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Vienna, September 2021

After this very challenging year, our greatest concern was and is, for the children of Balashram. They have all - and especially the youngest - been through incredible experiences during the past year, and a challenging school year lies ahead of them. But in this issue of our newsletter, you can also read that, thanks to your support, 80 percent of the children are now back at Balashram. The relief and gratitude in our hearts growing with each child that comes back "home" through the gates of Balashram, cannot be described in words. We are very grateful to all of you!

In spring 2004, 40 small children celebrated their first day of school or kindergarten at Balashram and, since then - Hand in Hand and day by day – the school motto has been fulfilled for more than 500 children: Make your Dream a Reality. A goal to pursue even after this past troublesome year.

The Corona crisis has eclipsed everything we have done since Hand in Hand was founded. After 20 years of effective help, we were suddenly confronted with helplessness. We watched helplessly as - in both the first and second lockdowns - one child after another was taken away by relatives following the govern-ment’s instructions. The school had to close and our concern for the children grew with each passing day: Where were they sleeping? Did they have enough to eat? How were they doing?

Especially after the second wave, last April, hit the country with unimaginable harshness. We literally feared for the lives of the children. The number of infections in the surrounding villages increased rapidly and, due to lack of medical care, so did the number of deaths. Going to the market to buy food was dangerous, and the school administration was very worried not to be able to get enough food for the 200 children who were allowed to stay at Balashram during the lockdowns, because they had no relatives who could have cared for them. But the more difficult the situation became at Balashram, the greater the help which was coming from you!

Thanks to your support, food supplies for the school could be organised, so that no one had to leave the Balashram campus. We were able to implement effective prevention and hygiene measures and equip the school's Health Centre for cases of infection, as well as provide for the children’s general health care upon their return to Balashram. These measures allowed us to keep the school Corona-free to this day!
After an intensive exchange, were also finally able to convince the authorities that the safest place for the children – especially during the pandemic – was Balashram. We therefore received silent permission to bring the girls and boys back to Balashram ahead of schedule. The school administration and all Balashram staff are doing their best to work with the children through the experiences of the past year and to catch up and make up for what they have missed, in order to help them move up to the next grade.

However, for the new children, the youngest ones, we do not yet have permission to admit them to school. In the meantime, there are two cohorts, 2020 and 2021 at the school. We are currently waiting for the updated guidelines from the government and are preparing for an extremely challenging school year with 80 kindergarten children, for which we do need additional resources.

We ask you to, please, stay on the ball with us. Please support the children according to your possibilities, or take over one or another co-sponsorship for a class of children

  • With 35 Euro you support the all-round care of 1 child of a class for one month.
  • With 420 Euro you support 1 child of a class for one year.

A better world for the children is a better world for all of us. Caring for the children means realising our common dream of a beautiful future. Now!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you! Yours,
Peter van Breukelen

Vienna, March 2021

Last spring, we were pleased to be able to write you a newsletter full of good news. However, no sooner had the letter to you been finished, than the first lockdown caught us completely by surprise.

Perhaps you noticed right away that in this issue of the newsletter, for the first time, there are no new pictures of the children at Hariharananda Balashram Residential School, nor any from the Hariharananda Charitable Health Centres (HCHC). The sad truth is: Since March 2020 no photos have reached us, and after this difficult year we can hardly bring you good news from India – but a big piece of hope!

Our warmest thanks go to you, dear friends of Hand in Hand because we can look with hope to the future! Your faithful support – especially during these stormy times – gives new strength to our vision: Together for a prosperous future on Mother Earth, for a world free of fear, poverty and hardship!

For this, love and compassion are fundamental. Meeting life with compassion can sometimes be very difficult and occasionally requires us to muster all our courage to remain open to our world as it is. But that courage is always worth it, because compassion is life – and "life is not an empty dream!" *
*Paramahamsa Hariharananda

news the three friends indiaWho, among us, would have expected last spring that we were about to experience a pandemic? That it would no longer be possible to meet for a cup of tea? That the children would no longer be able to stay at Balashram? And that operations at the hospital in Jagatpur would suddenly be run and managed by one doctor only?

Last spring, as every year, the appointed Prajnana Mission Commission selected 40 more children from among the poorest of the poor to be admitted at Balashram. Unlike the previous 20 years, these newly selected children have not been able to join Balashram until today, because of the imposed school closure due to the Corona virus. Nevertheless, even this year, an additional 40 children living in extreme poverty were accepted for admission to Balashram.

