HEAL children’s successes come thick and fast HEAL Paradise Village’s Angel Vennela receives her runners-up prize for singing at Balotsav 2015 HEAL students have been demonstrating their potential with a number of prize-winning performances recently. Two senior boys at HEAL Paradise Village showed off the gold medals and certificates they were awarded after achieving top marks in their studies, while a Class 8 student returned from a national singing competition with a highly commendable second prize. Not to be outdone, HEAL Children’s Village in Guntur bagged a good number of prizes in district-wide literary and academic competitions. “It’s been an exciting period for our HEAL schools and all of the children and staff have been sharing in the successes of our students,” said HEAL communications director Jem King. “It started with the news that our Class 8 student Angel Vennela had returned from the national Balotsav event in Telangana with second prize for Telugu singing and hot on the heels of that we had two of our senior boys, Vasu and SatyaNaryana, showing us their medals of excellence for 10th Year studies. “More happy news arrived when we heard that several of our HEAL children have achieved success in district literary and academic competitions and brought back a good number of prizes to Guntur. So it’s been one celebration after another for HEAL in the past month.” Vasu, 16, and SatyaNarayana, 15, attended a special ceremony to receive their Prathiba merit awards from the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Nara Chandrababu Naidu. They were presented with certificates and gold medals for achieving excellence in their 10th Class Inter (secondary school) exams. They are among a group of eight students living at Paradise Village and studying at the nearby Vikas College as part of The Leadership School project, funded by the Vrushamani Foundation. Both boys were formally congratulated by Paradise School vice principal Ramesh Ravuri in front of all HEAL students and Vasu gave an excellent motivational speech to the children. The boys each received Rs. 20,000 in prize money and Vasu said he was proud to give the money to his family. Vasu and SatyaNarayana are congratulated by HEAL School vice principal Ramesh Ravuri The children of HEAL School were also treated to a performance by 13-year-old Angel Vennela of her prize-winning song. On the weekend of Children’s Day, the school sent a small team to the 24th annual Balotsav children’s festival, which attracted thousands of competitors from schools across India. It was a pleasant surprise when Angel not only reached the final, but achieved a wonderful second-place finish in this prestigious event. Paradise Village’s team of eight pupils was sent to Kothagudem, in the neighbouring state of Telangana, to take part in an array of cultural competitions ranging from story-telling, writing and poetry recital to drawing, model-making and singing. “This was remarkable achievement by our Angel,” said Jem King, who is spending six months volunteering at Paradise Village. “It shouldn’t be forgotten that Paradise only opened its doors to the first 50 children last summer, all of them coming from difficult backgrounds. “We still have less than 200 students here at Paradise – this will eventually rise to 1,000 – so even to be entering such a national competition at this stage was big step. “But our small team did us proud and what a performance by Angel amid fierce competition from far more experienced singers to claim second place in front of a large audience.” Head teacher Mrs Jyothi, who accompanied the team to the Balotsav, admitted that the Paradise girl had sung her heart out. “Vennela was very nervous, but showed a great deal of courage to perform so well in such a high standard of competition,” she said. “The other finalists all looked very confident and had clearly done a lot of preparation, many coming from a classical music background. They came with friends, music teachers and parents, whereas our Vennela was on her own and had only practised briefly just two days before the festival.” HEAL School vice principal Ramesh Ravuri was bursting with pride at his students’ excellent showing and promised to send an even bigger team to next year’s 25th anniversary event. “The HEAL students who took part have inspired the other children and everyone will be striving to participate next year,” he said. “They want to learn and perform, not only in the Balotsav, but in wider society, and show they can produce something special. Many of our students are very interested in music and dance and, inspired by this success, we hope to include more and more learning opportunities in these disciplines for our children.” The vice principal added that he was full of praise for the way his young students had conducted themselves and represented HEAL during the three-day Balotsav competition. “I am very proud of them. They had less time to prepare than most of the other children, but acquitted themselves well in the face of strong competition from across India. “We had really entered largely to observe the competition and didn’t expect to have finalists, never mind win second place. Our Paradise children love singing and dancing, but we do not have regular music lessons, so we are incredibly proud of Vennela’s achievement. Paradise School classmates Sai Keerthi and Angel Vennela at Balotsav 2015 “She fought against her own nerves to sing beautifully and performed her prize-winning song for our whole school at morning assembly following her return to Paradise Village.” Jyothi Vikas, at just six years of age, was Paradise School’s youngest participant, Bhuvaneswari represented Class 6, Samvidha, Jyothi and Venkatesh Class 7, and Angel Vennela, Sai Keerthi and Daya Vardhan Class 8. Jyothi Vikas, Bhuvaneswari and Daya Vardhan are all awaiting child sponsors and more information on how to sponsor a child can be found on the HEAL website healcharity.org. Meanwhile, staff, students and housemothers were waiting back at the HEAL Children’s Village to congratulate the team from Guntur who did so well in competitions held in essay writing, elocution, drawing and quiz on contemporary trends of the society. P. Chaitnaya, P.V. Prathyusha and B. Pavan Kumar won the prizes in the quiz, K.Pradeep, Satya Prasanna and Malakondamma in drawing and essay writing, plus Deena, Tirumula Krishna Kumari and Pavan Kumar in elocution. HEAL is proud of them all and looking forward to many more future successes.