gained admission into second year B.Tech in a reputed engineering college and at the end of his first semester he stood top with 93.7% among all the branches of his class in the college.

Yasaswini, who is top of her class in college

“We feel so proud of our kids. They tell us that their dreams have become a reality just because of the support of HEAL.

“And no doubt their successes will inspire all the HEAL children to dream for a brighter future and work hard to reach their goals.”

To learn more about how to bring hope and change to a child living in poverty by helping them achieve their full potential, please visit the Sponsor a Child page on the HEAL website.

More success for children at the Heal Village

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Some more good news from the Heal Village which give an idea of the activities our children are involved with at school.

Firstly, a Heal Village team won the State Level karate tournament and demonstrates the hard work they have been putting in.

champions

Also, two of our children were winners in a painting competition held on the occasion of World Water Day with the topic ‘Water For Life’.

Hamanth:

hamanth

Venkata Rao:

venkata-rao

Well done children!

Heal children win state Karate competition

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

We are delighted to announce that our Heal children have been working hard with their karate practice and it has been rewarded by the team winning the championship at the recent State level tournament.

champions

Well done to all the children who clearly worked so hard!

Linda Abbot’s visit to Heal, Feb 2005

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Linda Abbot’s visit to Heal, Feb 2005 
 
We have sponsored children at HEAL for many years, we decided that we would take the opportunity to visit the project in February of 2005. Currently we sponsor two children, Radhika and Hema Bhargav who we were really looking forward to meeting.

We made plans with the help of Dr Prasad and Kath Bardell in England and Vijayalakshami in Guntur. I work as a Manager of an Education Action Zone in Nottingham, through the schools I work with I organise a Student council. These students became interested in my visit to India and asked if they could raise money to sponsor a child themselves. This was arranged and they were allocated a child, Naga Mani, in December 2004. They first organised a raffle at Christmas and then started a copper collection across the ten schools that are involved in our project. The day before we travelled to India the students took part in a ‘big count’ raising a bumper £365 for the project.

On Saturday 5 February we set off from Birmingham airport. We had never travelled out of Europe before so this was a real adventure! Travelling via Dubai we arrived in Hyderabad at 7am on Sunday morning and stayed in the city for 3 nights. People in the city and at the hotel were overwhelmingly friendly and we enjoyed some excellent food and hospitality. Vijaya had organised for a friend of hers, Sunita, who lives in Hyderabad to show us around the city, it was wonderful to have someone local to show us the city. In Charminair Bazaar we wandered through a maze of shops and stalls with wonderful materials and embroidery. I bought many gifts and afterwards Sunita took us to a restaurant and we ate a traditional Hydrabadi biryani, a delicious combination of rice, chicken and spices.

After our brief city break we travelled by train across to Guntur. The train took 7 hours but was comfortable and we received a wonderful reception; being met by Vijaya and her husband, George, Dr Manga Devi, Mrs Jaysaree and our two children, Radhika and Hema Bhargav. We had not expected this reception, the children presented us with flower garlands and we were quickly whisked off to HEAL village.

girlsdancing

Arriving during the evening, we were greeted by Marudhvathi (Maru), who took charge of our care for our entire stay. Padmaja and Thirupathamma served us a wonderful meal and we took our first walk around the village with Dr Manga Devi. The smell of Dr Manga Devi’s plants was lovely and the sound of frogs croaking in the water below our balcony was memorable, the children were very shy when they first met us – they were clearly very well cared for and treated Manga Devi as their mother.

We were treated to excellent accommodation in the newly built guest house with lovely views over the mountains to the rear and towards the schools from a large balcony at the front. Every morning of our stay I would sit with my morning coffee on that balcony as the children ran to and fro to their early studies. They would call ‘Good morning, Auntie, when are you and Uncle coming to play!’

We knew our time at HEAL was limited and I was keen to find out about the project, Manga Devi spent many hours explaining the roots of the project and how it has developed over the years. Maru and Vijaya helped me to distribute gifts I had bought from home for the children, I found this an overwhelming experience, the children are not really used to possessions and treasured the gifts we I them.

