CHIT - specific details

UK charity number 1112048

Officers: George Kent (President); Howard Mathers (Chairman); Vivien Gillman (Treasurer); Pauline Stanton-Saringer (Secretary); Rev Christopher Turner; Dr Kal Rai; Rev Mary Rai.

General inquiries: Howard Mathers, The Lodge, Farringdon, North Petherton, TA6 6PF. Email info@chitonline.co.uk. Tel 01278 663704

Gifts: Vivien Gillman, Littlecombe, Portsmouth Road, Hindhead, SURREY GU26 6TQ.

        

CHIT in UK

CHIT was launched in 2005 in response to a cry for help from Mr Salagala Rajeskhara Babu (Babu), who was maintaining two children's homes and a school in Andhra Pradesh, South india. his source of funding had dried up a year previously, and the work had survived on the proceeds from the sale of a third home in Hyderabad. Babu approached George Kent and Howard Mathers, both previous supporters of the homes, for help. Through prayer and moved by Babu's appeal they committed to a funding stream for the homes and set a target of £25,000 for the first year. A trust was formed and more trustees joined then and over subsequent years. 

The Trust was called Children's Homes in India Trust, deliberately playing on the Indian word for a promisory note: "chit", and it was quickly recognised as a charity, number 1112048. As such, much information can be found in the Charity Commission website, including our annual reports. (Importantly CHIT does not operate in India, but works through the Indian registered charity founded by Babu, now called Christiana Childrens Homes.)

With an intensive period of fund-raising by George, the £25,000 target was achieved within 6 months, and for 2006, we set a budget of £65,000. That budget has risen steadily ever since, and with the help of our supporters, we have always been able to raise the necessary funds. 

Getting off on the right footing involved establishing a positive relationship with the local management in India. At an early visit by the trustees, clear expectations were agreed in relation to budgetary control, child protection, welfare and health & safety. All parties were initially cautious, but trust began to take shape and that right footing was gained. Every January the CHIT trustees have continued to visit to build on these foundations, reviewing progress in each area and agreeing plans for the following year.

This has developed into a richer dialogue in relation to the direction of the work in India. Babu values the skills and experience that CHIT is able to offer to assist in the progress of the homes, and CHIT trustees need to take a view on whether developments in India are consistent with the objects of CHIT and likely to attract financial support. So although CHIT's activity is exclusively in the UK, our impact in India goes beyond the provision of funding. For example:

  • Early on, CHIT trustees recommended building a sick bay where children could be cared for away from their dormitory accommodation. This involved investment in new buildings and the recruitment of a nurse. It then led to a wider concern with well-being, with improved diet and use of vitamin supplements. 
      
New construction to provide space.Bunk beds with en suite WC and shower.A consignment of vitamins and medicine.
  • Energy costs - electricity and fuel for cooking - repeatedly emerged as an addressable issue in our budgeting cycle. We have invested successfully in solar heating, which has been used for boys' washing for 10 years. We have also experimented with solar power, but to date this project has been frustrated by the lack of local sources of materials.
     
Solar heating since 2005 with new water header tank.                     Constructing a 12v solar panel, and finished product with 12v items

  • The funding stream from CHIT has enabled children to consider a range of academic courses in further and higher education alongside their traditional vocational choices in nursing and industrial training.
  • The education programme has been marked by the decision to convert the school from teaching in the local Telugu language, to teaching in English. With two Year 10 classes passed out in English Medium by 2016, the school is on its way to formal recognition in EM.
                                        
Steadily improved computing facilities at school (left) and in the children's homes (right) have helped raise standards.
  • The effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are now becoming more evident as some of the stigma and secrecy is diminishing (although these still present major obstacles for agencies). CHIT has consistently encouraged our Indian partners to engage this tragedy. Early on, we were aware that around 20% of children in the homes had lost parents to AIDS, but screening did not reveal HIV+ children in the intakes. Over the last 3 years, children have been found to be carrying the virus, and by 2016 about 15 were under care. Full integration was tried in 2014, but some parents/guardians were fearful when it was explained, and so alternative arrangements were put in place to support these children at whatever sort of home they have. This story is far from complete, and it remains unclear what the outcome will be: while we like to see full integration in the homes, it may be that "support at home" proves to offer other, wider benefits.
                                         
 
For privacy reasons we are unable to publish identifiable images of children infected with HIV, but above are pictures of the provisions typically given monthly to the children (two carrier bags of staple groceries and 750 rupees, about £7); and of trustee Pauline Stanton-Saringer with some of the boys waiting to collect them.

Christian dimension

The objects of the Christiana Childrens Homes do not permit them actively to promote the Christian faith, and CHIT places no pressure upon them to do so. Children from all background are welcomed into the homes. However the staff live their lives to reflect the unqualified love and compassion demonstrated by Jesus Christ, and children parents or guardians are made aware of this.

