The latest news from Kovalam

May 26th, 2022

The Venkat Trust is buzzing and the school children and the university students are delighted to be back at their schools and colleges after the long pandemic. Read all about it here.

Running Brighton Half Marathon for VMT

February 22nd, 2022

VMT Trustee John Whelan and Alex Smallman, our honorary fundraiser, are braving the elements, as well as aches and pains to run the Brighton Half Marathon, this Sunday, 27 February, with 12 members of Ubermummies, Alex’s friendship and fitness club. Their target is £10,000 to buy one of the new classrooms being built at our […]

Foundation stone laid for the new Higher Secondary School

February 6th, 2022

4 February 2022 was another big milestone in the story of the Venkat Trust with the laying of the foundation stone for the new Kovalam Higher Secondary School. The ceremony was attended by important government officials the District Collector, Chief Educational Officer and District Educational Officer, who joined JR, the Headmaster, pupils and the VMT […]

Online donations

December 21st, 2021

NEW DONATIONS PORTAL: We’ve set up a new online donation facility with Charities Aid Foundation Bank to replace Virgin Money Giving which has now closed. Here’s the direct link to our CAF page

VMT High School promoted to Higher Secondary School

October 25th, 2021

We’ve launched our appeal to raise funds for the second phase of the VMT Higher Secondary School. After a long and bleak time during Covid, our children and young people are at last back at their schools and colleges, bringing much missed chatter and laughter after the many months of closed doors and depressing silence. […]

The latest news from Kovalam

July 15th, 2021

Our beautiful High School is now a fully fledged Higher Secondary School and the pupils are flooding in. Read all about this, the latest Covid update from Kovalam and how the students are settling into the University Club in the July Newsletter.

Covid update from Kovalam

May 13th, 2021

About one in ten of Kovalam’s adult population now has Covid and there are no hospital beds for them, oxygen supplies are very low and there’s no vaccine. We’ve set up the Venkat Trust Covid Emergency Programme to help Kovalam through the pandemic. At last – thankfully – Tamil Nadu is in total lockdown but […]

Crisis in India

April 29th, 2021

Our newsletter with Covid19 news from Kovalam and how the Trust is helping. We’re raising funds for food and laptops so our students can continue their studies.

The November newsletter – out now

November 18th, 2020

Our November newsletter has news on how Kovalam is coping with Covid19 and highlights from the Zoom Virtual Curry Lunch.

Our new video

October 19th, 2020

Here’s our new video. We hope you enjoy it and please pass it on to any friends and others who might be interested in becoming a supporter.

July update, News from Kovalam

July 7th, 2020

Click here for an update on the Coronavirus situation in India and particularly Kovalam.

Our May newsletter

May 5th, 2020

Our May newsletter has news from Lockdown Kovalam, a new film about our work and the first ever girls’ cricket team in a Tamil Nadu Government High School.

Kovalam in Lockdown – Hardship Fund

April 9th, 2020

In common with the rest of India, Kovalam is, of course, in lockdown which has brought considerable hardship to the village which relies on fishing for its livelihood. We have been very concerned about their welfare but, thanks to donations we have received from Venkat Trust supporters, we have been able to arrange for 2000 […]

Uber Mummies Running Brighton Half Marathon for VMT

February 19th, 2020

Alex Smallman, VMT trustee John Whelan’s fiancée and a wonderful supporter of the Trust, is running the Brighton Half Marathon for us on Sunday (23 February 2020). It’s Alex’s third Half Marathon for VMT and she is joined again by lots of her Uber Mummies, who together over the past two years have raised enough […]

Our October newsletter

October 24th, 2019

Our splendid new English language lab is open and the children and young people love it. Read the latest news from Kovalam here.

Our May newsletter

June 8th, 2019

The latest news from Kovalam, including a report of the Big 80th Birthday Bash, the BEM and Kather Mytheen’s story, “What the Venkat Trust means to me”. Download it here.

New Year’s Honour for VMT founder

December 29th, 2018

We are delighted to announce that VMT founder Sylvia Holder has received a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours 2019 “for services to Education in Kovalam India”. Read the report here.

What we’ve achieved since 2004

November 29th, 2018

It’s been a busy 12 years since the Venkat Trust was established and there’s a lot to show for all the hard work: 1 High School for 1000 pupils 2 Primary School buildings – The Ganesh Building and the Dining Hall 1 The Venkat Tuition Centre 1 The Janikiraman Community Hall 1 school bus 400 […]

Amazon shoppers – your purchases can help VMT

November 24th, 2018

Amazon shoppers, VMT will receive 0.5% of the net purchase price (excluding VAT, returns and shipping fees) if you sign in through and nominate the Venkatraman Memorial Trust as your chosen charity.