I was shown around the schools by the English teacher, called Vijayahakshmi. What a lovely lady she was – like all the staff there, so committed to the care and well being of the children as well as their educational achievement. She took time to explain the way the schools work and the way that HEAL give a positive future to women in need of a home and purpose in life. Many of the women in the village who work as teachers, helpers or housemothers have experienced violent marriages or are widowed, HEAL has given these women a real opportunity to enrich their lives and those of the children who need their love and care. It was very moving to experience such a holistic approach to care of both children and adults.

Children from all the surrounding villages arrived each morning to attend the Bala Kuteer schools, along with the HEAL children. Manga Devi explained they are currently trying to raise funds for a project to feed the village children at lunchtimes. Lots of their families cannot afford to send food with their children and during the afternoons children suffer from lack of concentration due to having not eaten enough.

One morning there was great excitement as there were to be discussions to arrange a marriage of one of the girls from HEAL. I was invited to observe the discussions by Maru and it was amazing as a westerner to see the elders sat around discussing the future of these two young people (who were not present at the discussion). The girl was a HEAL child and the boy was son of a local farmer. I was also amazed to find out that the wedding would take place in 10 days time! When we visited Manga Devi later in the week we were shown the wonderful sari’s that had been purchased for the bride and it was a shame that the wedding took place after our departure, even so it was a real privilege to witness the preparations!

The children were very loving once they were used to us and wanted us to go out and play; during the middle of the day it was too hot for us to go out but we were able to spend time with them in the mornings and later in the day. Despite some of their terrible experiences before coming to HEAL the children seemed very happy – we were very impressed by the care the older children showed towards the younger ones. They all loved having their photograph taken and then looking at the display – it caused great excitement. They also loved energetic games, during our stay we asked to be taken to a shop in Guntur to buy some sports equipment for the HEAL children. The trip to Guntur itself turned out to be an experience; we were supposed to leave at 5pm accompanied by Maru, but the car had to be used to urgently transport a vet to the village to deal with a sick cow so our journey had to be delayed somewhat! Shopping for the equipment was like being transported back in time – personal service whilst we sat in the shop and had goods shown to us – we could buy a huge amount of equipment for just under the equivalent of £25. What a wonderful experience it was taking this equipment into the village. Games of cricket were soon underway with brand new bats and balls, girls loved the skipping ropes and the children instinctively knew how to play badminton! I was delighted that they would share the equipment and play so well together. Although most of the children do not have shoes it doesn’t stop them running at top speed across stony ground chasing a ball!

The children showed me their cottages where about nine children live with a house mother, the oldest girl in each cottage is a first daughter who helps the house mother care for the children. There are several cottages in a circle with a veranda running round them. Children’s art work is displayed and the centre area is full of trees and plants – a really lovely environment for the children. There is a huge room where the children eat with a kitchen attached where ladies were busy preparing the children’s meals – the staple being rice and vegetable curry. Many vegetables and spices are grown in the village and on the village farm a buffalo is kept. The milk from the buffalo, I was told is particularly nutritious – it was made into yoghurt (locally known as curds) which we ate at most meals whilst we were in the village. Really delicious!

Because both Hema Bhargav and Radhika live at Ankita, the branch of HEAL in Guntur we did not see a lot of them but we saw a lot of Naga Mani and took lots of photographs of her for the children in Nottingham who had raised money to sponsor her.

While we were staying at Chetana the village celebrated their 13th annual celebrations. We were unaware of the importance of this celebration when we arrived although we observed children running to practice dance, karate and drama routines early each morning and again in the evenings after school. On Saturday Maru asked me if I would speak to the audience during the celebrations, I was honoured to be asked, although not generally used to public speaking! The evening was a huge success with over 500 people in the audience and we were able to present prizes to some of the children. All the children from HEAL and Bala Kuteer had a part to play and it was particularly touching for us to see HEAL children receiving prizes. The whole area was a riot of fairy lights and colour – everyone worked so hard to make the event a success which began at 4pm and went on until 10pm. In the kitchen ladies worked really hard to feed everyone, guests, children and staff. It was lovely to be part of such a wonderful event.

