Travel retail industry celebrates as WiT-funded school opens in India

More than 1,000 people attended the inauguration of the Janet Sheed Roberts Residential School for Special Needs Children in the Indian village of Ramnagar

Children with disabilities living near the small village of Ramnagar in India now have a new special school and home. That is thanks to the many individuals and companies who answered the call of Women in Travel (WiT) during the TFWA World Exhibition in October 2012 to raise the final sum required to complete the project.

The inauguration of the Janet Sheed Roberts Residential School for Special Needs Children was a big event for the local community, attended by over 1,000 people, writes Sarah Branquinho, who attended the opening ceremony on 29 November 2012.

Situated in the village of Basai, some 10km from the small town of Ramnagar, five hours northeast of Delhi, the school is in the grounds of a secondary school, built and administered by USR Indu Samiti, a local NGO. The Lotus Flower Trust partnered with USR Indu Samiti to manage the construction of the new residential school, and the NGO will take over the day-to-day running.

The Janet Sheed Roberts Residential School for Children with Special Needs is named after the doyenne of Scotch whisky producer William Grant & Sons. Her Bottle no. 7 of Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve, donated to WiT by Global Travel Retail Managing Director Rita Greenwood, and sold in Mrs Roberts’ memory for charity, was purchased by World Duty Free Group for £42,000.

The bottle is currently on sale at Edinburgh Airport, and any profits will go to the school.

A wonderful photograph of Mrs Roberts, aged 110, dominates the school foyer, flanked by her picture as a young woman. In addition, the Lotus Flower Trust and WiT texts record the good wishes and contributions made by the many companies and individuals in the travel retail industry who made the residential school possible.

The opening ceremony featured songs and dance by children from the secondary school

Among the highlights of the opening ceremony, which featured songs and dance by children from the secondary school, were two very moving performances by ‘our’ children. Particularly moving was a musical tableau with each child dressed as a star, led by an angel, Bharti, who has no arms much below the elbows. Her hands were blown off by dynamite planted to scare off the wild boar near her home, and thanks to you she has just had prosthetic hands fitted.

The school is amazing – it is sturdy and has three large classrooms of 60sq m each, three similar sized dormitories, a kitchen, dining room, teachers’ quarters, toilets and shower units, a large outdoor terrace and an inner airy atrium. All the rooms have plenty of natural daylight.

Fifty children with a spectrum of disabilities are registered so far at the school

Fifty children are registered so far with a spectrum of challenges from cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, club foot, cleft palate and lip, deaf and dumb, partial blindness through to general mental challenges. Each child has a medical record with photo, family details, diagnosis, medical and hospital record, health and education plan. During the ceremony a further 50 children were registered by families who had come from up to 90km away, which is a long distance on public transport, some of them travelling overnight.

Many of the children are being integrated in society for the first time. Some of the children with physical disabilities are already having lessons in the secondary school, leaving more time for those with mental challenges to receive the help they need in the classrooms of the Janet Sheed Roberts School.

A wonderful photograph of Mrs Roberts, aged 110, dominates the school foyer, flanked by her picture as a young woman

Sarah Branquinho, attending the opening ceremony on behalf of WiT and as chair of the Lotus Flower Trust, accompanied by Rajiv Bhatia and Neeraj Sharma of William Grant & Sons, and Erik Juul-Mortensen, a trustee of Lotus Flower Trust, said: “It was a simply amazing day – very emotional. It is impossible to describe the difference this will make to 100 children who have had no access to education, or in many cases to society.

“Women in Travel (WiT), working with the Lotus Flower Trust and local NGO USR Indu Samiti, has completed this project which fulfils a desperate need in this remote rural community in a record 13 months. I just wish that everyone who contributed so generously could meet these wonderful children whose lives they have changed.”

The Lotus Flower Trust and WiT texts record the good wishes and contributions made by the many companies and individuals in the travel retail industry

For more information, contact any of the following:

Sarah Branquinho: sarah.branquinho@wdfg.com
Gerry Munday: gerry.munday@furla.com
Catherine Bonelli: cbonelli@devanlay.fr
Tina Tam: tina.tam@laprairiegroup.ch
Amanda Felix: amanda.felix@dfnionline.com
Lois Pasternak: parsnip5@aol.com
Marissa Phanivong: m.phanivong@tfwa.com

With special thanks to the many companies and individuals who contributed to the funding of the Janet Sheed Roberts Residential School for Special Needs Children, and to the following companies for major donations: Gebr Heinemann, Dubai Duty Free, IAADFS, World Duty Free Group, DFS, Furla, The Moodie Report, Maxxium, Travel Retail Business, Travellersshop and William Grant & Sons, whose Bottle no. 7 has driven so much of the fundraising.

Sarah Branquinho attended the opening ceremony on behalf of WiT and as chair of the Lotus Flower Trust, accompanied by trustee Erik Juul-Mortensen

About the Ramnagar project

Ramnagar is located in Uttarakhand State, India, where nearly 200,000 people are regarded as having special needs due to disabilities ranging from mental illness to leprosy. Of these, nearly 11,000 are children between the ages of six and 18. More than 500 live in the area where the school and a home has been built. Before the new school was completed, there were no educational facilities adapted to their needs; they received little or no education and had little hope of any meaningful future. As a result, they were often ostracised by the community. The project sponsors are the Lotus Flower Trust and USR Indu Samiti.

The Lotus Flower Trust is a UK-based charity (Reg. no. 1127316) which over the past three years has changed more than 1,500 children’s lives by building homes and skills centres, typically in remote rural areas. The charity has few overheads – no office premises, no paid staff – so almost all the funds raised go directly to the projects. Visit www.lotusflowertrust.org

USR Indu Samiti is a charity working in the field of Integrated Education since 1999 and registered under the Society Registration Act 1860 and handicapped People Act 1995/52 with FCRA granted in 1976.

Food & Beverage The Magazine eZine