The High School gets its own bus

November 16th, 2018

The High School pupils are delighted to have their own school bus thanks to a generous VMT supporter. The bus was particularly needed for safety reasons. As the High School is situated off a busy dual carriageway and the pedestrian crossing is totally ignored by the heavy traffic, it was becoming dangerous to cross. Problem […]


May 27th, 2018

Our high school sports ground, the envy of many a school, has been further enhanced by the very handsome gift of a cricket bowling machine which delivers balls on demand —fast, slow, googly — you name it, together with two sets of cricket nets, much to the delight of our budding cricketers. The nets are […]

Snooker Success

April 30th, 2018

Our two boy snooker stars, Sridhar 15, and Shaunalla, 18, had never heard of snooker, let alone picked up a cue, until the snooker table kindly given to us by supporter Peter Bainbridge, arrived at the high school. Since then they have excelled themselves at the game and both have beaten formidable competition at national […]

The million pound milestone

April 20th, 2018

Our income since the Venkat Trust was set up in 2004 has gone well past the £1 million mark which means that £1 million has gone to Kovalam. Knowing that the trustees pick up the tab for all UK expenses is, we know,very important to our supporters. Small we may be but not many charities […]

VMT in the Sunday Telegraph Stella Magazine

October 20th, 2017

Sylvia tells the story of the day she met Venkat on the beach in Kovalam in the Sunday Telegraph Stella Magazine. The rest, as they say, is history.

‘Little Stories From Kovalam’ our University Fund campaign.

April 24th, 2017

Sumithra was the first child to be sponsored through VMT and thanks to her generous sponsor and her own hard work she’s gained two degrees and is now in a fantastic job. The Trust wants to give more children the opportunity Sumithra had and so we’re launching ‘Little Stories From Kovalam’ to raise money for […]

The Janakiraman Community Hall opens

September 29th, 2016

A very special and emotional day in Kovalam: the grand opening on 18 September of the Venkat Trust’s massive and splendid Janakiraman Community Hall, named in recognition of JR’s tireless work for the Trust. Since the Trust was set up in 2004, JR has dedicated himself to improving education in his village so that no […]

Curry Lunch

May 18th, 2016

To stand on a rostrum and deliver a speech in your mother tongue is nerve wracking enough, to do so in the language of a country you’ve never visited before must be totally daunting. But JR pulled it off with huge aplomb, much to the delight of the VMT supporters gathered together for our biannual […]

Sponsors visit Kovalam

March 16th, 2016

When UK trustees Sylvia, Nick and Lindsay were in Kovalam in January, they were delighted to meet Linda and Staveley Ferguson who were visiting Chennai. Linda and Staveley sponsor Kishore and they made a special detour to Kovalam to meet him and his family. Here they are with Kishore, his mother, sister and grandmother, outside […]

Snooker comes to Kovalam

January 28th, 2016

Snooker is now taught at the VMT High School thanks to a UK supporter’s generous gift of a beautiful three-quarter size snooker table. The pupils are hooked already and Chennai’s No 1 snooker player will be giving weekly lessons from now on. Snooker’s growing fast in India and we’re now on the lookout for a […]

Celebrating Humanity

January 27th, 2016

The Venkat Trust is hosting an event,”Celebrating Humanity”, in Chennai on Saturday 30 January. It is being organised by VMT’s India trustees Janakiraman, Jude Sax and Ali to thank the individuals, charities, businesses and corporations that supported VMT’s relief work in Kovalam and Chennai during the recent catastrophic floods. Some 70 guests have been invited […]

Sylvia is featured in Choice Magazine

January 18th, 2016

Read the story of how Sylvia set up the Venkat Trust in January’s Choice magazine

Volunteers needed for Kovalam beach clean-up

December 18th, 2015

SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER 8am – 11am. During the recent terrible floods Kovalam’s sandy beach disappeared under a mass of rubbish and so The Venkat Trust and Bhumi Trust have organised a massive beach clean-up with some 325 volunteers for this Sunday. More helpers are needed so please tell anyone you know in the Chennai area […]

Margaret Drabble’s visit to Kovalam

December 6th, 2015

Sylvia and fellow trustee Lindsay Swan were delighted to be joined on their last Kovalam visit by friend and VMT supporter, Dame Margaret Drabble, the eminent novelist, biographer and editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature. Read her impressions of her stay in our May 2015 Newsletter Margaret joins the young onlookers to watch […]

Floods in Kovalam

December 5th, 2015

Like Chennai, the village is experiencing its worst floods in a hundred years. As the photograph shows, the High School’s access road and sports ground are under water. Many houses have been washed away and funds are desperately needed to provide shelter and food deliveries by boat to Kovalam’s inhabitants. To donate please click on […]

Venkat Memorial Day 1 December

December 1st, 2015

1 December 2015, is the 12th anniversary of the death of Venkat in whose memory Sylvia set up the Venkatraman Memorial Trust. It’s commemorated in Kovalam with a special memorial day when the children are provided with food and banners are placed around the village with this image. The translation of the Tamil is below.

