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1st June 2009, 9:18am
Indian summer for University volunteers
Children in Gaya Volunteers from the University of Lincoln Students’ Union will travel to a remote and deprived region of India this summer to help impoverished people there.

Staff, students and community volunteers will head off in August to Gaya, in the state of Bihar, north eastern India, to witness how a charity they have supported is working to provide education for the region’s youngsters.

The University’s Students’ Union has more than 500 community volunteers who work with around 150 charities and voluntary organisations in the Lincolnshire and Humberside region.

Last autumn the SU donated t-shirts to the charity People First International through its founder, Nick Hansen, who is originally from Saxilby, near Lincoln. Within a few weeks, photographs were sent back from Gaya of children wearing them. Their beaming smiles made it evident that such a small gesture can have a great impact.

With this in mind, the SU volunteers have been fundraising since Christmas to raise the £1,200 needed for the charity to fund a local school for a year.

Pam Holbrook, Community Volunteer Coordinator at the University of Lincoln’s SU, said: “This is such a small amount by western standards, but the impact of schooling and education in such a deprived area where it is not provided by the state cannot be stressed enough. Long term skills and educational development provide a lasting solution to sustainable living.”

The SU volunteers, who are all self-funded, will fly out to Delhi on 11 August. After a night’s accommodation in Delhi, they will take a sleeper train for a 12-hour journey to Gaya.

The trip is being coordinated in the UK by Keith Darwin, Chairman of People First International (UK) and a University of Lincoln governor. In India a team will coordinate travel, food, cultural education and work placements.

In addition to schooling, People First International provides funds for health projects, particularly in rural areas, sewing centres for women to socialise and develop a small market economy. It also runs a centre, ‘Rescue Junction’, for orphaned and runaway children who survive on railway stations. This programme provides food, shelter and basic schooling. It is also improving the standard of care and quality of life for young children in a local remand home.

Pam added: “This trip represents an excellent opportunity for students, staff and community partners to support a locally established charity abroad. We will be able to see the results of our fundraising and experience the culture more fully, through our actions. This makes us better able to promote the project to other volunteers next year. I would like to thank everyone who has supported us.”

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