September, 2007

Dear friends, as some of you may know a few months ago EETEP Aid was asked to visit an orphanage in Chennai, India run by Philip and Gladis Manickam. Last week we made this visit and were shocked by what we found. Chennai is hard to put into words, but in this newsletter I'll do the best I can to explain what I found in literally the worst place I have ever seen.

The Journey Began

The visit began on Tuesday, 2 p.m. from Manchester Airport after a flight change in Dubai. I arrived in Chennai at 8.45 a.m. on Wednesday and, as arranged, Philip and Gladis were there to greet me at the airport (as was the relentless heat). We took a taxi directly to the orphanage. Driving through the busy streets of Chennai I realised what a terrible place this was…noisy, hot, polluted and dirty. I got an instant feeling that disease and illness were never going to be far away. The open drains at the roadside, and traffic that can only be described as complete chaos, showed me immediately that this was no place for children.

Beautiful Children

We arrived at the orphanage to be greeted by 13 beautiful children sat on a concrete floor. Each child stood up and shook my hand while introducing themselves in English. I unpacked the 20 kg of aid we'd collected for the home and made my way to a hotel. The following day we got down to the business of how the home was run. Thirteen children, one cook and two carers Muthulakshmi and Reshmi, these were two young women each with a story of a poor start in life. They'd been given refuge and jobs by Philip and Gladis and although they were supposed to be paid 1500 rupees (£18) a month, they went without wages most of the time.

These two girls were dedicated to the children and if wages didn't come it didn't matter to them, they were still grateful to be at the home. Philip and Gladis run a registered non-profit organisation in India and they keep the small rented home 'Angels of Hope' to a high standard, maintaining detailed records of donations and expenditure. Expenditure, however, far outweighs donations and that appears to be the biggest problem.

Strong Foundations

The orphanage is home for 16 people and it's tiny. It consists of a small office that doubles-up as a sick bay, and has the only bed in the place. A room approximately 15 x 12 ft is where the children play, eat and sleep. Next to this is a small room where they study and to the rear is a small kitchen. There are no grounds to play in and the children are unable to play out in the area. Philip explained to me that it's like a prison for them - if they're not at school they're in this room. The level of care these children receive is high though, they are all clean and their clothes are washed almost daily.

They are given basic food, a place to call home, a good education and most importantly love. Before they set this place up Philip had worked at the airport to support his wife and son Kevin, and even in those days they lived a hard life. They've risked everything with their orphanage. I have never been privileged to meet anybody like Philip and Gladis before, they were an inspiration to me. They gave me hospitality and food but more importantly, they gave me hope and confidence that there were still many good people left in the world. It's too easy for us in the West to turn a blind eye to everything that causes us upset.

Coimbatore: Planning for the Future

As the days passed by, EETEP made plans for the future and as I talked with Philip and Gladis we decided on a plan. So the first part of the plan involved instant sponsorship of £300 per month to relieve the immediate financial pressure on the home but I'd like to add here that this is money EETEP do not have at present. Secondly, we have a longer term goal of building a new orphanage in Coimbatore (located 600 km from Chennai). Coimbatore is a rural area ideal for children; the cost of living is much lower and the children will have a bright future growing up there. We have looked into the price of land and estimate £8,000 will buy an adequate piece.

The cost of building the orphanage will be £12,000 to £14,000. This is a lot of money but the rewards will be priceless and with your help EETEP Aid can achieve this goal. Imagine being part of this! Thirteen children being given the best start in life and furthermore having the means to rescue even more orphaned children in India. On my last night at the orphanage, as my last taxi pulled up outside, the children were going to sleep on the bare floor of the room they called home. I gave each of them in turn a kiss goodbye and, although I didn't say it in my mind, I made a promise to each of them that the organisation I represent will not fail them.