This year’s VMT Christmas card

October 17th, 2015

We’re back in the Christmas card business and we hope you like this year’s. The Father Christmas hats feature again but with a different slant– a sea of smiling children. The smiles are genuine, so happy are these kids to have a future thanks to their sponsorship. Proceeds from the card this year will go […]

Safe as houses

October 17th, 2015

Thanks to the incredible support we got for our Crisis in Kovalam appeal, 25 houses have been saved for which the families are very grateful. The once placid sea became a raging torrent but the very generous and immediate response meant we were able to shore up the houses with boulders before they were lost. […]

A special appeal

August 14th, 2015

Can you spare £10 to help save 25 houses in Kovalam being destroyed by the sea? The currents in the Bay of Bengal have changed and houses of the desperately poor villagers, usually far from the sea, are about to disappear under the waves. So urgent is the need to shore up the houses with […]

BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live

July 15th, 2015

Sylvia was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s popular morning magazine programme Saturday Live . Other guests included the tenor Alfie Boe with Katie Derham sharing her Inheritance Tracks for the start of the Proms season. She’s on just after 5 minutes and again at 46 minutes.

Graduation Day at the High School

May 6th, 2015

Aarthi, VMT’s fantastic administrator in Kovalam, sent these pictures to us explaining “The annual day celebration of the Govt. High School and Primary School may also be added since normally Govt. Schools and large number of Private schools does not celebrate annual days. But we have celebrated the Annual Day and the Graduation Day in […]

Marathon target smashed for VMT

December 1st, 2014

After weeks of training, the day of the Clontarf Half Marathon dawned at last. VMT supporter Julian Kulkarni had set the ambitious target of £2,000 for his fundraising but his most optimistic expectations were exceeded and the total has now reached an incredible £2,785. Not only that but Julian completed the run in under two […]

Will you sponsor a child?

October 26th, 2014

Our most recent Newsletter is dedicated to the sponsored children and our supporters who have made a better life possible for them, either through sponsorship or donations for all our educational projects. Our efforts have instilled a love of learning and the realisation that good careers and an end to poverty are within their grasp. […]

VMT Tenth Anniversary

May 19th, 2014

The Trust’s Tenth Anniversary celebrations were held on Sunday, 27 April at the Sussex County Cricket Ground in Hove. The main purpose of the curry lunch – a sell out with supporters coming from all over the country – was to honour the three Kovalam trustees who have played such a pivotal role in the […]

The Other Kovalam

May 2nd, 2014

Our new film The Other Kovalam, narrated by Jude, tells the VMT story from the India end. Watch it here The Other Kovalam from The Venkat Trust on Vimeo.

The High School is up and running

October 25th, 2013

The doors were opened for the first 250 pupils, nine teachers and the headmaster in July and already there is a wonderful atmosphere. Not all the classrooms are yet being used and Standards XVI and XVII for 17 and 18 year olds will be incorporated in 2014 and 2015. By that time the “arms”, providing […]

Christmas cards

October 21st, 2013

So successful was last year’s Christmas card – we were delighted with the number of compliments we received – that we’ve produced another this year which we hope will be just as popular. We’ve also limited stocks of last year’s card. As before, all production and processing stocks are met by the trustees but we […]

The Unfinished Monk

October 11th, 2013

Congratulations and many thanks to VMT supporter Richard Pitcairn-Knowles, who completed the London Marathon this year and raised £6000, a third of it for VMT. He still found time to write an art history book “The Unfinished Monk” about a fascinating ancestor, James Pitcairn-Knowles, a Scottish Nabis artist who lived in Europe in the 19th […]

The High School opens

July 15th, 2013

Red Letter Day: Monday, 15 July 2013 – the day the Venkat Trust’s new high school was opened. The first day at secondary school is always filled with excitement and nervousness but going to a brand new school is even more thrilling. The headmaster, his newly appointed teachers and the Kovalam trustees of the Venkat […]

