May 2024

Every penny donated goes to the Venkat Trust. All UK costs are met by the Trustees

Update from Sylvia Holder, Founder Trustee

A New Source of Income


Seeing the pictures below you may wonder if you’ve got the wrong newsletter. You haven’t because we’ve gone into the hospitality business! Never a dull moment with the Venkat Trust. Our latest venture promises to be a nice little earner for us. 

Cleanliness and maintenance are not the words that spring to mind when considering the mid-price accommodation options in Kovalam, as many of you will know, and the market is wide open for a better choice.  The Venkat Tuition Centre, built in our early days, served us well but became redundant when our ever increasing sponsored children couldn’t fit into the limited space. We’ve made it into two very spacious, all mod cons, ensuite double rooms.  The building, now called Venkat House, is set back from the road in a lovely garden and each unit – one on each floor - has a terrace or balcony. We’re already getting lots of bookings and we’re going to add Lakshmi House, the Trustees’ house, to our accommodation portfolio as and when available.  Special rates are offered to all our supporters. For more information please contact

Our Expansion Continues

Schools, extra classrooms, science labs, language lab, library, offices – will our building programme ever end? Success has brought the need for ever more facilities for our growing numbers but when the present building programme is finished, we’ll be able to accommodate our 1000 students in smaller classes and the concrete mixer can be given a rest. Right now we’re building a science lab complex on the top of the new extension which is needed by our senior school (our sixth form) bulging at the seams with 190 students preparing for university. This will provide the labs needed for physics, chemistry and biology. The building itself is nearing completion and will have to be fitted out with the equipment needed for each lab. We then move over to the other side of the classroom extension to put up three more classrooms. 

Just in case JR and Ali think they can then put their feet up …. a couple of years ago Alex, our honorary fund raiser, and 15 splendid members of her Uber Mummies fitness class brought in enough money from their sponsored run in the Brighton and Hackney half marathons to put up an emergency ‘temporary’ building to accommodate six more rooms.   But temporary it is not. It’ll still be standing when the present pupils are grandparents but it does need a few adjustments to put it in line with the other extension.   As it has modular partitions, we will reduce the six rooms to five, redecorate it and improve the lighting and roof.

The lab complex on the roof of the new classroom extension. Three more classrooms are planned for the other side.

A Family Outing

Sandra Huggett, our wonderful volunteer who checks our bank statements and balances every month and submits our claim for Gift Aid (both horrid jobs), came for coffee with husband Merv. They had something on their minds.

“Merv and I would like to go to Kovalam for a week and help out” said Sandra

(We don’t take volunteers any more but they deserved an exception to be made.)

“That would be great and can be arranged” I said

“With the family” added Sandra

“How many is that?” I queried

“Nine of us” came the response

“NINE?” I expostulated

“Our son, daughter-in-law and two children who live in Australia and the UK contingent - our daughter, two children and us” Merv explained

I was floored. This was not feasible. We weren’t geared for this. 

But they went, they saw and they conquered. Merv’s enthusiasm for satellites and space saw them linking up with a satellite company in Chennai, they had a wonderful time with the children and the village loved them. And since they got back they have become our ambassadors extraordinaire. Not only are they fund raising themselves to finance the salaries of more teachers but many of their friends have responded to their enthusiasm with donations of their own.

Thank you Sandra, Merv, David, Julia, Debbie, Ellie, Katie, Emily and Ollie

The nine-strong family with our resident painter, Kumar, (centre) showing them the way in the Primary School’s dining hall

Double Trouble

They’ve grown a bit since some of you saw the ten week old twin boys of trustee John and partner, Alex, our honorary fund raiser, at our Curry Lunch in April last year. Now 15 months old, utterly delicious but up to no good, this photo was taken just before they became totally self propelled on their feet. Arthur and Patrick are now putting in plenty of practice for the Brighton Half Marathon in a few years’ time. And by 2050 they’ll be ready to take over the stewardship of the Trust in the UK from their parents while JR’s children, Thanuja and Balaji, can be relieving their father of many years at the sharp end of the operation. Long live the Venkat Trust!

Me with, from the left, Arthur and Patrick or possibly Patrick and Arthur

A Reminder

On behalf of Emma, our UK Sponsorship Coordinator, thank you to all sponsors who have increased their monthly standing orders to £18 for each child.

We would be grateful if those who have not yet got round to it or simply forgotten, which is so easy to do, could find a couple of minutes to make the change. Most of you can doubtless do it on your phone (which is just as well as bank buildings appear to be heading for extinction).

If you have any queries please contact Emma at

Another reminder: the children love to hear from you and you can now e-mail them on and Aarthi will pass your letters on to them. The university students help the younger ones, not yet fluent in English, with translation.

