In January I was lucky enough to visit Heal Children’s Village in Andhra Pradesh, south-eastern India. 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.
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 who, themselves, are usually widows with small children. 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.
HEAL (UK) was set up by a Peterborough doctor building on an existing Indian foundation. 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 sixteen 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. It hopes to provide a nurturing environment of Health and Education for All for the many other orphaned and abandoned children who need its care. 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. They show incredible gratitude for the support they receive.
To find out about child sponsorship or supporting other HEAL projects please visit heal.co.uk .