Visions Global Empowerment – empowering the youth of India

Visions Global Empowerment

We are lucky at Lakeside to meet an amazing variety of people. From former British Cabinet Ministers to families on a round the world tour, from local Indians to people from the other side of the world, from the young to the not so young!

We have recently had a second visit from a group called Visions Global Empowerment. VGE works with projects in India, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia; their vision is to help create ‘a world where all youth, teachers and communities are educated, empowered and uplifted.’ Their aim is to help achieve this by seeking to change patterns of inequality by supporting educational initiatives for youth affected by poverty, conflict, and disability.’

Greg Buie,  who has worked with this organisation since 2004, brought a group of college students from the US, Canada and Switzerland, to work on local projects in India. The Indian projects  aim to empower young people and women to better themselves. The project this group were working with is aimed at helping tribal children from the local hill areas to receive a better education, and so a better life for themselves and their families.

Please do take a look at the Visions Global Empowerment website.  It is uplifting to see young people set up such projects, and other young people spend part of their summer vacation volunteering to help those less fortunate than themselves. We are privileged to meet many such people at Lakeside.

VGE teacher training programme

VGE teacher training programme

Mahadevbhai – celebrating Indian Independence

JaiminiPathak

Jaimini Pathak in a scene from ‘Mahadevbhai’ by ‘Working Title’ on the second day of The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest 2014 at PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore, on Saturday. -PHOTO : K.Ananthan

India will be celebrating Independence later this week. With perfect timing I went to the theatre in Coimbatore last night to see Mahadevbhai. The play is based on the daily diaries of Mahadevbhai Desai who was secretary to Gandhi.

The monologue was performed by Jaimini Pathak, and was an amazing piece of theatre. This talented actor portrayed some of the key characters of the story of Independence – Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr Ambedkar and, of course, Mahadevbhai. There was also a raft of other lesser or unknown characters which fleshed out this stirring period of history. Jaimini Pathak brought the characters alive with his energetic yet sensitive performance. With the minimal set, the imagination of the audience was freed to feel a part of the story.

For me the enjoyment of the evening was two-fold. Firstly, I was held captive by a great stage performance. Jaimini Pathak received a standing ovation, and rightly so. Secondly, I learnt about a character from history who was new to me. Through his diaries, notes and records of speeches by Gandhi I gained a deeper understanding of the thoughts and principles of Gandhi in the areas of non-violence, untouchability and the rights of women during the turbulent years leading to India’s Independence.

If you ever get the chance to see a performance of Mahadevbhai make sure you don’t miss out!

You can find out more about Mahadevbhai Desai and his time with Gandhi here.

The Indian flag – a guide to good politics

indian-flag
On 22 July 1947 the tricolour was approved as the Republic of India’s national flag. Over the years of the fight for independence there had been many suggestions of what the flag of India should look like. The final version incorporated ideas from many sources and was designed by Shri. Pingali Venkayya.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who later became India’s second President, described its significance as follows:

“Bhagwa… or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work.

The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct.

The green shows our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends.

The “Ashoka Chakra” in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag.

Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.”

High ideals are embodied in the Indian flag, but how many people remember what it stands for? Perhaps all politicians in India should have to study the flag and pledge that they will dedicate themselves to their work, allow themselves to be guided by truth, be indifferent to material gains, protect the environment and dedicate themselves to dynamic, peaceful change.

A county with such principles not only embodied in its flag but actually living by them would be a force to be reckoned with!

Anbagam – ‘Home of Love’

Many of you know that I first came to India to visit the boy I sponsor through the Joe Homan Charity. It is a charity that I have been involved with for many years. We often get guests who stay with us at Lakeside when they visit the local projects. Earlier this year I went with some of the guests to the local DACS project in Dindigul. This an independent charity which the Joe Homan Charity makes contributions to on a regular basis. The project cares for children with HIV and AIDS.

