THE leader of a British-based children's charity says he is more determined than ever to buck the trend which has so often led to women getting a raw deal in Indian society. Dr Satya Prasad Koneru, who founded HEAL (Health and Education for All) 20 years ago, is currently in Andhra Pradesh overseeing progress on his charity's biggest project to date, Paradise Village, at Thotapalli, near Vijayawada. Dr Prasad expects the £3m school and community development to be ready for its first intake of children from severely deprived backgrounds in around six months time and a big emphasis will be placed on providing life-changing education to girls. "We already tend to take more girls in our existing projects," says Dr Prasad, who set up the HEAL Children's Village in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, after donating his own family home for the benefit of young orphaned children.
"For so long girls have lacked economic independance, undermining the chances of them achieving equal status in India, particularly in rural areas where women have had a really bad deal, often dependant on their husbands and stuck at home whether they like it or not. "There have been some social improvements made by the government, whereby law changes have created greater equality in terms of access to inherited wealth, but I strongly believe economic independence through education is the key to creating a fairer society. "There are exceptions of course. Women have held the roles of President and Prime Minister, and women are coming up in business slowly, but for me the only way to improve girls' status is by educating them and giving them good jobs. "HEAL is committed to improving awareness of this situation, hence we will offer at least 60 out of every hundred future places available in our projects to girls."
HEAL has helped many hundreds of children out of the rural poverty trap and into school, many going on to complete courses in further education while remaining under the charity's wing. It's latest scheme is an unprecedented £3million rural development, called Paradise, where the emphasis will be placed on developing health and education for 1,000 more underprivileged children while forging strong links with the surrounding village communities. Supported through its child sponsorship programme, grants and donations, Paradise is a model development partly aimed at stemming the rural-urban migration, providing a safe haven where severely disadvantaged and abandoned children can be nurtured and go on to realise their full potential. The eco-friendly Paradise Village will not only provide shelter, healthcare and education for 1,000 children, but also stand alone as a self-sustaining and mutually beneficial community based on "the pursuit of happiness through the common good".
Construction began late in 2011, making full use of recyclable materials and 'green' technologies for electricity, water, sewage and edible plantations. In addition to school buildings and housing for children and their care workers, there will be a health centre, sport and art facilities, rooms for visiting volunteers, edible gardens, a care home for the elderly and community buildings. A school for the visually impared is another integral component. "It is our intention to demonstrate that rural village life can be a bliss compared to ill-planned urban development, with a lot of slums only creating misery," says UK-based GP Dr Prasad. Among the events planned to raise funds for the Paradise project are a cycling challenge, Cycle India 2014, which will see 30 bike riders from around the world follow a route from Mumbai to Goa over five days. Places are still available and details can be obtained by logging on to the HEAL website at www.heal.co.uk. For more information on Paradise Village log on to www.healparadise.org.
Notes to Editor
HEAL (Health and Education for All) is a-UK registered charity, formed in 1992, which is committed to providing shelter, support, education and healthcare for well over 1,000 children in India.
HEAL currently has a number of projects including the HEAL Children's Village in Guntur, HEAL Paradise Village, currently under construction in Thotapally, and various other projects in Andhra Pradesh, India. Through these projects HEAL is working hard to provide homes, food, education and medical care to orphaned and underprivileged children.
Heal UK, which relies entirely on unpaid volunteers, is the fundraising arm of the charity, but the real hard work is undertaken by the trustees and staff of HEAL India. We have also recently added HEAL USA as a further fundraising arm of the organisation and HEAL Australia will soon follow.
HEAL is committed to expanding over the coming years with further projects, and a target of providing education and healthcare to 10,000 children by 2020. Our aim is to provide Health and Education for All.