Hove woman receives New Year's Honour for charity work in India

Sylvia Holder with children in Kovalam, India
Sylvia Holder with children in Kovalam, India

Charity founder Sylvia Holder will receive a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to education after improving the prospects of hundreds of children in India.

Sylvia, 80, of Hove, is the founder of the education charity The Venkatraman Memorial Trust, which has helped hundreds of children in the Indian village of Kovalam since 2004.

In the 14 years since Sylvia set up the Venkat Trust, more than 400 of the poorest children now have sponsors to support them through their education, the charity said. Of these 60 are now at university and 49 have graduated.

The charity added that a 1,000 pupil high school has now been built, the run-down primary school has been completely revamped and the village now has a community hall.

Sylvia set up the charity in 2004 in memory of Venkat, a child she’d met on the beach in Kovalam while there on business during the 1990s. He asked her for £10 to sponsor his year’s school fees and she continued to pay for his education through school and university.

They stayed in touch over the years during which she visited him and his family. When Venkat was killed in a road accident aged 27, Sylvia returned to Kovalam and seeing the abject state of the primary school and wishing to give the village children the chance of the education Venkat had had, she set up the Venkatraman Memorial Trust.

The Trust is run in Kovalam by Janakiraman, Venkat’s older brother, assisted by a small team who look after the building programme, sponsorships, university applications, career opportunities and pastoral care.

To celebrate the honour, Sylvia will be joined by almost 50 supporters of the Venkat Trust in the Kovalam next month, when they will meet the children they sponsor and to see the things they have helped make happen since 2004.

To find out more about the charity, visit: www.venkattrust.org.uk