I have been asked to write the annual report for the Joe Homan Charity regarding this project. You can find the text below. It is quite a humbling, yet uplifting, story.

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I recently visited the new home of the DACS project in Dindigul. It is a
lovely two storey building which contrasts greatly with the home I saw just
3 years ago. That itself was a huge step forward from the small house used
by Mr Thankachan in 2003 to set up his home for children with HIV and AIDS.
Back then there were 17 children, now there are almost 50. In the early
days Thankachan called it an ‘orphanage’ as fear and prejudice of HIV is
rife in India. Of course, he could not keep the purpose of his project a
complete secret, and when the local community found out about the HIV
children they were discouraged from attending the local schools, being
taught instead at the project. Over the years the Government has, to
differing degrees, supported the home and education of these children who are
once again integrated into the local schools. I’m pleased to say that the
children are doing well educationally.

JHC has been involved with this project since 2008. It is sobering to read
the report from that year which said that the children ‘cannot look forward
to more than half a dozen years of life at best’, and the number of deaths
in the early years was evidence of that. The Government provides the drugs
to treat these children, but Thankachan realised that the key to a longer
life was nutrition. His approach of ensuring that the children have a good
healthy diet has shown remarkable results, with only one or two deaths since
2010, and none since early 2013. This has, paradoxically, put more pressure
on Thankachan who wants to be able to provide a home and support for these
children for life.

The atmosphere at this project is uplifting. You receive a true welcome
from the children who are smiling and wanting to hold your hand, just like
any other child in Dindigul. But these children are different. Most have
been abandoned by their parents because of their infection, dumped on the
streets, or left beside an ATM machine. Abandoned children are taken to a
Government Hospital for assessment. The majority of children are then placed
in an orphanage with hopes for adoption, but those who are HIV positive are
sent to DACS, here they are cared for and can be assured of a loving home
for life.

DACS has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and the contributions
by JHC have played an important role in this development. This has included
supporting the daily lives of the children and much needed improvements to
their home. The latest support has been towards a new building which was
officially opened in December 2013. This has cost over £52,000 to complete,
with Thankachan raising much from local donors and family. The improvement
in living conditions here cannot be over-emphasised.

The children now have a clean, well supplied and safe environment in which
to live; they are more accepted by the local population; they can mix more
with children of their own age at the local school. Above all, their life
expectancy has improved immeasurably, as has their quality of life.
Yet we must not be complacent. In the short term DACS is still in need of
funds to improve their home and develop a small area of land into a
playground for the children. And the future? For Thankachan to continue
this excellent work he will need continued support he can rely on, and that
means an on-going commitment from JHC. For me, to see the improvements in
the health and living conditions of these children over the last three years
has been both heart-warming and humbling. As I watch children playing,
children who I had thought would not be alive today, I cannot help but
wonder about their future in a society where people with HIV and AIDS are
still feared and avoided. More and more local people are helping to support
the project in a small way, through donations or volunteering, but the
long-term future is more than they can handle. Thankachan had a dream in
2003 to provide a place where children with HIV and AIDS could live their
short lives in a home full of love. With the life-expectancy of these
children now immeasurably improved his new dream is to provide them with
higher education, work and a home through their adult years. The commitment
to funding which JHC has made just might make this possible.

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Good news…bad news!

First the good news… For those of you who may have missed my previous post, I am happy to tell you that Lakeside received a Certificate of Excellence for 2014 from TripAdvisor. These are not easy to achieve, and it is thanks to the hard work of all of the staff here at Lakeside that the standard of our facilities, hospitality and service have been consistently rated as Excellent by reviewers. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post a review, they are all very much appreciated. We will continue to work hard to ensure that Lakeside remains a ‘first choice’ place to stay here in Tamil Nadu.

And the bad news?…

Regrettably, we have recently received a poor TripAdvisor review of Lakeside. This is, of course, very disappointing for us, particularly as our records (and those held by the local police) do not show anyone of that reviewer profile, or the other guests they describe, staying at Lakeside when they say they did!! In our reply to the reviewer we asked them to contact us to allow us the opportunity to identify when they stayed to enable us to fully understand any problems. The reviewer has chosen not to contact us and so we have little chance to put right anything that may have gone wrong.

