Downend & Bromley Heath parish councillor Matt Pitts has taken on a new role strengthening links between the UK and a school in India. Matt describes its work.
HAVEN Home is a school for the poor in India that has had links for many years with Downend and the rest of east Bristol.
Over the past five years I have been working with the school, visiting four times including for six weeks last Christmas and four weeks in July.
In agreement with Martyn Poole, a former parish councillor with strong links to the school and Jamie Paddon, the lead for the team from Christ Church in Downend who go out to help at the school, I’m taking on a new role as the main UK link for Haven Home.
This will require working with Mullers, a Bristol charity which has been supporting the poor and orphans since the 1870s and the donors who are the primary source of funding for the school.
Haven Home was first set up in Vizianagaram, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in 1994 as an orphanage when there was little support for orphans.
Since then, thankfully the government in India has stepped up, which means the school has transitioned from a true orphanage into a school.
There are 37 girls and 43 boys who stay in dorms in the school and around 20 who come in each day from the local village.
Around ten have lost both parents and around 35 have lost one parent. The majority of children come from very poor households, where the parents go out to work, for example as a housemaid earning around £2 per day, often working 12 hour shifts.
With the cost of groceries about the same as the UK, a chicken can cost up to two days’ wages.
It is still common to see children begging on the streets for a few pennies to buy some food.
Haven Home is a sanctuary for children who would otherwise end up wandering the streets, leading to significant safety risks: many thousands of children disappear in India every year.
Some children at the school are as young as three, but most are seven and over, and are looked after up until the age of 18.
On top of food, medical cover and their education, Haven Home provides a loving home with constant adult supervision, from before 7am through to 10pm.
These children are happy, along with being brought up as very well-rounded individuals, learning a vast array of skills, both academic and practical.
Having spent every moment I can with the children during visits, it is hard to describe just how wonderful the place is, and how much difference it makes to children’s lives.
They are full of love and joy. If I had children, I would have no issue with them growing up there.
To provide food, education, medical, clothes and a loving home to one of these children costs around £40 per month, a little more than £1 per day.
A mixture of reduced donations after lockdown and inflation means Haven Home needs extra financial support.
There is room for an extra 13 girls and eight boys in the dorms but it needs your help to finance this.
Just £1.50 pays for a child’s pens and pencils for a year, while £40 per month covers the full cost of supporting a child, including food, education, medical, utilities, clothes and school books.
The school needs a new English teacher: £100 pays their monthly salary.
For cash donations there is a charity pot at Premier Stores, in Quakers Road.
To donate online go to www.gofundme.com/Haven-Home.
To make regular donations, with gift aid, contact me directly at Matt.Pitts@dbhparishcouncil.com or call 0783 787 0039.
You can also join the Haven Home WhatsApp group for updates via the same number, or visit www.youtube.com/@havenhomeindia to see videos from a recent trip.
Christ Church Downend is due to visit again in December.