The day after the event we left HEAL village with very mixed feelings, delighted to have now met the children we sponsored but sad that we were unable to say goodbye (as the children get very upset!). On our return to Hyderabad I wrote to say goodbye to the children and they sent a wonderful book of drawings and messages that has been a prized item back in Nottingham!

Report by Mrs Vijayalakshmi – Sponsorship Secretary HEAL India

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Archive from 2002

Report by Mrs Vijayalakshmi
Sponsorship Secretary HEAL India

Ladies and gentlemen,

I bring you greetings from India on behalf of Dr Manga Devi, Secretary, HEAL India, all members of the executive committee, and especially from the children of HEAL Village.

“It is said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.”

Ten years ago, the history of HEAL started with one inspired thought….in the mind of a young man, Dr Satya Prasad, a native of Guntur, who had settled in England as a Doctor. Satya Prasad always possessed a zeal to do something for the disadvantaged children in society. He specially wanted to be of help to the orphaned children by providing them, with two basic facilities…. namely, Health and Education.

The first step was to find a home to give shelter to the helpless children. What better place than to house them in his own place in Guntur!! He turned his house into the orphanage. It was a noble gesture and a good start for HEAL charity.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

” A time to every purpose”….that time seemed to have come when Dr Satya Prasad met his good friend Dr Manga Devi who was at that moment making plans to start an orphanage. She had already set up a free school for the children of stonecutters in a place called Chetana. There was an instant agreement between the two to construct cottages close to Chethana, because of the availability of land and its close proximity to the school, for the children of HEAL charity.

Today, HEAL Children’s Village stands witness to the steady pursuit of the goal of giving succour to needy children, by two inspired persons – Dr Satya Prasad and Dr Manga Devi.

There is also a team of dedicated persons in HEAL India.

Mrs Jayasri the principal of Bala Kuteer has been with HEAL ever since it was started. Simple and unassuming and a silent worker, she is entirely devoted to HEAL.

The senior House Mother, Padma, has been with HEAL since the day it was started. She lives with the children and is totally involved with there welfare.

Mrs Marudhwathi is the Administrative Officer in Chatena supervising all aspects of the workaday routine in HEAL Village.

Children who are orphans or who come from broken homes tend to have frequent bouts of depression but they are too young to understand their feelings. Their vague fears dominate all their reactions.

We have two counsellors, Padmaja and Annamani, who try to soothe their agitated minds at such times. Even the teachers in the school, Bala Kuteer, keep an eye on HEAL children and give them counselling at all times.

There are many people involved in the running of HEAL who are totally dedicated – asking for little or nothing in return.

Dr Manga Devi and I were in University together but we worked in different fields and didn’t come across each other for quite a number of years. It was only after my retirement in 1999 that I renewed my contact with Dr Manga Devi.She took me to Chetana once. I was enchanted by what I saw, and very happily agreed to help if there was any need.

In the beginning, I was going occasionally to visit HEAL and spending some time with the children, But the children have a way of stealing your heart just by being themselves!! They will give shy smiles, stand close, wave their hands when you come away and very soon you are hooked! You want to do something for them

Dr Satya Prasad visited HEAL in December 1999. He explained the necessity to set up a regular office, to send information to the U.K., be it to the general Secretary or the sponsors, and also to keep records of the bios of the children and update them at regular intervals.

Raina Parmar visited us and was a great help in setting up things right in the office

It is my good fortune to have come to know lovable people through my involvement with HEAL. Kath Bardell and I have worked out a comfortable working relationship. She is very patient with me while asking for information telling me gently what has to be done. OI feel no pressure.

My greatest happiness is corresponding with the sponsors. They form a vital group whose generosity breathes life into the whole organisation, specially the care of the children. Living thousands of miles away from Guntur, not satisfied merely with paying for the sponsorship amount, the manner in which they show their affection for the children never ceases to amaze me. They want to establish a close contact with their wards, writing letters, sending photos of their family members and some gifts too, though we in Guntur insist that they should be small inexpensive things.

