University of Hull Alumni Giving hope to orphaned and destitute children in India

Two University of Hull graduates are making a huge difference to the lives of orphaned and destitute young people in India. Having established The Hope Community Village, with the aim of providing some of the most vulnerable children with a secure home environment, an education and a chance to return and make a contribution in their communities, they are bringing hope and opportunity where previously neither existed.

John and Norma Veitch graduated from The University of Hull in 1963 and 1962 respectively, John with a degree in Economics and Norma (nee Etchells) with a degree in History.

“One lasting memory was arriving at Ferens Hall for the first time and feeling completely out of my depth,” says John, of his time at Hull. “I was the first pupil to get an admission to University from my school having received no advice from anyone as to what to expect. I was meeting fellow pupils far more worldly than I and it took me some time to adjust particularly to the freedom I had.”

John went into marketing with Proctor and Gamble, eventually running his own business, JVL Products, based in West Yorkshire. Norma became a primary school teacher. Together they had two children.

John’s business involved many visits to South India where he witnessed some of the deprivation being endured by some of the local people, particularly children from disadvantaged families. He decided to put something back and, after looking at various possibilities, determined to try to help some of the children in Kerala by establishing a caring home for them.

John set about fundraising for his cause, running the London Marathon, which raised enough funds to enable him to buy some land and to install some facilities. He also cycled over 600 miles along the west coast of India from the site (called ‘Heavenly Forest’ locally) all the way to Panaji in Goa in order to raise further funding.

When ‘Hope Community Village’ was founded it was immediately registered with the Charity Commission and a UK board of trustees was appointed, as well as a local committee in India to help with the running of the facility.  It was important that the ‘Village’ was established as a caring home for orphaned and destitute children, quite different to the traditional way of looking after needy young people.

“Hope” was established over a few years where the site saw the building of a number of individual houses, each with a house mother and a ‘family’ of children, ranging in ages from babies to teenagers. The mothers provide love and affection as well as food and practical requirements, and, together with a guarantee of the best possible support throughout their growing up, an education suitable for their needs.

The first house was completed in 1996 and both John and Norma were there to welcome the first three children, all from the same family and whose parents had died. They arrived with no possessions and had no other family members who could look after them. The aim was to break the cycle of poverty and to return the children to the community as confident, self-sufficient adults, capable of contributing to society. The eldest boy is now a top chef in Doha in the Middle East, one of his sisters is working in a luxury 5-star hotel in Cochin and the other sister is now happily married with her own child.

Hope now has six houses, each with up to 10 children, a boys’ hostel for the teenage boys, as well as a cultural centre which provides IT facilities and opportunities in music and dance. The youngest child is just 2 years old. Hope also has a kindergarten which is available to local families who would not otherwise be able to afford to send their children to school. The kindergarten has over 90 children at present.

Several families in the district are supported by Hope’s outreach programmes and Hope’s children were able to help with the recent flood relief efforts.

To date, they have supported over 80 children, many of whom have returned to the community with good employment opportunities, or have gone into higher education to study nursing, engineering or hospitality skills.

The remarkable transformation that Norma and John offer to the children who are cared for in Hope Community Village is highlighted by those who are able to move on to Higher Education, where their development continues. The value of that education, the opportunities it brings, and the ways in which it allows the children to give back to their communities is surely not lost on them.

“Professor Wilson headed up the Economics Department and I had a great admiration for him,” says John. “Later, as a past student I would occasionally meet up with him for dinner when he would always remind me that he saw more of me after I had graduated than when, as a student, I was supposed to be attending his lectures. I attended tutorials with Dr Evans who had a great influence on me. He gave me a great deal of confidence and direction which at the time I guess I didn’t really appreciate. As indicated earlier I arrived at Hull full of apprehension and nervousness. I left with a confidence which I could never have imagined having spent three years with some very inspirational fellow students-many of whom are still good friends-and thanks to encouragement from Dr Evans I was the first student from  Hull to join Proctor and Gamble -a highly sort after appointment.”

Without a doubt, John and Norma Veitch have come a long way since those early days of nervousness and apprehension, and the confidence they attained during the course of their studies in Hull has now been put to good use, giving hope to children who need it.

More information about the work of Hope Community Village can be found here www.hopeindia.org

For further information, please contact Steve Redmond, Trustee, Hope Community Village, on steveredmond205@hotmail.com.

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