Projects funded 2017

The 2017 Chennai Challenge project has been hugely successful. The team delivered high quality sessions to adults accessing services run by Oasis, and led sessions for teachers and trainers to give them new ideas to engage the students they work with. With YMCA we had good times working at the destitute home, forming friendships with the boys there, as well as the brilliant activity holiday to Yellagiri hills.

On top of this face to face work we were also able to support the work of the YMCA with more than £6500 spent in Chennai this year. Where did this all go? Let me run you through.

First of all we settled money we had previously committed to. Over £3500 went towards a sump at the destitute home. This vital piece of equipment helps with the drainage and ensures the toilets we put in last year keep working.

Speaking of the toilets, it was a joy to be able to see them (and use them!) And this year we have supplied lights for each of the cubicles and outside so that they can be used at night time.

More lights were bought, but this time emergency lights for when (not if) the electricity goes off. The 4 portable units all have an ‘auto on’ function that will activate when power is lost. This will allow food to still be cooked and studies to continue when they other wise wouldn’t be able to.

Continuing on an electrical theme we also bought replacement fans for the destitute home, to try and keep it cool in the Chennai heat.

We spent a portion of our funds on kitchen equipment (replacing a mixer we bought in 2010!) to allow the 42 boys to be catered for effectively.

From our funds we also bought socks for all of the boys at the destitute home, which they will need for school.

Outside of the money we had as a charity, the team members also bought each of the boys a pair of shoes.

We also bought all at the destitute home a celebration meal for our last evening, which we were able to share with them.

The last significant cost was the Yellagiri activity holiday, which cost just over £2000.

We have tried to make sure that we have looked at sustainable projects that we have a lasting effect (sump, lights, kitchen equipment) as well as some which fill an immediate need (socks)

spend 2017a


Caitlin gets creative

This blog has been written by Caitlin, based at one of the Oasis Community hubs in Chennai.

As we travelled down to Kanigapuram in our rickety auto for the first time I couldn’t help but feel such  a heart-sinking helplessness at the levels of poverty I could see around me. Arriving outside the Oasis building we were based at, I struggled to comprehend how Oasis could do the amazing work they do in such a building. However, as soon as we were welcomed into the building the atmosphere changed completely. Our first session was a creativity session with a group of ladies on a sixth month tailoring course, this was a session which I had planned and I was pretty nervous as to how it would be received, however, from the moment we met the ladies their joy and graciousness was so apparent. There was a pretty mighty language barrier between us and them but that didn’t stop their happiness and generosity from shining through. Throughout the three sessions we had with the tailoring group, their curiosity for life, determination and genuine happiness became more and more obvious and from the little knowledge that I shared with these women, I gained a lifetime of wisdom. We talked about inspiration, our dreams and passions, we encouraged one another and we danced together – despite our inability to say more than a few words to one another, we quickly formed an amazing bond with these beautiful, talented and creative women. They taught me how to be generous, kind and courageous and how to have a lust for life despite what circumstances you find yourself in. I have never experienced a joy like the joy of these women and I’m so grateful to have been able to spend even a small amount of time with them!




Martha’s Musings

Boys town grabbed my heart the moment I walked in. I didn’t know what I felt but I knew I wanted to feel that way forever. At first they were a mass of boys who wanted nothing more than to sing “popsico” and get to know you. Then after spending four days running an activity holiday for them in Yelligri Hills they became these amazing individual boys who I was privileged to know and who will go on to amazing things thanks to MadrasYMCA and their support.  


However it was the Oasis tailoring women who completely captured my heart. In a culture that often refuses to let women reach their full potential and expects them to stop fulfilling their own life and cater to a husbands life’s, these women had a chance to do something for themselves. 

In the female empowerment session, run by Caitlin, the women were asked to write their passions and what was stopping them. It was heart shattering to hear that it was mainly money that prevented them, but there was one woman who said as she was getting married her husband would no longer let her work. It was hard as you wanted to grab her by the shoulders and tell her she is worth so much more than that and any man that wants to oppress her is not worth her time, that she had so much potential and couldn’t ever let anyone stop her, alas it’s the culture there and we must respect it. 


The next part of the session was saying what they can do to over come it, when me and Caitlin got back to the YMCA we read some, hers simply read “I will change my husbands mind, and I will carry on working” for me this made all the stress of getting here, all the hard work and all the tears completely and totally worth it because of that woman’s view. 