I must make special mention of Abbotts Hall Primary School in Stowmarket, Suffolk, who donated a handsome amount with which we bought a Water Cooler a dire necessity in a hot place like Guntur. While I was coming away HEAL children told me that I should thank them again on their behalf.

The Scottish Group of HEAL organisation donated a princely sum with which we bought games equipment exclusively for the use of HEAL children.

The Sunday school based in Burton Latimer, Northants, and controlled by a parochial council, sponsored a little boy in HEAL. All the children in the Sunday school wrote sweet letters to our children in HEAL Village. We also received a book of such letters from the children of Abbotts Hall Primary School, much earlier, and our children reciprocated by sending them letters about themselves.

I have added an Annexure to this presentation on the achievements of some of our children. I am sure you would be interested to go through it. It gives an idea how a little bit of kindness can do so much good in this world.

Finally let me express my happiness in sharing this moment with you, participating in the 10th Anniversary of HEAL.

May the Almighty bless this organisation so that it would continue to grow, and help more children in the years to come!

Viyayalakshmi

Director of Sponsorship HEAL (India)

I had an amazing time in Guntur and cannot wait for my return.

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Crystal’s detailed report after visiting the HEAL Village (with excellent photos from her trip).

Third year Student on a BA (Hons) Primary Education degree at Nottingham Trent University England, who visited the children’s Village in Guntur India in July 2002.

newspic311

After arriving in Chennai airport on June 7th 2002, completely drained and shell-shocked from the whole experience of travelling alone through multiple airports for over a day, I was extremely glad to see some friendly, smiling faces – namely those of Dr Satya Prasad’s sister and her husband. They had driven for many hours simply to welcome me and collect me from the airport. This set the scene for the hospitality and kindness that was to be shown to me over the next five weeks.

Driving from Chennai to Guntur I was able to see the variety of the Indian landscape, from the capital city of Tamil Nadu to the tiny villages along the roadside. Although I had prepared myself for a completely different environment, I was still amazed at everything I saw. Being the height of summer and incredibly humid, there was a natural heat and also a severe lack of greenery along the route. I therefore prepared myself to find that the Children’s Village would be very similar

This could not have been further from the truth! When I first arrived at the Village, up a long, bumpy ‘road’ I was surprised to find that, in fact, there were plants, trees and flowers everywhere you looked, all carefully cultivated by Dr. Manga Devi. To say it was breathtaking would honestly not be enough, no matter how melodramatic it seems. To picture it or see the photographs is not enough. A self-contained village, at the foot of the mountains, (or at the least, some very big hills!) surrounded by shrubbery. It was completely unlike anything else that I saw during my time in India, or indeed have seen anywhere else.

On meeting the children I was extremely apprehensive. It was done with great formality where the children all sat in rows on their dining room floor while Manga Devi and I sat on chairs in front of them. The children sang for me and I was introduced. Then, to my relief the formality was dispensed of as I taught the children the all-time classic song of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” followed by a chase game of ‘Duck, duck, goose’. With about 80 children running around in a comparatively small space I was amazed at the lack of injuries, until I noticed how the older children looked after their younger ‘siblings’. Although, in the majority, not blood relatives the children treated one another as brothers and sisters, looking out for each other as well as arguing and fighting as siblings!

This was illustrated on many occasions throughout my stay, perhaps the most memorable time being on my last day in the Village. It was a Saturday morning around 6am and I had gone to the cottages shortly after the children had woken and performed their morning meditation. It was calm and peaceful, the sun not having yet brought the full heat that was to be expected in a few hours, and the children were all getting ready. All around the cottages there were housemothers and children sitting on the floor brushing and plaiting another child’s hair. This task was not exclusive to the older girls, however, with everyone being a part of getting a person younger than them ready. This simple memory sticks with me for two reasons: firstly the sense of community that could be felt at that time, and secondly the humour of the situation with the girls sitting around fiddling with their hair and the boys waiting for them to be ready…it seems that little changes across the oceans!

