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Family ties

Congratulations to Leeds Beckett South Asia on your 20th year of working in India and to the university on your 200th birthday. At Snehalaya, we describe ourselves as a ‘Home of Love’ and refer to our staff, beneficiaries and supporters as a family. Leeds Beckett University, based in Leeds, UK, has officially been a valued member of this family since 2007.


Our relationship with the university started with another Ahmednagar family, the Hulbes. The Late Dr Hulbe worked with leprosy patients in Sanjay Nagar for many years and suggested we start our Balbhavan project there. He is also the founder of Ahmednagar’s Center for Studies in Rural Development (CSRD) College where many of our staff have studied. His daughter, Jayashree Raghuram is the Head of Leeds Beckett South Asia and has brought many visitors to Snehalaya.


Although based in Delhi, Jayashree is extremely proud of her hometown and is a great cheerleader, encouraging staff visiting from Leeds to come see the city and work of her father and Snehalaya. These visits inspired many of the university staff to speak about what they had experienced to colleagues upon their return to the university. One of these visitors was Catherine Pearson whose passion for what she had seen was contagious amongst the staff and students she spoke to. When she was sadly diagnosed and passed away from cancer, her students organised a fundraiser for Snehalaya. This ultimately led to the establishment of a volunteering program in 2007, dedicated to sending staff and students to our projects for up to one month every year.


Over the years, hundreds of Beckett volunteers have come to see our work in action, including Catherine’s daughter who was studying playwork at the university. She and every other volunteer has made deep connections with our staff and beneficiaries, becoming valued supporters returning time and time again. Many of them have secured jobs as a result of their experiences in India and references provided by Snehalaya. This week, the university is celebrating Global Week and many of our former volunteers are at stalls to share their experience and hopefully recruit more volunteers to visit us in India, and we are excited to meet them!


Volunteers and other students have fundraised thousands of pounds to support our work. From cake sales, abseils and dinners to fun runs, face-painting and film nights, every penny raised has made a positive and valued impact on our beneficiaries’ lives. This week, a team has taken on a Global Village Walking Challenge to virtually walk the entire distance from Leeds to Ahmednagar to raise even more funds.

 Our UK-registered charity, Snehalaya UK, was established and is still run by many former university volunteers and connections. In fact, we are about to appoint our new Chair, a former Director of the university’s International Office who played a key role in forming the initial partnership and returned with his wife to volunteer earlier this year.

Our CEO of Snehalaya UK is a former member of staff at Leeds Beckett and, as she lives on project in India, was invited to join the Leeds Beckett South Asia 20th birthday celebrations. There she was able to meet with senior academics to discuss further collaborations and also meet with other Indian partners of the university to explore new relationships. Connecting with university partners in India strengthens the bond between us and we are already working with Symbiosis and ISMS in Pune to offer volunteering to their students and hope to forge more links via Beckett to inspire more youths to be the change they wish to see.


We are proud to have deep institutional and personal relations with Beckett staff, students and alumni and look forward to continuing to build on this. There have been so many mutually-beneficial activities held in partnership, too many to list. A few of the highlights include:


Connecting with Leeds Pride, held in the city each August and coinciding with Beckett volunteers visiting Ahmednagar. We invited volunteers to host their own Pride events with our transgender and MSM communities to celebrate equality and diversity together. These were colourful and fun days with music and dance dominating the activities but also spending time to share what happens in Leeds and the issues faced in both cultures..

Volunteers from the University’s School of Sport visiting Snehalaya as part of their exchange with ISMS, Pune.


Realising we had a wealth of experience in international student recruitment we decided to share it with our local community. Read more about our Study Abroad session for Ahmednagar students hosted by our recent volunteers.

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