I’m currently back in the UK to visit family and friends – just a short visit for three weeks. I love the changing colours of the leaves and the fresh green all around – but I do miss the sun and warmth of India! There have been many changes in the UK since I moved to Tamil Nadu four years ago in regards to the economy, but other than that the country remains the same and it is great to be able to catch up with friends and family. The highlight? Meeting my 14 week old grandson for the first time!
Last weekend I attended the AGM of the Joe Homan Charity, the first time I have been in the country for this event since 2007. This charity is close to my heart as I have been sponsoring children through its projects for many years now. It was also because of my links with the charity that I first visited Lakeside and subsequently bought the property from Joe. Many of our guests are people who sponsor children through the charity, and many others take the opportunity to visit one of the projects whilst with us.
Joe first started helping the destitute children of India in 1965 when he took in four small boys, gave them a home and means of support and enabled them to get an education. Since those early days thousands of children, both boys and girls, have been helped by the Joe Homan Charity and its Indian partner, Boys Town Society.
The Boys Towns provide a home for the boys during term time when they attend the local school, they then go home to their families for the holidays. There are also residential projects for girls and for younger children (under the age of 11). The charity is also involved in many other projects aimed at improving the lives of the poorest of the poor in southern India.
As with many charities, the last few years have not been easy. With an economic crisis in the western world many people have been unable to continue their support. There are also those who criticise the charity saying that India is now a wealthy country which should be supporting its own while the western countries should be providing help for their own people who have fallen on hard times.
In many ways I would not disagree that help is needed in the west, but the Joe Homan Charity is aware of this, it has been and is still actively seeking help from wealthy Indians for the less fortunate in their community. The progress in this area is slow but steady with increasing numbers of children being sponsored by locals in India. But what many westerners fail to understand (through no fault of their own) is that whilst India is an emerging economy there are extreme divisions between the richest and the poorest and there is still extreme poverty. It will be many years yet before we can withdraw our help from India and leave it to the Indians themselves to help these children. Just two interesting facts from the AGM:
India is still home to one-third of the world’s population living on less than 80p ($1.29) per day.
There are still states in India the size of Britain where half of all children suffer from malnutrition.
Whilst supporting ‘our own people’ in the west and at the same time raising awareness and funds in India we must try to keep the relative levels of poverty in proportion in our minds. To sponsor a child in one of the projects, ensuring them and education, further education, and a future life free of poverty, costs just £215 per year. In 2011 The Guardian newspaper reported that the average price of a pint of beer had reached £3. So for less than 1.5 pints a week a person could sponsor a child thereby raising him, and his family, out of poverty.
That’s worth thinking about next time you’re out for a drink with friends!