Sumithra’s story

“I come from a very poor home so although I was always close to the top of my class in school, further education was beyond my reach – until the Venkat Trust was set up in my village. Having completed by postgraduate degree, I was able to get a fantastic job at Chennai’s biggest leisure complex. I recently got married, my education and career making me a sought after bride by professional families in the Indian way of arranged marriages. Without the Trust’s help, I would have left school with no qualifications and my marriage prospects would have been very different. I now live with my husband in Dubai where he has a contract with the Government and I continue to work, enabling me to send money to my mother every month.

A short film telling Sumithra’s story

“My younger brother, Kali, and I were the very first children to be sponsored by the Trust. There are now 195 of us whose lives have been transformed by our sponsors. I have mine to thank, first for helping me through high school and my undergraduate years at Madras University. Thanks to mine I now have career prospects which will enable me and my family to escape the terrible poverty in which generations of my family have lived. I took a BSc in computer science and recently completed a Masters.

“When I was a child, my parents, brother and I lived in a small, dilapidated palm leaf house with no electricity and the roof was full of holes. The rain would come in during the monsoon and so would the snakes, from the tree next to our house, which made me very scared.

“When I was 12, the tsunami struck. My father who was a fisherman was on the beach mending his nets and he was hit by a boat flying through the air. He was critically injured and he died a few days later. It was a terrible and very sad time for us.

“My father had been the only breadwinner in the family so as well as coping with our grief, we were even poorer than before. My mother was so grateful when Kali and I were sponsored and also when the Kovalam Tsunami Appeal, set up by the Venkat Trust, had a new brick house built for us. We are Hindus and part of our little house is dedicated to a shrine for the Hindu gods whom we thank for our good fortune.

“Since my father died, my mother has been working long hours as a cleaner. We have breakfast together before she leaves the house at 7.30 am – the leftovers from the night before – and I buy rice cakes for my lunch when I’m at college which cost 5 rupees (7p). My mother buys fish and vegetables for us to eat for dinner and I do the cooking for the family when I get back from college so a meal is waiting for her when she gets home at about 7pm. As my mother earns only Rs 80 a day (just over a pound) the sponsorship money makes a huge difference to us and we are happy to know that Kali and I now have the prospect of earning good money when we are qualified. We will then be able to look after our mother and afford a much better lifestyle when we marry and have our own children. I just wish my father had lived to see me go to university – he would have been so proud.”