Our first day – One we’ll both never forget.

Today was a very emotional day for both Kim and myself; we visited the Shri Ghanshyam Sharma Memorial High School, Uttar Pradesh. One of the schools supported by Sopra Steria.

Greeted by the school principal with garlands of flowers on our first day, we were anointed with Tilaaka on our foreheads to honor our visit; we then proceeded to walk in to the school with chants of welcome from the students and showers of rose petals.

 

After introductions, six of the pupils serenaded us, before the younger boys demonstrated their skills and knowledge, asking us for our names and telling us the capital cities of each country they knew of.

We then proceeded to each class in turn, telling them about ourselves while we passed around their mid-morning snacks. We spent some time with some of the primary school age children helping them with their reading ending the day with the planting of a tree, as a reminder of our visit. 

I have never experienced such joy seeing as I had visiting the children, who were as interested in us as we were in them, the hardest part was to leave the school at just after lunch.

Such was the enthusiasm; I could have stayed there all day. It was a truly moving experience and one that brought tears to my eyes – It was a beautiful experience and made better knowing that it was only through the hard work and dedication of the Sopra Steria CSR team and Sopra Steria worldwide that has made this work of the SSIF possible.

For lunch, we were invited to visit the principal’s house for a lavish spread of Indian delicacies, each cooked by his wife. The food was delicious and I made a particular point of thanking the lady of the house for her hard work. We felt part of the family at their house, meeting not only the Principal’s family but also his close relatives and the other teacher and village leaders. It was a fantastic end to our first visit to one of the Sopra Steria’s sponsored schools.

Later that afternoon we proceeded to Nodia and visited the Sopra Steria Head Offices in Sector 134, a very impressive setup with over 3000 employees working there.

We visited the crèche and had a tour of the building, we learnt so much From Gayathri Mohan about the SSIF and the schools programme and its history of how it started over ten years ago, when a security guard asked for help with his daughters education.

The SSIF is engaged with over 50 schools across India, touching the lives of over 75000 children from some of the most challenged sections of society. It sponsors over 660 children studying in colleges whose entire education is funded by Sopra Steria, under the Sopra Steria India Foundation Graduate Scholarship Scheme.

An inspiration and a day we both will never forget. 

By John Gough

My thoughts on the Sopra Steria India Foundation and the volunteering work we do to make a difference

This year I was lucky enough to be nominated for an award for my voluntary work and was selected as one of the Sopra Steria Volunteers of the Year for 2018 where I won an all-expenses-paid trip to India, to see the amazing work of the Sopra Steria India Foundation (SSIF), I leave for this exciting trip in a weeks’ time.

Over the nearly 2 weeks I am there, I will visit the international award-winning Community programmes run by Gayathri Mohan, Head of CSR for Sopra Steria India. Every year, Gayathri’s programme supports around 70,000 children through school, while also providing free lunches, access to drinking water and toilet facilities, and a huge number of other educational and social initiatives.

She also runs the Sopra Steria Scholarship programme, where we fund the full university education and living costs for a number of the brightest students from schools we support. So far more than 500 pupils through higher education programmes thanks to the Sopra Steria scholarship programme.

My volunteering

I volunteer every week at the Great Western Hospital Falcon Ward in Swindon, visiting patients on the major stroke unit, providing much needed company for individuals who may have had no visitors, as well as helping with feeding for patients who have little or no mobility.

I was inspired to volunteer after I had fought a very personal battle caring for my sister with Motor Neurone Disease. It was whilst visiting her in the hospital that that I picked up a leaflet asking for volunteers, that was over 4 years ago now. I absolutely love doing it!

I know some of the patients I see have not had a visitor all day, very often I spend time with each person chatting and putting the world to rights, chatting about travel, gardening or cooking before helping the nurses with their feeding and making cups of tea. Just simple things that I know make a difference, being the major stroke unit there are many patients there who struggle with communications and that takes time, time that the nurses don’t always have.

In addition to my work at the hospital which I am still doing and I also volunteer for a local group called “The Achievers” (Adult LD Group) this is a voluntary group in Swindon that gives adults with Learning difficulties a social context in which to interact with other adults and care receivers. We once a month arrange a social get together for the ‘members’ this varies from a meal at a local pub, cinema or theatre visits, day trips to local amenities e.g. Longleat or a canal boat trip. The members of the group have many varied disabilities from eating and drinking difficulties, communication and hearing difficulties, autism, complex physical needs, long term health conditions, behaviour that challenges others, sensory disability & mental health illness. This is a lovely group currently there are about 40 members in the Swindon area and we have just had a summer picnic and walk and are planning a Christmas meal and a trip to the panto in January, I give my time on this the day trips are usually at the weekends and evening functions I do after work.


By John Gough