Volunteering 6 months at AJEH

Pauline von Galen contacted us in the summer of 2012 with the aim of volunteering with one of our project partners. A few months later, she was packing her bags for a 5 month stay at the Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital in rural Bihar, India. After leaving high school Pauline knew that she wanted to volunteer her time and efforts to a charitable cause. Through her aunt Amelie, a friend and supporter of the Savitri Trust, Pauline reached out and we immediately put her in touch with Mritunjay Tiwary, Project Head at the hospital. Pauline stayed at AJEH between September 2012 and February 2013 and spent her time with the young girls enrolled on the Education through Football Programme, an inspired model whereby football is used as an instrument of change, targeting gender-based inequalities, economic exploitation and child marriage, all of which greatly afflict the young girl. 75% of girls in rural Bihar are married before the age of 18, the majority of whom are usually married by 15. Half of these girls will be pregnant by the age of 18 and more than 60% remain illiterate. Rampant poverty and poor quality and availability of education compound the problem. Pauline experienced the tremendous difference that AJEH is making to the lives of young girls and women in Bihar and shares her experience below: I usually played football with the team in the morning and then spent my day teaching English or preparing classes with the other English teachers, who would visit almost every month that I was there. In my free time I often went to the girls’ hostel and hung out with them. In that way I got pretty close to many of them, made some good friends, and learned so much about their lives and the Indian culture. The hospital itself is extremely fascinating – all these patients every day queueing up in their hundreds! I sometimes watched the doctors or the girls working and tried to learn from them. I learned very much about eye care and how the hospital functions. The other English teachers and I often went for walks around the villages. The poverty is shocking but it was also very interesting just to see the village life and how the people manage it. One thing though which made me think a lot during my time there and still does, is the discrimination between men and women, especially in the rural areas but also all over India – as I saw when I was travelling after my time at AJEH – women and girls seem to have little or no freedom in most of their decisions and men usually seem to be in charge. I hope that with all that has happened in Delhi and so on there may be some change coming. All in all, the five months at AJEH were a really great and valuable experience for me. I don’t think I could have done this and learned to love the real India in any better way. I have never met such hospitable people in my life before. Everyone at AJEH – especially the girls – looked after me so well and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible there. I will definitely try to come for a visit next winter to see them again. Whilst the Savitri Trust does not actively provide volunteer opportunities, we can help facilitate a placement relevant to you by putting you in touch with one of our project partners. If you are interested to volunteer your time and skills, please contact info@savitri.org.uk

Running for Sight

By now, you will be very familiar with these five faces. The Gobi Boys spent a year undertaking a gruelling exercise regime, as well as taking on all aspects of charity fundraising from spreading the word and speaking to donors, to putting on fundraising events, and finally completing the Gobi Desert March Challenge in June 2013. We are pleased to report that the boys arrived home intact and together have raised an incredible £180,000 in support of cataract surgeries at the Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital. This has been an amazing experience for both the Gobi Boys and the Savitri Trust. We are lucky to have met Anthony, Charles, Jack, Tim and Tom and it is safe to say that their efforts have far exceeded our expectations.   It was on January 1st 2012 that Anthony, Charlie and Tom decided to set themselves a life changing challenge that involved pushing themselves to the limits in aid of a charity where they could make a big difference. By February, Anthony, with his fine skills of persuasion found no difficulty in recruiting Jack and me to the team to embark on the challenge. After 2 days of travelling half way across the globe we finally found ourselves at the start line. 6 marathons, 7 days and it would be complete – a daunting thought to say the least. The race was an unforgettable experience. The course on the whole was incredibly beautiful and the terrain varied hugely day by day. We ran and climbed through dry rocky valleys, flat terrain, up acute slopes and even through a small town in the middle of eastern China. However, it is day 5, ‘the long march’, that will stand out in our memories forever. It was the gruelling 75km slog with multiple climbs reaching up to the highest point of 2800 metres. The first 10km went by with relative ease until we reached the big 30km, 2000 metre ascent to the top of the mountain and check point 4. At first we were hit by wind, then came the horizontal rain, then the higher we climbed the rain turned to fierce hail. No one expected these extreme cold conditions to engulf us, especially not on a ‘desert’ race so this was our toughest day by far. After a day of rest, or medical attention in Anthony’s case (he had the most extreme blisters the race organisers had ever seen), we had the final 14km stage to the finish line. We all crossed together as a team, the same way we started this adventure, which was by far one of the greatest feelings we’ve ever experienced. ~ Tim Elborne

The Arjun Waney Eye Centre Inauguration

The Savitri Waney Charitable Foundation is delighted to partner with the LV Prasad Eye Institute. This secondary eye hospital provides high quality eye and patient care for people in all socioeconomic situations. The Arjun Waney Eye Centre was inaugurated in the presence of the Honourable Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik on 13 December 2015, the birthday of Arjun’s mother Savitri in whose name the Trust was founded. To mark the occasion, the Savitri team and several members of the Trustee board travelled to Odisha. As eye care services are sporadically distributed across Odisha, the Centre is specifically located to cater to a rural population that has limited access to eye care.  The centre aims to reach 25,000 people annually through its outpatient department and to undertake 2,500 – 3,000 surgeries through its various community outreach services.

Putting the Luxury into Fundraising

It’s always fantastic when people reach out to Savitri and chose to support our work and we wanted to take this opportunity to thank Niki Richards and her group of ambitious and inspiring students from Regent’s University, London who generously decided to do just that. They are part of The Regents University Luxury Society (RLS), an international network of young professionals and post graduate students united by their shared interest in the luxury industry. The society aims to bring students and professionals together to provide industry knowledge, networking opportunities and career planning. President of RLS, Anne de la Mothe Karoubi shares her thoughts on the importance of giving back whilst working in an industry surrounded by so much wealth: “Savitri was a logical choice for us, since it supports a number of different healthcare and community development projects throughout India and Nigeria. We were so happy to find a charity that is focused on engaging and educating young girls. Also, Savitri is closely linked to many successful luxury restaurants in London; it was a logical step to support an organization that is closely linked to ventures within our community.” The girls decided to host an informal panel discussion that focused on important trends within the industry. Panelists included Ian Hardy of LVMH, Lindsay Davis of Quintessentially, Robin Colgan of Land Rover and Ruth Harrison of Thought Works. Funds raised from ticket sales allowed 100% of RLS’s generous donation to go towards supporting girls from Bihar who are studying to be optometrists at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital.