Kate Neil Interview

Kate reflects on her recent trip to visit Richard and Sasees and the children at the Brighter Life home.

Letter from the Trustees

Jenny writes to reflect on the work of Star Action over the last 13 years, and gives some updates on current projects

One of the most heart-warming things about our work with Star Action over the past thirteen years since we started our little charity has been the appreciation we have received from people we have been able to help – thanks to your support. As you may know, we began our work in Sri Lanka just after the terrible tsunami wave devastated parts of the south and east coast of this beautiful little island, which was also still suffering from years of civil war.  Now, thankfully, the war is over but there remain many repercussions from this time, many bereaved families and traumatised people.  The Tamil people in the war-torn area are still suffering inequality of opportunity, and lack of education, even in the basics of the language of the whole country (Sinhala), and this is one reason why we have been focusing recently on our education projects, as well as helping particularly sad and broken families and individuals in need of urgent medical help.

Locals arrive at Lal’s to ask for help

When Stuart and I were in Sri Lanka in February, we were particularly touched by the people who came to see us this time, not to ask for more help (although there were plenty of those too!) but simply to say ‘thank you’ and share what a difference Star Action’s help had made to their lives.  You see, with a little charity like ours, there is a personal link with individuals – some of these dear people feel almost like our own family, as we have met them now on a number of visits. They also appreciate the continuity of seeing the same faces.

This is also true of our children’s home in India, now called ‘Brighter Life’, but originally founded as ‘Save the Babies’ right back in 1996 by our Trustee  Kate.  Right from the beginning she did not want the home to be too big, so there would always be a family feeling.  She has achieved her goal, with the help of our wonderful houseparents, Sasees and Richard.

New arrivals at Brighter Life

We are so happy that at last her family commitments at home (with help from me and Stuart in caring for her five-year old twins)  are allowing her to return to her Indian family.  She will be writing all about her visit in the next newsletter.

Star Action has also been able to give help in Nepal.  This is a country which we know has a special place in many of your hearts as it does in mine, since my trekking days there and, latterly, my visits following the devastating earthquake.  Keshav, our good friend now, also brings the ‘family feeling’ to all his work, both for Star Action, and as Deputy Headmaster of a large school in Kathmandu.  The same is true of Hamida and Fred, whose latest report on our Community Centre school in Ghana is included in our Africa section.

So, dear friends, we thank you very much for all your generous support which enables us to continue this truly worthwhile work.  We know it is just a ‘little drop in the ocean of need’, but the smiles on the faces of the people and children whose lives have been touched tell their own story.

With love from,

On behalf of all our Trustees, 

Joan, Kate and Stuart 

PS  I first drafted this letter just before the tragic bombings in Sri Lanka. We are glad to report that no one involved with our Star Action work was killed or injured, but our latest reports from Rohan are that the whole country is still deeply traumatised and the income of many is affected by lack of tourist visitors, so our prayers and continuing support of all our projects are very much appreciated.

Bangladesh – supporting Shakeenah

Shakeenah is our hardworking, hardstudying MBBS trainee doctor from Sri Lanka.  She is beginning her fourth year at Chittagong University in Bangladesh, where she has ambitious plans to specialise in Gynaecology.

Shakeenah is the middle child of three in a poor family in Sri Lanka.  She has excelled at school and passed into Chittagong Medical College, Bangladesh to study for MBBS.

The Sri Lankan Government pays her tuition fees and her Father has managed to find $130 (£100) per month to pay for her accommodation, food, and living expenses for the last two years. 

Mother has bad arthritis and the family are struggling to find this essential money to keep her at the College for another (minimum) two years.

Star Action is keen to pursue this support, not only for the prospect of another much-needed doctor to practise in the Sri 

Lankan Muslim Community, but also because the College is close to the massive recent influx of Rohingya refugees (mainly Muslim) driven out of Myanmar.  Shakeenah and the other training doctors are likely to play a valuable part in treating these homeless refugees in the next months.

Sri Lanka – New Veterinary Student

Zahra Astriani is 18 yrs old and has long desired to become a vet and pursue her love of animals.  Star Action is conscious that animals are not always treated well in the Developing World and an addition to the limited supply of veterinary practicioners will be a valuable asset to Indonesia.
Zahra is from a poor family, who would not be able to pay the University Fees to enable her to follow up her excellent school exam results.  So, aware that many of our supporters are keen to underwrite Further Education overseas, Star Action is sponsoring Zahra to attend Aceh University. (You may remember Aceh , the town that was completely flattened in the 2004 Tsunami with extensive loss of life.)

September 2018 – Ghana update

With much capable help from our Star Action stalwarts, Hamida and Frederick Bote-Kwame, Star Action has decided to lease the Youth Training Building on the outskirts of Asiakwa to a school of 90 pupils.

The accompanying land will be used as playground and sports field.

The owner and Headteacher, Samuel Asamoah is also Pastor of a local Christian Church in the town.  He runs the school on a ‘shoestring’ and his ambitions for the children are similar to ours at our children’s homes and schools.  He already numbers amongst his pupils many who can only afford to pay half fees, and he has agreed to include more from poor families on free scholarships.  This will be helped by Star Action charging a rental of 1 Ghana Cedi per annum (about 17 pence Sterling).

Hyper-efficient Hamida is finalising the legalities as I write, and these will include representation on the School’s Board of Management by herself and another good friend of Star Action, a retired International Architect who is a respected Elder of Asiakwa and who will safeguard our interests and closely monitor the quality of the children’s education.


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