Time Well Spent, Looking Back…

As I drove away my eyes filled up with tears and the privacy of my hotel room could not come soon enough. Every part of my visit has touched me in some way and I feel honoured to have shared time with Philip and Gladis. As I look back all I can say is that I've a renewed faith in mankind, we all have a purpose in life and I know I have found mine. Life is not about a new car, kitchen, bathroom, three-piece suite on hire purchase, holidays abroad and saving's accounts…it's about people! The next generation.

We should all forget about how much wealth we feel we should accumulate and concentrate on how much we can give to those with nothing. A purchase lasts for ten years, a life changed lasts forever. I could write all day about the children. Each have their own story and each their own personalities. The name 'Angels of Hope' summed it up for me - all 13 were just that: 'little angels'. Thank you to everybody for your support. I'm available to give a talk to individuals, groups and organisations and we also have many photographs for anybody interested. If you feel you can help please do contact me, it will take many hands to realise this dream.

All about the Children: Biographies

Balaji - Born 11/02/2002. Balaji was deeply psychologically affected when he arrived at the home. He lacked in studies and found it hard to fit in. He's now a completely changed little boy with growing confidence. Chinraja (brother of Vallarasu) - Born 26/01/1999. Both children were neglected by their mother, who'd married another man. On arrival at the home he had no education. Thanks to Angels of Hope he now stands at grade one in his studies and wants to be a computer engineer.

David (brother of Thilaga) - Born 18/03/2002. Aka 'King David'. For two years this boy didn't speak due to the shock of his fathers death. He's now turned it around and is one of the most mischievous kids in the home, but he's so cute I couldn't bear to shout at him! Lokesh - Born 16/12/2003. Little Lokesh stood out to me the first time I saw him eat, he's a little lad with a big appetite. I've never seen a child eat so much so quickly! He's one of the mischief makers in the home but he's a very cute little lad.

Nandhini - Born 23/12/2002. Aka princess. What can I say? She is gorgeous. This little girl would stand out in a football crowd! And from what I saw she is the naughtiest. But she knows how to wrap you around her little finger. There's nobody this little lady could not melt with one smile. Selvaraj - Born 28/11/2001. Brought to the home by his grandmother, he's very well behaved and very intelligent. He's studying in an upper kindergarden class.

Soundarya - Born 02/06/1999. Soundarya is the latest addition to the home. Her father died a few months ago and she's had no education. She needs to be taught at the home before she's able to attend school (hopefully next year). Understandably she seemed quiet, but I expect she'll soon fit in at the home and the school. Thilaga - Born 04/05/2000. She's a quiet girl and very well behaved. She studies hard and does very well in school.

Thomas - Born 04/05/2003. This little boy hasn't had any luck. His father died of HIV and his mother has TB. Thomas was referred to the home by a church pastor. He stood out to me when they were praying; he looked so sweet as he closed his eyes tight shut and thanked the Lord for his dinner. Vallarasu - Born 04/04/2002. Although he's not as bright as his elder brother Chinraja, he makes up for it with his bright smile and cute appearance.

Vignesh - Born 16/11/2001. This little lad has some health problems and is the weakest of all the children. He's very well behaved and works really well at school. Vijay - Born 19/05/2001. A saint. He looks after the children in the home and he's excellent at school. A well-rounded little lad in every way. Vinodhini - Born 03/09/2000. She seems quiet, and a little shy. She was brought to the home by her grandmother and has done really well at school.

A Plea for Help

These are our angels. All different but with one thing in common: they need our help. On the whole they have very good manners and study hard. If my three kids were half as well behaved my job as a father would be simple. EETEP has to gain the £300 per month sponsorship. To-date we have £65 per month towards this target. In addition we need to raise more than £22,000 to build these kids a home. If this target takes two years of hard work it will have been worth every minute. Look at your own children and please find it in your heart to help us. Cheques and postal orders made payable to EETEP Aid can be sent to the following address:

EETEP Aid, 8 Lowerbarn Road, Hadfield, Derbyshire, SK13 2DZ

Paypal payments can be sent to: Please include your address so we can post a receipt. Thank you for reading and take care.