November 2022

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

Update from Sylvia Holder, Founder Trustee

New Classrooms

I thought by now I would be proudly showing you the 12-classroom and 2-science labs extension to which many of you so generously contributed many a month ago. Wrong. I should be used to the Tamil Nadu Government’s modus operandi by now, ie a baffling modus and very little operandi, but I get ever more exasperated at their delay in releasing our  funds to finish the project;  right now there’s little more than the foundations and a couple of feet of wall. JR has worked tirelessly chasing the money from this department to that department and it’s usually promised “by the end of the week” but there’s not a rupee in sight as yet.  All projects in which the Government have been involved – it took them three years to sanction the building of the joint initiative High School – is a Waiting for Godot game. It will come but I am sorry for this delay.  

While we wait, we have speedily built six ‘temporary’ classrooms that will last for many a decade. These have brought some much needed relief to the classroom overcrowding caused by our massive influx of pupils last year. They have been financed by our 15 wonderful runners who took part in the Brighton and Hackney half marathons earlier in the year, all members of the Uber Mummies’ fitness community, run by our Head Fund Raiser Alex Smallman.   Bravo and thank you to Alex and her wonderful team. And thank you, too, to local companies who donated materials, and individuals in the Chennai area who also contributed to the building costs. 

The six classroom building before the portable partitions were installed.

Students doing well from Primary School to University

On a happier note, Kovalam is mercifully free of any Covid recurrence and our children, from the tiny tots in the kindergarten to our post graduate students are doing well at their schools and colleges. Having our own 11th and 12th standards (sixth form) at the Higher Secondary School has been a great blessing: the continuity has meant better academic results and the students much prefer their one-stop-shop secondary education in the school they all love, crowded or otherwise. All our sponsored university students in their last year graduated and some are now studying for Master's or other post-graduate degrees. In all we have 75 at university, 75 who without the Trust would be earning a pittance in a menial job with no hope for the future. 

Supporters' Coming of Age Weekend in January

For those of you who may not have seen it in the last Newsletter, you are invited to join our Coming of Age weekend in Kovalam from 20-23 January 2023. It’ll be an informal weekend but we’ll be organising visits to the schools and the Sunday gathering of the sponsored children, as well as taking you to see them in their own homes.  If interested please contact me on as soon as possible as visas need to be applied for soon. I can also put you in the picture regarding flights, accommodation etc. Come and join the party!

Chess, snooker and swimming


Congratulations to our sponsored siblings,16-year old Jaiganesh and 12-year old Thenmozhi, both of whom collected silverware at the annual chess competition at the Sri Hayagrivar Chess Academy in Chennai. Some 350 school students and members of chess academies took part in this important event and Jaiganesh won third prize in his grouping and his sister pipped him with second place in hers. They previously both won second place in a competition organised by the Tamil Nadu Education Department for which they each won Rs.800. We’re very proud of their success and all the more so because they kindly donated half of their winnings of Rs.800 each to VMT’s building fund.  

Siblings Jaiganesh, and Thenmozhi


Snooker continues to be a firm favourite at the Higher Secondary School. Three of our girls – Suhana Begum, Anusha and Shalini – took part in their first State Level tournament and Shalini got to the semi finals where she put up a good fight against a National player. Well done girls.

Shalini on her way to the semi-finals


As water is synonymous with our fishing village, it’s important that all our children are taught to swim as the sea can be treacherous.  Our Higher Secondary School pupils were very fortunate to have tuition from professional American swimmers Nora Deleske and Julia Harbaugh who were in Chennai under the auspices of the US Consulate. Their programme took them from a theory session to tuition in a Chennai swimming pool and finally to their own Kovalam sea which included life saving training. It was an extremely useful exercise for them.  


A small takeaway coffee in Costa every week and the sponsorship of a desperately needy child cost the same - £14 a month. One is a short and enjoyable caffeine fix, the other takes our most deprived children out of the poverty trap into lives full of promise. It’s a no brainer as far as the best value is concerned. Under the caring wing of the Venkat Trust, sponsors’ monthly payments ensures the children’s welfare, an excellent education and life changing choices. This year, 75 of our sponsored children are at university, following in the footsteps of those who are now enjoying successful careers and have turned their backs on the poverty which blighted their families for generations. Please contact Aarthi at for more information. Emma on is our UK sponsorship coordinator.  

Gwyneth Leith Powell

Those of you who were at my 80th birthday bash in Kovalam will be very sad to hear of the death of Gwyneth Leith Powell and you may have seen the glowing obituaries of this very special person.  There was great excitement when she was recognised as Mrs. McCluskey, the headmistress of BBC’s children’s programme Grange Hill, a part she played for more than a decade in the 70s and 80s.  Many of the guests were either children or parents then, avid Grange Hill fans, and were delighted to discover the ‘firm but fair’ headmistress in their midst. Gwyneth was a wonderful supporter of the Trust and the photo, taken in her beautiful garden, shows her proudly displaying the Pointless Celebrities trophy she won for getting to the final.   Although she and her ‘pupil’ partner fell at the last hurdle, their chosen charities received a donation and we were delighted to be Gwyneth’s choice. She also kindly provided the wonderful voice over for our video ‘Goodbye poverty. It's called education’. (

Alan very kindly nominated the Trust as the beneficiary of donations in her memory and details of how we will remember her will be in the next Newsletter. 

Our thoughts are with Alan, family and friends at this sad time.  

Thank you

Thanks to you, we provide an excellent and rounded education for Kovalam’s children and sponsorship of 400 of the village’s most disadvantaged children. We pride ourselves on being ahead of the game – there are few high or higher secondary schools offering any of our extra facilities: English audio visual lab, two school buses offering student pick-up in outlying villages, snooker tables, cricket nets and bowling machine, girls’ cricket team, 5500-book library, state-of-the-art science lab, music club, sports days and a social club for sponsored university students.

This is made possible thanks to your standing orders, donations and fund-raising efforts - from a wine and cheese party to runs and walks and bike rides and, once again, the proceeds of a company’s swear box! We also thank trusts and foundations for their support, all of which helps us to strive for the best and to turn poverty into success. 

Can you help?

This is obviously not the best time to be asking for help as we all tighten our belts, put on another jumper and grimace at our ever escalating mortgage payments. As the country is facing such a difficult year ahead, we’ve decided not to have a Christmas shopping list this year but rather to ask you, if funds do permit, for any amount however small (or large!) that you can manage. All donations will be most gratefully received and will help us get through what inevitably is going to be a difficult year for all charities. Payments can be made online:   Venkat Trust, sort code 40-24-10, account number 11349406, through our website or by cheque to 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP. Thank you very much.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS to you all and a very big thank you from the VMT teams in Kovalam and the UK for the wonderful support you give us.  


As ever, we are very grateful to our volunteers who make our lives so much easier – Sandra Huggett for relieving me of admin chores and Astrid Hunton from Expat Academy for the layout and circulation of our newsletters.

The Venkat Trust is a registered charity No.1104363
The Venkat Trust, 12 Westbourne Gardens, Hove BN3 5PP
Tel: 01273 719362
UK Trustees: Sylvia Holder, Lindsay Swan, Sarah Da Silva, Nick Goslett, John Whelan
Kovalam Trustees: Janakiraman (JR), M. Ali