WINGS OF HOPE: Cover Story

Hope Soars

Wings of Hope, a British children’s charity, takes up the cause of underprivileged children in India and Malawi through a range of fund-raising projects in the U.K. The charity, co-founded by Mrs Rajni Sriram and her husband Dr R Sri Ram, shows how Overseas Indians can get involved in genuine philanthropic enterprise and make a difference in India

“He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.” —Confucius

In 2004, London-based couple Rajni and Dr Sri Ram decided it was time to give back. Their only daughter had just left secondary school and was about to embark upon her university career. They had enabled her to get some of the best education the UK could offer and saw what fantastic opportunities a good education could give someone. They felt they could help many other children, in much less fortunate circumstances, feel just as empowered through education. India was closest to their heart – both Mrs Sriram and Dr Sri Ram spend their childhoods and youth-life in Bombay and Delhi—where also the needs were one of the greatest in the world, with approximately 300 million people classified as living below the poverty line. 
India Projects Their Mission
• One of their projects supports a school in Nemilicherry (Chromepet Township) in Chennai 

• The school offers quality holistic education to around 360 aged 4-16 years 

• Much emphasis is placed on value-based education; under the saying “the end of education is character”. 

• Children are encouraged to develop academically as well as personally and are encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities from yoga and karate, to computer science and chess clubs. 

• Most of the children are either orphaned, or from single-parent families.

 • The Wings of Hope is an international children’s charity with no religious or political affiliations. Their main projects are located in the UK, Malawi and India. 

• They believe education is every child’s right. 

• They believe empowering through education will break the cycle of dependency and enable children to escape financial destitution to promote long-term sustainable development in developing countries. 

• They objective is to provide quality, long-term education over periods of up to 10 years for children in developing countries. In accordance with the United Nations Development Goals, they aim to help achieve universal primary education by 2015.

The small kitchen-table discussion of starting a charitable foundation, focussed on educating underprivileged and orphaned children in India, soon snowballed into reality. With leading moral and institutional support from the likes of Lord Navnit Dholakia (Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, 2003), and Lord Bhikhu Parekh (Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, 2005), the Wings of Hope Children’s Charity was formed. 

A key focus of the charity is to create concrete partnerships between the British youth of Indian origin with their counterparts in India. This is espoused by the innovative, social enterprise award scheme The Wings of Hope Achievement Award (WOHAA). WOHAA challenges 14-18 year old students to put their creativity, entrepreneurship and leadership into doing extraordinary fundraising projects for their underprivileged children in India and Malawi. To-date over 15,000 students have taken part in WOHAA and have impacted the lives of over 1,000 students in India and Malawi, through intense fundraising and awareness raising. Examples of student projects include 72-hour football matches, Indian cultural evenings, balloon launches, crossing every station on the London Underground and Harry Potter Quidditch matches. Many communities across the United Kingdom support these student projects, from local councilors, and Mayors, to national Ministers and High Commissioners of India and Malawi. 
With beautiful students that the Charity supports
WOHAA winners of 2011 and Mrs and Dr Sriram with British Deputy High Commissioner Mike Nithavrianakis With Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Mr Vayalar Ravi

WOHAA is founded upon the three R’s – Recognizing student talents in philanthropy; ripening essential skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, community engagement and enterprise; and rewarding students with some outstanding prizes. 

Every year, the winning team of WOHAA, wins an all expenses paid trip to India to teach at one of the schools supported near Chennai. The students in the past have taught French, Spanish and talked about life in England to the students of the school. They have also shared games with the children in the English sport of rugby, and the forever popular, cricket. There are elaborate cultural programmes put on by the Indian children as well as the winning teams from the UK, and real bonds are forged between the students – showing that whichever part of the world one is from, young people’s zest for life and sense of humour is the same. This summer, the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Mr Vayalar Ravi hosted the winning team of boys (all of South Asian origin) at his offices in Delhi, and were offered an exclusive tour of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The student winners were also gifted a commemorative book of all the successful NRIs who had conducted philanthropic work in their countries – an apt and most inspirational gift. The students were also guests of The Deputy High Commissioner of Britain to India and visited the Tata campuses in South India. 


Out of the 15,000 students who have taken part in WOHAA to date, 82% of students said they took part solely to make a difference to their less fortunate counterparts in India and Malawi. 41% of the students who compete for the award are of “Asian” background, with the majority being of Indian origin. Over a quarter of students said that one of the main reasons for taking part was to go to India to teach in the school. These facts show that there is real change taking place at the grass root level in the UK and students want to connect with their ancestral backgrounds in India. 

Wings of Hope are supported by many leading corporates and institutions including Cipla pharmaceuticals, Tata Consultancy Services, the BBC, The House of Lords, Accenture, Clifford Chance and many others. These organizations offer work experience and skills workshops for students – encouraging them to achieve high in their careers. Often the CEOs of these organizations host the workshops themselves, giving a unique opportunity to the students to ask questions to leaders and pioneers of industry, and get answers directly from the horses-mouth. 

The cost of supporting a child in India for one month is only £12 or just less than Rs 1000. If you would like to support The Wings of Hope, financially or become a corporate partner please email or call on +440 208 459 3260. The charity thrives on creativity and innovation so if you would like to offer your services in terms of mentoring, volunteering or hosting inspirational workshops, please do step forward. They would be very grateful for your support. Follow the charity on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.

January 2012

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