How it began
The Venkat Trust owes its existence to a chance meeting on the beach of a poor fishing village in South India between an English woman and a 12-year-old Indian boy. Sylvia Holder was staying in the area on business and had wandered along the beach to the fishing village of Kovalam, near Chennai, where she met Venkat, the son of an impoverished fisherman. She was so taken by the disarmingly delightful boy that she found herself offering to pay for his school fees for as far as he could go. Venkat realised this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to a better life and against all the odds for such a disadvantaged boy he graduated from Madras University 12 years later. They kept in close touch over the years but, tragically, just as his career was taking off, he was killed in road accident. He was 27.
Greatly saddened by Venkat’s death, Sylvia returned to Kovalam to buy something for the village in his memory. She thought a TV would fit the bill. If that plan had come to fruition there would be no Venkat Trust, no free education available to hundreds of children. Instead, JR, the intuitive brother of Venkat, gave the thumbs down to the TV and steered her to the only free school in the village, the Government Primary School. She was shaken by what she saw – dilapidated buildings, no qualified staff, no furniture, few text books and, worst of all, sad looking, bedraggled children. There was a bigger job to be done.
And so the Venkatraman Memorial Trust, known as the Venkat Trust, came into being to bring education to Kovalam. Apart from the Primary School, there was no free schooling in the village. Today, 18 years on, Kovalam offers a comprehensive education from kindergarten to university and vocational training. Now, thanks to their degrees and other qualifications, thousands of young people can look forward to excellent careers and a happy, fulfilled future ahead of them. Goodbye poverty. Venkat did not die in vain.
This year the Venkat Trust celebrates its Coming of Age. Click here or on the image below to read about our progress and some of our achievements over the last 18 years.