Spring has come, and with it the end of the Indian school year and the start of preparations for the
next year. As usual, much has happened over the last six months in all parts of our work.
Sarah Thurley, an AIC trustee, visited the Vine Charitable Trust in January and Lettie Kearney, hot on her
heels, arrived just as she was leaving. We will start with news of their visits.
Sarah writes: It had been two years since I last visited the VCT office, and I was pleased to
have the opportunity to see what has been happening first hand. It was a privilege to see
the wonderful work the team is doing and to share in the lovely ethos in the office which radiates
love and care.
However, the main reason for my visit was to spend some time with the staff looking at their
strategy for the coming few years. We had a useful couple of days looking at VCT’s work
over the past 20 years and mapping out some of the very interesting trends that were identified.
In particular, the commercialisation of English medium schools, which has lead to a massive
increase in fees and the shift from older people living independently to moving back to live with their families due to rising costs. It was encouraging that the staff team highlighted the fact that families now value education more than they used to and that children seem keener to study, often pushing their parents to allow them to stay in
Looking to the future, the staff would like to diversify further education options by increasing vocational
training. With rising university fees and an uncertain job market, VCT is giving valuable careers
guidance to young people. They shared two stories with me to show how this has helped.
First, the story of Denver who barely scraped through 10th class and was placed at the Institute of
Technology to learn to be a factory fitter. Denver really excelled in his work and got a job at a
foundry with a good salary. He has now moved his family out of their one roomed house into a
house with a hall, bedroom and a separate kitchen.
Secondly, the story of Joseph, whose father is an alcoholic and whose mother is a teacher. Like
many Anglo-Indians he failed his 10th class exams, because he was weak in Tamil. So, he too
was enrolled into the Technical Institute, but on an electricians course. During his time there, several
companies came to the Institute to recruit boys. Joseph stood out from the crowd and was
immediately engaged, only returning to college to take his final exams. He now travels round the
country setting up lighting for concerts and really enjoys his work.
It was great to be able to listen to the plans being made for the future and to see the opportunities
which are still being made available for those who decide they want to improve their lives. The evidence
is clear in the lives of so many of those who have benefitted, as Cyril said “I thank God for
Uncle Tom and Auntie Rachel (founders of VCT) and the opportunities I have had. Now I have a
flat and a job and I give God all the glory”. It is such a privilege to be part of helping people to
stand on their own feet!
Lettie went out for her usual visit to Chennai in February spending time visiting various VCT friends and she led a bible study for a group of widows at the People of the Way Church (PoTW). She is always a great encouragement to all at VCT and PoTW. She also attended a VCT trustee meeting, where a new trustee, Paul Thompson, was appointed. Sadly, Lettie’s visit was curtailed due to her asthma and a series of bronchial infections. We pray that her health will improve so that she can continue to go out to Chennai and help with the work there.
At the end of last year, without warning, the BJP Government, withdrew the Rs 500 & Rs 1000 (£5 & £10) notes from circulation. This was done to catch out business people hoarding ‘black money’ to avoid tax. However, it really hurt the poorest sections of the community who depend on cash, as smaller notes became
really scarce and the rarer large notes became very hard to cash.
At VCT, some clients were unable to receive their allowances in December and January as the
bank did not have supplies of the new notes. But those who have bank accounts were given
cheques. VCT is now encouraging everyone who can to open bank accounts. All school payments
are now made by cheque, so they were no problem. In January, the situation eased and the banks
began giving out Rs 2000 notes. This meant that John had to spend many hours at the shops getting
these broken down to smaller denominations, so that allowances could be paid
It is often those who are most in need who are affected at these times. VCT supports a number of
vulnerable homeless people who have no fixed address nor official ID, and therefore no way to
open a bank account nor to access government support. The reasons
for their homelessness are various; some have mental health problems,
others have just not managed to settle anywhere.
One of these people is Mary. Mary first came into contact with VCT as she was collecting money for a hospital patient whom she was looking after. Her family had all died leaving her unprotected.
To protect herself she keeps her hair short and wears a shirt and trousers. She has previously had a number of different jobs but they have come to nothing. She currently is doing some office work assisting
someone doing filing. VCT is helping her to apply for an Aadhaar card so that she can get into the system and be eligible for other benefits. They also give her a food allowance.
Secondly, meet Bruce who has just turned 60. His mother staying in an old people’s home was supported by VCT until she died two years ago. He is currently living in front of a shop and supports himself through odd jobs.
On some days he is full of smiles and very friendly, but on other occasions he will come in and not speak at all. His
mental health problems mean that he can never settle for long. As he has just turned 60, he will now receive a pension.
Many of the older people at VCT are sponsored through CTR, the charity founded by Blair Williams. Currently, CTR supports 70 women and men aged 60 and up. Blair came to visit VCT on the first Wednesday in February
and met a number of people that CTR has been supporting. He also announced that the allowances would be raised from 600-700 rupees a month bringing great joy to all those present. They were so pleased to be able to express their gratitude in person.
Pinky, has just finished her BCom degree and will now be starting work. At this time of year, when students at all stages of their education are making decisions about future courses of study and what employment to take up, Grace and John are busy offering advice at the VCT office.
Kirsten Masson, one of AIC’s new trustees, has taken over the role of sponsorship secretary and will be in touch with sponsors, sending them annual reports and photos. There are always deserving school children and college students needing sponsorship, so if you are interested, please contact her care of Rachel Thurley.
People of the Way Fellowship
David Shrimpton reports that the third semester of the Bible School on Doctrine has ten more weeks to go. About ten
people have been regularly attending. The building project at Erukancherri has come to a halt at present until further funds are available . Church members are donating regularly for building materials – such as £5 for a bag of cement
or £2.40 for 20 bricks. If you would also like to give in this way, Rachel can give more details.
For some reason the money from Hope for the Nations did not get through to India in January or February, though
POTW has a valid foreign currency account. Please pray that this will soon be released as it includes money for the building fund. We are very grateful to all donors and remind you that cheques should be made out to Anglo-Indian Concern (not Vine Charitable Trust) and that Rachel’s Post Code is PE29 2JF.
Please do pray for all the work in Chennai and for the changing political situation in India which affects
the future of their work.
If you would like to read more, then we now have a website: angloindianconcern.org.uk which has
additional information and links to prayer requests.
Thank you so much for your continuing support!
Yours with love,
Rachel Thurley and Lettie Kearney