Throughout my time at the Village I was able to spend evenings and weekends with the children when they were not engaged in their studies, a task of high importance that took up the bulk of their time. Despite the language barrier between most of the children and myself, we were able to communicate ourselves well through mime, gestures and the interpretation of older children whose schooling was in English. The children were all very eager to learn about me and my life in England and this feeling was reciprocated. Through stilted conversation we all managed to learn a lot about each other and our different cultures, information that brought me to the realisation that there really weren’t that many differences between us all despite the thousands of miles.

The most noticeable difference, however, the children were all fascinated by – my skin colour. This was something that I had never really considered before but I found was now often pointed out to me by the children in comparison to their own, touching my arms or face as they did so. This fascination did not seem to wear off over time as I had assumed it would and this made me realise that in fact, although initially the issue had been with my white colour, the children were now continuing to point it out in order to get physical closeness. Something that I myself have not been deprived of, I had forgotten how important a cuddle or holding a small child’s hand can be to that child. The sheer logistics of the Village, with over 80 children and ten house mothers, means that the children cannot possibly get as much attention as if they were in a 2.4 family situation in Britain. This is not to say that the house mothers do not provide this physical attention, but only that there is only so much time they can spend with each individual child. From that realisation onwards neither the children nor myself were deprived of the odd cuddle!

Aside from this unavoidable division of time, the only thing that I felt unhappy with during my time in the Village was what I perceived to be as the isolation of the HEAL children. Although the children mixed with children from outside the village during school hours after school hours they were confined to the cottages. At the top end of the village, however, other children boarded, studying and playing there. The children never had the opportunity to mix together and I often felt a sense of elitism. I felt it would have been beneficial to allow the children to all play or study together.

As well as the children having an obvious enthusiasm for me to teach them dances and games and sing them songs they were also eager to comply with my request to learn some Telugu. All children were enthusiastic to be involved in my education including the kindergarten children who realised that this was a way in which they had the advantage over me. Despite being in India for five weeks I only managed to master counting to 10, greeting someone, asking for someone’s name and replying, “My name is…”, asking, “How are you?” and replying with “I am fine.” This was incredibly difficult for me to learn! The children all thought that it was hilariously funny that I found the pronunciation of the words so hard, but were proud of themselves (and hopefully me!) when I mastered them. They then took every opportunity to show off what they had taught me to the various adult figures in the Village.

As a present to the children I brought some stationery and small toys from England. I decided to give the stationery as a leaving present but gave them the bouncy balls during my visit. I was shocked at how the children reacted to the balls, which each child had to share with the other children in their cottage, all grabbing and fighting over them until I realised that they had so few possessions that anything they did have was to be treasured. I was dismayed that I had caused this conflict between the children and instigated a large game of throw and catch to show the children that they could all have a turn with the ball. They seemed to have no concept of sharing in this situation as they were not often put into it. This was sad for me to see knowing how many resources and toys many children in England have and also other children in India.

I did not make the same mistake with the stationery. I shared it out equally between the children so that they had two colouring pencils each, rather than giving a whole pencil case of colouring pencils to each cottage. The children all seemed pleased with this as they could physically hold onto what was theirs. This was one of the more depressing moments of my visits to the HEAL children as the realisation hit home how little some of them really had. Simple things that I, and many other people, take for granted cannot be done so here. Although as much is done for them as possible by the housemothers, teachers and other support agencies and charities it is difficult to see children in a situation that I would label as poverty. But yet, despite my view of things, this did not seem to be the attitude the children took. They all seemed very happy and content and accepting of their new life within the Village, and there was certainly no lack of love or attention.

It is extremely difficult for me to express how I feel about the whole experience of meeting the HEAL children. On a personal note, they made me reconsider a lot of my own values and take time to appreciate the things that I have.

The children are all unique and very special and this is supported by the housemothers and other adults in their lives. I only hope that the children themselves recognise this.

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I had an amazing time in Guntur and cannot wait for my return.

These photographs were taken by Crystal during her stay in Guntur, and many more excellent photos, she has given us from her visit.