The Good Karma Drive to Save a School
10 Jun 2008
The Good Karma Drive is a global fundraising programme to raise money to expand a very special school for under-privileged children in the town of Dharamsala in northern India.
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A global fundraising programme to raise money to expand a very special school for under-privileged children in the town of Dharamsala in northern India, was recently set up by charitable trust, The Good Karma Drive.
The story begins ten years ago, when Sister Celia Puthenpura decided to find a real solution to the growing number of India’s forgotten children ñ those denied education, healthcare, access to social services and quietly cast aside.
Celia arrived in Dharamsala from her native state of Kerala ñ the only state in India that prides itself in providing education for every child. She identified that similar facilities were lacking in this hill town and was asked by several parents to help. From a tiny hut and with no source of funding, Sister Celia began teaching just four children.
Previous experience had already taught her that to enable any learning process to begin, she had to build a child’s trust. So each morning, when her pupils, other-wise known as untouchables’, arrive at her school for classes, Celia gives them a hug. ‘All you need is love,’ she explains, which is evident from the success of St. Mary’s growth since it began ñ there are now 587 students in her pastoral care.
Sister Celia has created a wonderful place, which despite her own religious roots, remains nondenominational. Here, education paves the way for building new hopes and dreams. Her genuine concern for each student has generated a school that is filled with happy, connected and positive children.
The Good Karma Drive is the brainchild of London-based real estate developer and entrepreneur, Jonny Knowles. He discovered St. Mary’s School through Caroline Sami, a Buddhist, who visited Dharamsala back in 2006 to meet the Dalai Lama. During her time there, she was introduced to Sister Celia and was captivated by her achievements and the compassion she showed her students.
Back in London, Caroline arranged to meet with Jonny. She told him about the school and how it was urgently in need of funding to allow it to continue. Jonny quickly became a man with a mission’ and embarked on an amazing quest to help. With a team of fellow drivers, he left a trail of goodwill and inspiration’ on a six-week drive through 17 countries, from London to Dharamsala. The aim of his sponsorship initiative was to raise £300,000 to fund a necessary expansion to the school and to meet Sister Celia in person at the journey’s end.
During the adventure, which took four months to complete, a Good Karma Drive website was created so that supporters could follow the team’s progress. The trip itself is over but the incredible journey continues, as they work on plans for the school’s expansion. This will allow it to accommodate a growing influx of pupils that need the school’s support each year.
Contact: Good Karma, 20 Flaxman Terrace, London, WC1H 9AT
Left: Jonny Knowles and Sister Celia
Above: one of St. Mary’s younger pupils
Below: older students enjoy a lesson
All Photos: © Lee Carter
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