A WEIR Quay woman locked down in India for 18 months has helped Indian children living in poverty defy the odds by setting up the charity, ‘Generate Love’.

During the pandemic, Anna Mendham was locked down in India in a Himalayan district known as the Kullu Valley. Anna described the moment as ‘surreal’ as her meditation retreat was interrupted by being told she had to get to a safe place before the borders closed, with only five pounds left in her pocket. Luckily for writer Anna, a job came in and she was able to work from the house she was renting in the hills of the valley. However, the same could not be said for the many beggars and people living in slums that relied on tourism.

‘We were locked down for weeks and then as we started coming out we became aware of how lucky we had it compared to other people in the village’, said Anna.

‘Because of lockdown, all the beggars got stuck into an area. Their whole world had collapsed. They had nothing.

‘Children who’d once tried to sell you a balloon or beg for a coin were now stood shivering in the streets – wrapped in plastic bags – pleading passersby for food or warm clothing.’

Anna joined other like-minded locals in ensuring families had the absolute essentials such as clothing and food. Following this, Anna then looked to fundraising to help set up ‘pavement schools’ for the hoards of children ­­— both on the streets and in the local slums — who were left without stimulation. Anna set up a Crowdfunder and managed to successfully raise around £4,000. This money allowed local teachers to be employed who alongside Anna, taught the children English and IT, as well as art classes and other workshops. ‘For the beggar kids, this was their first taste of education — many not even knowing how to hold a pencil’, said Anna.

She then soon discovered the bright futures some of these intelligent children could have if they were given a helping hand. Anna and her team told the children that if they worked hard and managed to win a space at university or vocational college, then they would get them the funding. The first scholarship student graduated in 2020 and is now working in Dubai as a communications manager, completely revolutionising his and his family’s lives. So far six of their children have gone to university and it is expected more will follow. Teaching has continued to this day and ‘Generate Love’ is now a registered charity.

‘All they need is a hand to help them climb out of the poverty trap that they’ve been born into’, said Anna.

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