Those women were so inspiring, they inspired me to go home and achieve my goals. I was scared of so many things before going to India, scared of failing, scared of trying for my goals and missing, scared of telling people what I wanted in life for fear of ridicule, scared of raccoons. And although my fear of raccoons is still strong (I don’t know why I just don’t trust them!) I have learnt that even though where I live may not have total equality, I have so much freedom and for me not to grab that with both arms is insulting and ungrateful. This was a common theme in India, those we went to help and give to, those that had nothing where normally the ones that gave us the most. Even though the lives they lived compared to ours were poorer and harder, I left feeling more at peace and full of hope because of the care and love we were shown.


Seeing the poverty in Chennai broke me, but the people put me back together x



Yellagiri – Jess’ view

Jess yell2It’s no exaggeration when I say that I had 4 of the best days of my life when we took over 40 boys from the local destitute home in Chennai to the hills of Yellagiri- I already know that my words are not going to do justice to how incredible this experience was so I guess y’all just going to have to apply to be a part of next years team so you can be apart of it yourself!

The theme the team decided on for this years trip to Yellagiri was Around the World. Throughout the weekend we led a carousal of activities where the boys would visit various countries and do an activity to go alongside the country they were visiting. Seeing them all working together in each of the activities was truly beautiful- they all had the most caring hearts and you could really see that. The older boys would look after and translate for the younger boys and the way they loved each other is something we should all learn from.Jess Yell

A personal highlight for me was just spending time with my team (the amazing Team Australasia!) and getting to know each and every one of them. Getting to know these boys has just been the best thing! Even though we didn’t speak the same language, the connection we made was so special. It was so honestly beautiful in the way that all it took was a game of pat-a-cake and a smile to get to know the younger boys (who didn’t speak as much English). The conversations I had with the older boys as well were so lovely. Looking back now on the laughter we shared and the stories we told is making me smile a lot!

Each and every boy is such an inspiration in the way that they have absolutely nothing yet they are so full of joy, faith and excitement. My prayer is that we left as much with them as they have with us through the activities we planned, the songs we sang, the sessions we led and the conversations we had. My heart is so full of the memories we shared with the boys. It makes me very emotional but also so very happy to think that we were apart of something that they are going to remember for the rest of their lives.



Catapulting with 42 Boys – Yelagiri 2017

20170820_100346Pragadeesh wants to join the Indian Police Force once he moves out of the destitute home Chennai Challenge works with each year. Watching him smash a target with his stone was one of my highlights of the catapult competition I’d planned & facilitated this summer. I’d set up several targets which, in reality, would be difficult for the boys to hit (more pot luck than skill) the game getting each team to work together more than anything else. After a dozen or so missed attempts, the 16 year old was the first to score points for his team of eight; 100 points to be precise, from hitting a toilet roll tube hanging ten feet away. The silence beforehand, the eruption of cheers afterwards, made for a gripping and emotionally consuming round.

My other personal highlight, which became a running theme as a result of the nature of the competition, was watching the older boys genuinely try to support the younger kids when it was their go; you could almost see the penny drop with some once the first round ended – when they realise that every single person in their team has to achieve the highest possible score in order for their team to win. Before my eyes, I watched several strong leaders naturally arise over the course of the weekend – some of the best scored zero points themselves, but helped the younger children to score for their team (particularly heart-warming when it was the quieter children or those living with special educational needs)

The educational element behind the session was to help build confidence and team building skills, but also to help with geography. At the start of the session, I opened up a map of the world and asked the kids to work out / show me where Central America is. I then explained how in Central America men use catapults to hunt so they can feed their family; something several of the boys were impressed by.

It’s amazing to think that such a simple activity, using empty bottles, toilet rolls and a card board box could create so much of a buzz amongst a group of 4 – 16 year olds; they were all counting down the minutes / hours until they could have their go – and they were all eager to see where they were positioned on the leader board. I remember having my catapult taken off me as a child (after ruining a neighbour’s car door). Thankfully, no vehicles were damaged on the camp site during our time there (not that I’m aware of anyway?!) Furthermore, I think Catapulting is likely to become an annual feature in the Yelegiri Calendar now; if it’s what the boys want, how could we possibly say no?!

Andy Neale