Election time in Kovalam


JR (Janikiraman) the Trust’s Managing Trustee in India, stood for re-election as President of Kovalam. When Sylvia and new VMT trustee Sarah da Silva were in Kovalam in September, they both gave speeches in support of his campaign to hundreds of voters.

Sylvia’s speech:

“Varnakum! (Greetings!)
“Neengal eypadi irukeenga? (How are you?)

“My first meeting with Janakiraman was a sad occasion. It was in January 2004 and it was just six weeks since his much loved brother, Venkat, had been killed in a road accident. For me, it was sad too as I had known Venkat since he was 12 years old when we met here on the beach. I paid for his education and was so proud when he graduated from Madras University. Sadly, his promising career came to an abrupt and tragic end when he was just 27 years old.

“Determined that some good should come out of this appalling tragedy I returned to Kovalam and at my very first meeting with Janakiraman he pledged his support to help us give the same educational opportunities as Venkat had had to other children in Kovalam. And what support that has been. I knew immediately that in Janakiraman we had a leader of men, dedicated to the people of the village and someone undaunted by anything thrown at him. How right I proved to be. He wasted no time in setting about improving the facilities at the Panchayat School – painting and renovating, providing desk and bench sets, lockers, ceiling fans and computers, and that was just the beginning of the transformation that has taken place.

Kovalam Trustee Jude, left, translated Sylvia’s and Sarah’s speeches into Tamil

“But the renovation programme was barely under way when tragedy befell the whole village. It was, of course, the Tsunami in which so many of you suffered appallingly – loss of lives, houses destroyed and fishing boats – the livelihood of the village – reduced to a pile of rubble. The serious food shortage was the first problem to tackle and with money I expressed to Kovalam, Janakiraman bought rice in Thrukalulaundram and distributed it to all the needy families. At that time he wasn’t even President. And that wasn’t all. With funds we raised in the UK, he brought in matchbox wood from Kerala and set up a boat building yard on the beach. There some 25 catamarans were made, some fitted with engines and given to those who had lost their boats. Nets for river and sea fishing were also bought by him to distribute to the fishermen. How many people, I wonder, would have shown such initiative and concern for his village as Janakiraman did in his prompt action to get the fishermen back to work.

“Back to the Venkat Trust and Janakirman’s list of achievements is nothing short of remarkable. I and my fellow trustees raise the money in the UK but without Janakiraman’s total commitment none of them would have been achieved.

“In 2004 the Panchayat School was down at heel, ill equipped, overcrowded and under staffed. Today it is a thriving sought after school and has contributed to the remarkable increase in the literacy rate in Kovalam from 65% to 90%. In his role as Managing Trustee of the Venkat Trust, Janakiraman has supervised the construction of three new buildings for the school – the Venkat Tuition Centre, the two storey Ganesh Building on the school land and the Dining Hall. He has taken on experienced teachers to supplement those provided by the Government, provided the first computers for the school, and installed sewing machines for the girls to gain proficiency in sewing. The playground, land for which he bought for the Trust, is now a very popular sports area for the whole village.

“St Joseph’s hasn’t been forgotten either. The Trust, under Janakiraman’s leadership, pays for 200 of the pupils’ school fees and awards university scholarships to four students each year. Right now, we have 12 undergraduates and two post graduate students, none of whom would have been able to afford the fees without the Trust’s help. Apart from the Trust’s contribution, in his role as President Janakiraman has paid the fees for another 430 school children and 48 university undergraduates.

“Children from both St Joseph’s and the Panchayat School are benefitting from the Trust’s sponsorship scheme and we now have 180 children receiving help from the UK and more are planned for the future. Here one should also mention Ali who is Janakiraman’s right hand man and does a sterling job in helping him, not only with the sponsorship, but with all the other many Venkat Trust duties. Janakiraman and Ali are a dream team, not just for the Trust but in their presidential duties.

Hundreds of villagers from Kovalam came to hear the speeches

“Last but not least is the new high school, a joint Venkat Trust and Tamil Nadu Government initiative, which will soon be built for one thousand pupils. This will mean that in future no Kovalam child will be turned away from a secondary school education as is happening at the moment at the greatly oversubscribed St Joseph’s. Because of the Government involvement, it has not been an easy project but Janakiraman has worked tirelessly to obtain the order to start building the school. I dread to think how many visits he has had to make to Chennai and back in pursuit of this authority.

“In Janakiraman, you have had an excellent President over the past five years. I cannot commend him too highly to be your President for the next five years. It would be difficult indeed to find a man with greater integrity, dedication, compassion and commitment. I just wish I had a vote, I know where I would be putting my X.

“Nandri (Thank you)
“Poy tu varen (Goodbye)”

Sarah’s speech:

“Hello Everybody!

“May I start by saying how great it is to be back in Kovalam. This is my fourth visit since meeting Sylvia.

“I have been a supporter of the Venkat Trust for four years back in England but it wasn’t until I came out here in 2009 that I was able to fully appreciate the enormous job done by Janakiraman. The improvements to the school and its facilities are astonishing. He is a truly inspirational man and has worked tirelessly to raise the standard of living for Kovalam’s families and their children.

“I have been privileged to spend time with your President and his hard working team, in particular Ali who with endless patience is so helpful and kind.

“I feel sure that in voting for Janakiraman again in this election you will see further improvements to the lives of many.

“Best wishes to you all and thank you for making me so welcome.”