Our Wonderful Higher Secondary School

The Primary School children are adorable, the sponsored children bring a lump to

to my throat as I watch their lives being turned around but right now my

 emotions are for the Higher Secondary School (at which most of our

sponsored children are pupils).


I watched the then High School go up 11 years ago and longed for it to be filled

with the sound of happy and stimulated students. And it was. From the start

the place has buzzed. Between them the students and teachers have created

an incredible atmosphere of energy and their sheer joy of learning and teaching

is very evident. Little wonder that it attracts only the best in teachers and

headteacher as its reputation grows for academic and sporting successes as

well as pastoral care.

One of our science teachers whose salary is being paid by a VMT supporter

wrote “I am really excited to work in this school which has various facilities

which most of the schools in our place do not have and also to have students

as dedicated and enthusiastic as those in my classes. Their eagerness to

learn and their passion for knowledge make every day in the classroom a

rewarding experience. From lively discussions to creative projects and various

science experiments, their ability to learn more, each moment is filled with energy and excitement.” We are fast becoming known for our brilliant science department which can only get even better when our new science block is up and running.

JR has been honoured by the School Education Department of Tamil Nadu in recognition of all his work for the Higher Secondary School. He was presented with his framed certificate by the Minister of Education for Tamil Nadu at a ceremony in Madurai. Congratulations to him on receiving this overdue acknowledgment of the sterling work he has done for the school as Managing Trustee of the Venkat Trust. 

A Look Back, number 1

It’s nearly nine years since supporter Peter Bainbridge offered us his beautiful antique snooker table and Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, very kindly shipped it the 5000 miles to Chennai. Such wonderful gestures, such doubt on my part. Would it be a mega white elephant? Our high school students had never heard about snooker, let alone play it. 

In the last nine years our snooker-mad students – how wrong I was, they love it – have brought back lots of silverware from many tournaments in Chennai and beyond and our present brilliant girls’ team even made it to a national event. The competition is stiff – private clubs and private schools, no other Government schools are lucky enough to have a snooker table. Three of our boys have gone on to have very good careers in the sport, between them teaching at Chennai clubs and refereeing at national level tournaments. 

Thank you, Peter and Jason, and also Mr Prabu, our snooker coach, who repeatedly brings out some serious talent for the snooker cue amongst his students.  

In Brief

It’s summer holiday time in India and the new academic year starts in June. During this holiday month the Trust is offering free spoken English and basic computer skills in its English language audio visual lab. It is open to all children in the village.

A team of doctors from the Chettinad Hospital in the nearby town of Kelambakkam is giving free medical advice and treatment for all Kovalam residents if registered through the Trust. Their clinic is set up at the Janakiraman Community Hall on a regular basis and if hospital tests and treatment are needed, these are provided at the hospital without charge. 


Donations are always very gratefully received. Help is always needed for our University Fund or scholarships which can be awarded in your name and are very special for the recipients (from £1,500 for a three year course). Contributions towards fittings for one of the new science labs or the upgrading of the Uber Mummies’ classroom block would, of course, be very welcome. A teacher’s salary for a year costs £2,400. Thank you to all our supporters for being a part of our wonderful and successful charity which is giving a future to thousands of children and putting poverty firmly in the history books.

Every penny of your donations will be put to excellent use. They can be paid online to Venkat Trust, 40-24-10, 11349406, through our website,, or by cheque to 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP. Thank you.

Last But Not Least

My fellow trustee Lindsay (also my best friend and erstwhile business partner) and I have written a book which is being published on November 1 by Black Spring. Called The Boy on the Beach for reasons which will be known to many of you – check our website if you don’t know – it is a memoir of our respective early lives, a light hearted look at the London PR company we ran together for 23 years and, most important of course, the story so far of the Venkat Trust.  And we hope you will all buy a copy and lots more for Christmas presents!  We may not aspire to the Sunday Times Bestsellers List quite yet but we hope you’ll help us spread the word. We don’t know the price yet but it will be offered to our supporters well below the retail cost. Watch this space for more information in due course. All profits will be going to the Venkat Trust.  

We are very grateful to our volunteers: Emma Holder, our UK Sponsorship Coordinator, Sandra Huggett for her admin work and Astrid Hunton of Expat Academy for the layout and circulation of our Newsletter.

The Venkat Trust is a registered charity No.1104363

The Venkat Trust, 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP

Tel: 01273 719362

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UK Trustees: Sylvia Holder, Lindsay Swan, Sarah Da Silva,

Nick Goslett, John Whelan, Natalie Lee

Kovalam Trustees: Janakiraman (JR), M. Ali