If you are considering a stay at Lakeside, please do take time to read some of the other reviews posted on TripAdvisor, by both Indians and people of other nationalities. Please be assured that we make everyone welcome, and you will see from the reviews that guests have a wonderful stay here, be they from Europe, the rest of the world or, of course, from India. Lakeside is a wonderfully restful place where guests can be assured of a warm welcome, along with high standards of hospitality and service.

On a lighter note, the reviewer described Pete and myself as an ‘old couple’. As we are both several years away from retirement, I think we would prefer the term ‘mature’!  :-)

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014!

Great news!

Lakeside has been awarded TripAdvisor’s ‘Certificate of Excellence 2014′.

It is good to know that all our hard work is paying off.

We would like to thank our staff who work so hard, and without whom we would not have been able to achieve the high standards that we do.

Also, many thanks to our reviewers for their kind comments, it is these that keep us informed of where we are, and help us to constantly improve our services.

Many thanks,

Dorinda and Peter

 

Indian election 2014 – a new way forward?

ModiThis has been a mammoth election with the country focused on a need for change in many directions. The results show that the people do, indeed, want change and have turned to Narendra Modi to deliver this. His history of improvement in Gujarat is what has drawn people to him, in the hope that the same improvements can be made in the rest of the country. But what of the rest of the parties? They are too many, with too many confusing names, for people outside of India to want to take notice; but from my perspective here there are two points I would like to make.

This election is for representatives to the National Government, electing representatives to the State Legislature takes place at a different time – a little like the American elections for Congress and the House of Representatives. The vote count is, therefore, a reflection of a party’s success (or lack of it) throughout the whole of India. The outgoing Congress Party managed to gain only 40 seats out of the 543 contested. Modi’s party has taken 282, giving him a clear mandate to rule.

JayalalithaInterestingly, the AIADMK party of Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, which only stood in this state, won a massive 37 out of the 39 seats for Tamil Nadu. That means that the Tamil Nadu ruling party is third place in numbers of seats won over the whole country (Modi’s BJP 285, Congress 44, AIADMK 37). This puts Jayalalitha in a very strong position in the central government, which could be very beneficial for Tamil Nadu as a whole.

 

 

Today is a day of celebration in India. But when the celebrations are over, let’s hope that the new government can deliver the kind of policies that India needs right now. With an overall majority for the first time in many years, that now seems more of a hope than a dream!

Is India neglecting its responsibilities to wildlife?

The wild elephants are still in the area, but not too close to Lakeside.

The forest rangers say that they have just come looking for food and water, but in yesterdays Hindu newspaper environmentalists say that part of the problem is the destruction of elephant habitat and ‘elephant corridors’ in the Reserve Forest, which is forcing them to change their range.

Let me just emphasise: RESERVE FOREST, set up as a protection for wildlife and a buffer zone between them and humans.  Why is human encroachment allowed? I would hate to think that people turn a blind eye for money. Or maybe there are just not enough people to enforce the law – if so there are plenty of poor local people who might be glad of such paid employment.

I do hope that this is not another case of India neglecting her wildlife for selfish reasons.

Wild elephant in Tamil Nadu

Wild elephant in Tamil Nadu

Elephants at Lakeside!

elephants at Athoor damThe drought is really taking hold.

For the first time ever, elephants have come over the Palani Hills to our valley in search of water and food. Five elephants visited over the weekend. The crowds of local people made them nervous so we kept our distance!

Today’s Hindu newspaper tells the story.

People in our area are hoping and praying for a good summer monsoon to help replenish water supplies, for ourselves and the animals. If we don’t get it we then have to wait until November.

On a positive note it has just started raining. Maybe the elephants have brought us good luck – and good rain!