Kovalam village life YouTube film

July 10th, 2013

We’ve made a short YouTube film with help from VMT supporter Mike Mirams, who has edited our rather shaky footage. It shows a little of everyday life in Kovalam, including the Primary School and a family sports day. Things have changed already of course with the opening of the High School. Click here to watch […]

Times Sternberg Award presentation at 11 Downing Street

June 11th, 2013

Sylvia received The Times Sternberg Award at a reception held on 6 June at 11 Downing Street for “her dedication to improving the education of the children of Kovalam, India.” It was presented by Michael Sternberg QC, son of Sir Sigmund Sternberg, co-sponsor of the award and founder of the Three Faiths Forum. “Filling the […]

Richard Pitcairn-Knowles completes London Marathon for VMT aged 80

April 30th, 2013

Congratulations to Richard Pitcairn Knowles, our octogenarian runner in the London Marathon. Despite lack of training due to an Achilles tendon problem, he “limped to the finish” – as he puts it – in 6.32 hours . Bravo. He would like to thank all the VMT supporters who kindly contributed to over £5,650 in aid […]

The High School is inaugurated

February 27th, 2013

The inauguration of the first phase of the new high school, comprising six large classrooms, took place on 23 January. The second storey is now nearing completion and in June the first 350 pupils will move into the school. Eventually, when the “arms” either side have been added, it will accommodate a thousand pupils. The […]

Sylvia wins The Times Sternberg Award

December 28th, 2012

The Times has announced that Sylvia is the winner of The Sternberg Active Life Award “for her dedication to improving the education of the children of Kovalam, India.” The prestigious annual award, which is in its fifth year, was established by Sir Sigmund Sternberg, the philanthropist and founder of the Three Faiths Forum, and The […]

The High School – almost there

December 27th, 2012

Our high school is well and truly on its way up. Phase I, the first six classrooms, is nearing completion and a second storey will be added next. The “arms” will then be built at each end, finally forming three sides of a rectangle. When completed, the school will accommodate a thousand pupils from Kovalam […]

Etihad Guest

September 22nd, 2012

The Venkat Trust has been chosen as one of the benefiting charities of Etihad Airways passenger loyalty programme. Etihad Guest offers a huge variety of rewards, among them the option to donate miles to good causes – including VMT. If you are travelling with Etihad and thinking of a good way to do good with […]

The JCBs arrive

February 18th, 2012

Work has started to build the High School

Learning Lessons in Kovalam

October 8th, 2011

We’ve made our first film about the Venkat Trust’s work in Kovalam.

Election time in Kovalam

October 6th, 2011

NEWS UPDATE: JR WINS A SECOND TERM 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 […]

Sylvia appears on Midweek

June 17th, 2011

Listen to Sylvia’s interview with Libby Purves on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek talking about the story behind the Venkat Trust. Her slot is just over ten minutes into the programme.

Can you help the new High School?

May 21st, 2011

From a room in the name of your choice for £4,000, to a tenner for a classroom sign, there are lots of ways to play a part in building the splendid new Kovalam High School. Happily, thanks to all the donations we have had over the past couple of years, we have the money – […]

Blessings on the High School

March 25th, 2011

At last, the High School has been blessed – both by the authorities who have finally given us the green light to start building and by the earth Goddess. The Bhoomi Puja (Bhoomi means ‘earth’) ceremony has been performed by JR and the chief mason and work will start soon. Jude, one of our Kovalam […]

News of the Trust reaches Oklahoma

March 21st, 2011

On Sylvia’s last visit to Kovalam she met Mary Ann Prior, one of our sponsors, who is spreading the word in America. Mary Ann wrote about her visit in The Oklahoman

Literacy rate improves

December 29th, 2010

Six years ago the literacy rate among Kovalam’s children was just 60%. Today it is 95% and VMT can take a lot of credit for this vast improvement. Before our involvement with the Panchayat school, there were too few classrooms, too few and unqualified teachers, and the attendance record of the pupils was poor. At […]

High School update

September 7th, 2010

Despite permission being given for the High School when Sylvia visited Kovalam at the beginning of September, there has been yet another bureaucratic glitch. We have been assured that work will get underway very shortly. There is some good news however. Because of the delay and our supporters’ generosity, we now have more funds available. […]

VMT Volleyball Tournament

July 18th, 2010

The first Venkat Trust Volleyball Tournament took place over a weekend in the spring. Twenty teams from Kovalam, the surrounding villages, Chennai and as far away as Pondicherry, some 80 miles down the coast, took part. Several local dignitaries attended the Finals which were won by the Pondicherry team – their captain is seen here […]

Home extras

July 12th, 2010

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