CHIT is a Christian charity, and we find that we have a good match with the ethos of the homes. While we attribute the success we have had to our Lord moving in many different ways to guide us and move people to support us, we recognise that many of the ends CHIT is able to achieve through our Indian partners resonate with those of other faiths and none, and welcome their support in that spirit. We desire to see children from poor and struggling families, including many complete orphans, given the chance to escape from the cycle of poverty through living in a supportive environment, through sustained health, and through an education that matches their potential. We believe that few would challenge this "mission".

Together with Christiana Childrens Homes we consider prayer to be important to align our practical decisions with God's will, like setting the budget, or balancing priorities between service quality and numerical growth, or identifying new sources of funds.

CHIT's Indian partner - Christiana Children's Homes

CHIT's focus is two children's homes in Andhra Pradesh, South India. One is in the town of Bapatla, home to about 190 children, the other in the village of Nidamarru, with about 60 children. They are run under the direction of the Management Committee of the Indian Society Christiana Childrens Homes. Bapatla was the first home, founded in 1982 by S Rajasekhara Babu and his wide Christiana Hepsy, hence the name. The Nidammaru home was built later with the support of the Knights of St Columba in UK.   Formerly known as Childrens Homes in India, this Indian "Society" is a near equivalent of a UK charitable trust, and has special features that enable it to receive money from UK.

The Management Committee is chaired by a local family doctor (General Practitioner) and officer of the Salvation Army, who is supported by a number of men and women in positions in education and business. Hepsy is the Secretary to the Committee, while day-to-day operation of the homes is directed by Rachel Rani through wardens Bhagyamma (Bapatla) and Shoba (Nidamarru), supported by a mixed residential and non-residential staff of 15.

The Elizabeth Barrie High School provides primary and secondary education for the Bapatla children, and is run by the Conrad and Norbert Academy, a separate charity, but chaired by Babu and sharing several trustees with the Christiana Childrens Homes. The founding Head Teacher, Mary Salome, took partial retirement in 2014, with the appointment of new Head Teacher Mr Rajiv Deep. He has a teaching staff of 20, covering a total of 12 years, including upper and lower kindergartens. CHIT does not directly fund the school, but makes a large contribution to its running and investment costs through grants paid by the Bapatla home. Other support for the school is received from the US based charity Friends of Childrens Village but none from local or central government. (At Nidamarru there is a State school directly across the road from the home.)

As a charity, Christiana Children's Homes produces an audited annual report and accounts, a copy of which is received by CHIT and used in the preparation of our annual report, specifically, to indicate how money send from CHIT has been used. 

Bapatla campus

The Bapatla campus is located at the northern edge of the small town of Bapatla, about 200 miles north of Chennai near the coast of the Bay ofBengal. It comprises the children's home, the Elizabeth Barrie High School, and the SM ITI industrial training centre.

    Children's home with sandy play area in front.     Elizabeth Barrie High School north entrance.                       SM ITI western entrance.

The children's home has a capacity of 100-120 boys and girls in clearly separated accommodation. The warden has a staff of about 10. It also hosts the central management team of the Director Rani, Additional Director Hannaniah Benjie, and accountant Nelson. Among other things they manage the support of another 40-60 young people in further and higher education.

The Elizabeth Barrie High School, which is wholly funded through the children's home, currently has about 100 "day scholars" from the local neighbourhood in addition to those from the children's home. With two kindergarten classes, the children can go on to 10th year when they graduate after taking external examinations. They pursue a wide variety of paths, including industrial training at the ITI, vocational (e.g. nursing), and advanced academic education at college, polytechnic and university, all supported by CHIT. The school employs about 20 teachers (all graduates) and a number of non-teaching staff. The school year starts on 12 June or the first school day after that.

The SM ITI provides one or two year training courses in four technical disciplines: electrical wireman, diesel mechanic, fitting and turning, and engineering drawing. They are  widely popular courses with excellent transfer into good employment, and the SM ITI is able to be largely self funding. However it remains an area of opportunity that CHIT keeps under review.

Nidamarru campus

The village of Nidamarru is about 40 miles due north of Bapatla, well inland and about mid-way between the major centres of Guntur and Vijayawada (a bit closer to Vijayawada). The children's home is directly opposite the local state school which provides good schooling for the children. The children's home has a capacity of about 70 boys and girls in clearly separate accommodation. The warden has a staff of about 5.

  

Children's home with play area in foreground.                              .

Impact

The work of CHIT has four areas of impact:

The children in the homes.

