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Silver Jubilee of school supported by Lent Appeal Project

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My wife Sue and I were teaching at a college in Bangalore in the late 1990’s, and there met Rita and Prem James. Rita was the headmistress of a newly developed special needs day school called ‘Asha Kiran’, meaning ‘Ray of Hope.’

We were taken to a mango field which had been bought with donations from a UK church, and where Rita and Prem were planning to build a new residential school. I was asked to say a prayer of commissioning and blessing in the middle of this field, as they set about trying to raise funds.

Sue and I kept in touch with Rita and with ‘Asha Kiran UK’ (a group of British friends of the project), and when I became Bishop of Thetford in 2001, we put forward the school for the Diocese of Norwich Lent Appeal.

I encouraged parishes and especially diocesan schools to take part, and together that year we raised about £40,000. I presented the money to Asha Kiran at a special schools’ service in Norwich Cathedral, which many of our church schools attended.

With the help of this money from the Diocese, Asha Kiran was able to build a large residential building, which has since grown and developed. Many of our church schools also contributed a special ‘square’ of material which was sewn into a large quilt, which Sue and I took to the school on our next visit there.

In 2018 the school celebrated its Silver Jubilee with 135 students and about 45 staff.   There are 96 boys and 36 girls, from pre-school to vocational training for school leavers.  They cater for hearing and sight-impaired children, autistic, Downs Syndrome and bi-polar students, and some with learning difficulties.

For their Jubilee celebrations, the Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka wrote to commend the school on their excellence – they were described as ‘one of the best models in the country’ of India.

This year Rita James stands down as Principal, and a new Principal-designate has been appointed.  In her Jubilee letter, Rita James wrote that she has learned this from her children: Love Unconditionally; Forgive Generously; Live purposefully.

And this from St Paul: Rejoice Always. Pray Continually, Give thanks in all circumstances.

That sounds like a ‘Ray of Hope’ shining far beyond Bangalore.  It is wonderful that so many of us in Diocese of Norwich were able to contribute just a little to Asha Kiran. We wish it God’s continued blessing.

+David Atkinson


David Atkinson retired as Bishop of Thetford in 2009 and is now Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Southwark.