HEAL student sings with voice of an Angel at national competition HEAL Paradise Village’s Angel Vennela receives her runners-up prize for singing at Balotsav 2015 HEAL is celebrating a spectacular success after one of its Paradise Village students, 13-year-old Angel Vennela, achieved a second-place finish in a prestigious national schools competition. On the weekend of Children’s Day, the 24th annual Balotsav children’s festival attracted 5,000 competitors from 300 schools across India and a team from HEAL Paradise Village School was entered for the very first time. Paradise only opened its doors to an initial intake of 50 children last summer and student numbers have risen to almost 200 5 to 15-year-olds since then. A team of eight 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 and it was a pleasant surprise when Class 8 student Angel qualified for the final stages of the Telugu song event. HEAL Paradise School children arrive at Balotsav 2015 It was a daunting experience for the Paradise girl amid fierce competition from far more experienced singers and performing for the first time in front of a large audience. Encouraged by Paradise School head teacher Mrs Jyothi, Angel not only made it into the last 10, but sang her heart out in the final to claim a wonderful second place. “She was very nervous, but showed a great deal of courage to perform so well in such a high standard of competition,” said Mrs Jyothi. “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 Balotsav festival.” The team of students representing HEAL Paradise Village celebrate Children’s Day with cake at Balotsav 2015 HEAL School vice principal Ramesh Ravuri was bursting with pride at his students’ excellent performance 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 in the arts. 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. Paradise School classmates Sai Keerthi and Angel Vennela at Balotsav 2015 “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. “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. “Overall, it was a really good experience for all our children to be up against such tough competition and will have given them inspiration to prepare well for next year.” 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. The HEAL pupils enjoyed some cake to celebrate Children’s Day while they were on their trip and there was another surprise for Angel on her return to school. She was voted joint Class 8 winner of a ‘Design a Christmas Card’ competition in her absence and was presented with her prize of a watch by the team of judges, Paradise Village volunteers Colin and Barry Charlton and Jem King.