All children admitted to the homes come from deprived backgrounds, with families, if they have one, unable to cope. Examples of drug abuse and domestic violence up to and including murder, are thickly spread among the stories of poverty and destitution from which they come. Increasingly we are seeing the secondary impact of AIDS as the proportion of children of AIDS victims continues to increase in the homes, and a growing number have been found HIV+ through our routine screening. Without support, these children would be trapped in a cycle of poverty, with the expectation of leaving education at the earliest opportunity in order to earn a small income doing occasional labouring (e.g. crop picking). Christiana Childrens Homes provides the escape route through strong emotional and personal support (including working with families to encourage children to stay at school), a good education, and support with medical ailments that are easy to develop in their home conditions.

                 

Organised sport (like the national game of Kabaddi, shown on the left, or home-spun fun - some limbo dancing on the right), is great for developing social skills.

Or posing for the camera...

                 

The neighbourhood children.

The neighbourhood children, who are likely to have quite sound home lives, enjoy the benefit of a good education at no expense. Under new developments we describe the major programme to convert the Elizabeth Barrie High School from teaching in the local Telugu to teaching in English. This transition is now technically complete with classes starting to graduate in English Medium in 2015 (that is, the children have learnt all subjects in English since they started school). The final step is to gain state recognition as an EM school. A facility with English is itself an enormous asset in the networked age, added to which the syllabus helps develop a more engaging style of learning (in contrast to learning by rote), which in turn develops confidence among the children and prepares them better for life.

                 

                           Boys and girls from the neighbour join those from the children's home.

The families of the children.

The families are immediately benefited by the subsidised care and education their children receive, taking a financial and moral burden off parents and carers that they may be unable to bear. But by raising the horizons of the children, we also hope that the experience of the children will also infect their families and friends with a great sense of opportunity and responsibility to their communities.

The staff in the homes and Elizabeth Barrie High School and the supply chain.

The staff vary widely in their situation. At one end we are able to support the employment of teachers within a Christian environment. Some live nearby, many are women who gain an important second income for their family. At the other end are the house parents, cooks and laundry staff, for whom the homes provide a basic income and place to live, which they would find very difficult elsewhere. And of course, ultimately much of the money goes into the local supply chain, to suppliers of rice, vegetables and milk (food is the single largest expense), to builders, and so on: and also through the staff for their own needs. So, although it is just a bi-product of our main objectives, CHIT is annually putting nearly £100,000 into the local economy which is known to be among the poorest in India.

                                              

                                           Some members of staff at the Bapatla children home.

Sources of support 

Since 2005 Christiana Childrens Homes has been dependent on CHIT as its primary source of income, with a growing contribution from the American Friends of Childrens Village (FCV), with whom we are very pleased to be associated. More recently interest in the work has been sparked in France, and we look forward to a third support group starting to grow there.

We have frequently discussed the question of local support in India. In 2015 has a positive initial meeting with the Bapatla Rotarians, but the reality is that the demands in this area of India are exceptionally high and the resources exceptionally low, so any significant contribution will remain elusive for the foreseeable future. We have explored business opportunities, including starting a cooperative with the coolies to establish a local micro-financing scheme, and we have experimented with the assembly of solar power systems, but have been unable to muster the effort needed to kick-start either. More positively, though, the development of the Elizabeth Barrie High School, not just to English Medium, but to the prestigious "CBSE" curriculum, may in due course allow a proportion of fee-paying students.

Meanwhile, much depends on the supporters of CHIT, who are the extraordinary men and women who send us money regularly or from time to time, in amounts from £1 to £1000 or more. We enjoy the support of a number of organisations and grant-making bodies, and are grateful for their patronage. The trustees underpin their commitment to CHIT with their own financial contribution, which comfortably exceeds the minimal running costs of CHIT. We can confidently say that 100% of every donation made to CHIT will go to India with the impacts described above.

For several years price inflation in India has been largely offset by favourable exchange rates. But in the early summer of 2016 they turned badly against us, reducing the value of our £ by over 10% in India. This has come on top of greater than normal attrition in our long term support over the last year. So we are looking for new opportunities to explain what we do, to raise interest and support where people are so moved. We believe we have an exceptional model to impact the lives of needy people for good, and have no need to exaggerate our story or pressurise would-be supporters. If you would like to hear more, contact us - details at top.

India watch

On 7 August 2016 BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme covered the Indian National Council of Churches' 'Black Day' protest on Wednesday 10 for the rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. More information at the linked NCC Website.

Notable news reports in w/e 22 July 2016 include:

Amravati report/opinion. See our Major Developments page on the potential impact of Amaravati on our work, particularly in Nidamarru. (live Mint)

Caste system/Dalits. Opinion that BJP is losing support of the Dalits. (Narada)

Life stories

We are pleased to have permission to publish the following stories, which illustrate the life-changing experiences that through the work of Christiana Children's Homes, CHIT has made possible.

Henna

In progress

Jagan

In progress