The Cumberland News - UK Regional Newspaper of the Year
5:17pm, 9 October 2006

Joanna’s Indian school doubles in size

FUNDRAISER: Joanna Harma
FUNDRAISER: Joanna Harma

FUNDRAISER Joanna Harma’s plans to build a school in India have doubled to accommodate more needy children.

The 26-year-old has just come back from the half-built school in Chakarsi, around 80 miles north east of Delhi, to begin a pre-Christmas fundraising drive in Cumbria to boost her charity’s cash pot.

Generous readers of The Cumberland News have already pledged money through sponsoring future pupils, donations and buying gifts from Joanna’s Indian goods shop on Abbey Street, Carlisle.

The four-roomed school was due to open in October but Joanna, from Thursby, and husband Gaurav were struggling to recruit teachers because they had no accommodation for them.

Foundations had already been laid for a further four rooms for the school – to be finished at a later date – but because of the setback the couple decided to build the whole school in one go, as well as accommodation. Most of the £12,000 they had raised by then was gone so they have taken out a £7,000 loan in India in the hope that support from Cumbrians will help to pay it off.

The ambitious change of plan meant that Joanna had to return to England alone, leaving Gaurav – who is a development economist – looking after the site and workers.

An she brought back stacks of new goods for her shop Free Schools India, including Christmas decorations, cards and gifts.

Now the school will open in April, the start of the Indian academic year, with four or five teachers and 100 pupils, aged six to 13.

The school will offer free education to youngsters to save them from being forced into working in factories for as little as 20p a day. Most schools charge high fees which many parents can’t afford.

You can sponsor a pupil for £5 a month by contacting Joanna at the shop or calling 01228 510362.

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