Dear Friends, let us pause briefly at this point. While the pandemic continues to exacerbate hunger and hardship in the world, our collective commitment will enable a total of 80 children –rescued from the plight of abject poverty – to be admitted at Balashram, hopefully at the start of the new school year in April 2021. The school will accommodate 564 children as of April 2021. Thank you very much for your help!

The government’s preventive measure against the spread of Corona forced the children to leave Balashram but they could later be brought back to the school, class after class. Due to the mental and physical strain on the children, the quarantine/testing regulations and the rampant fear, the integration of the children turned out to be a long and difficult process.
Providing appropriate care for the children at Balashram increases the expenses for health services, and also the costs for tuition to make up for the classes the children have missed. At the same time, the integration of 80 young children, with traumatic experiences of poverty and pandemic, is an unimaginably big task.

The situation in the HCHC health centres is equally difficult. Many sick people in India have been unable to see a doctor since the outbreak of the pandemic because few are available and private hospitals have been converted into Covid centres. The vast majority of doctors at the HCHC health centres are retired and work on a volunteer basis. Thus, because of their age, doctors are themselves part of the Corona risk group. One single doctor has managed the operation of the day hospital in Jagatpur until the beginning of this year! He deserves all our respect. At present, more doctors are there to care for the sick.

With the successful development of our projects, the responsibility of Hand in Hand and Prajnana Mission has also grown, and with Corona it has increased by leaps and bounds. Hand in Hand must grow – and you, dear friends, have shown us, that Hand in Hand can and will grow.

Like rays of sunshine in winter, your support has allowed new perspectives to sprout in the midst of a crisis. You have continued to support our projects financially, contributed more than ever with your ideas, talents and skills, and given us your valuable time.

In September, the first Joy-Cart reached us, shining in all colours of joy, as a symbol of generosity and abundance against hunger in the world. In January, thanks to the collective desire to help, extending from India through Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the first Hand in Hand Joy Concert performing the healing power of meditative music, was organised to counteract the pandemic and its consequences. And, in February, Joy-Fasting for Hand in Hand started in Switzerland and spread to many European countries – because less can be more for everyone – especially, for the children in India.

Stay on the ball with us! When we humans join with compassion and goodwill as a network across all countries of the world, then dreams can come true!

You have proven it: There is no crisis in which the transformation into goodness cannot be awakened. After each winter, no matter how bitter, spring comes colourfully into the country and with it, a hopeful sigh of relief and fresh joy!

With all my heart, thank you
Yours, Peter van Breukelen

2017 is also a year of expansion and extension of the many constructions works going on at Balashram, our Residential School in India. We would like to offer you an insight into the different projects:
In our last newsletter we reported on the expansion of the Balashram School, necessary to enable a substantially cheaper future schooling for classes 11 and 12.
The Balashram childrenThe new wing, which is attached to the old school building, is almost completed. It will enable Balashram to offer its graduates, who specialize in natural sciences and economics, additional schooling.

The construction of the building alone is not sufficient though: additionally, furnishing to host 80 people in the dormitory is required, as well as living quarters and accommodation for the teachers and their families. Moreover, the appliances in the classrooms necessary for science and technical-oriented studies, is quite expensive. New microscopes and a variety of laboratory equipment also represent a substantial cost factor.

We are pleased to report also on the ongoing and future planned ecological building projects:
- With a sustainable approach to the environment in mind, a water recycling plant is planned for 2017. This means that the school’s waste water can be purified and re-used for the toilets, and for watering the garden.

Info für Kontoverbindung!      IBAN: DE37700205003750930093      BIC: BFSWDE33MUE

- The new kitchen will be equipped with a bio gas installation to replace the present use of firewood, to cook for 600 people. The use of cow dung, to fuel the bio gas installation, will not only reduce the overall costs but will, at the same time, substantially contribute to a cleaner environment and not harm nature.
- The kitchen will have a steam cooking installation, fuelled by bio gas. This will enable the preparation of healthier and natural food that will retain its vital ingredients, which otherwise would be lost if cooked and boiled in water. A solar water heater will be part of the kitchen equipment as well.
- Both in the quarters and in the cow shed, new facilities to catch rain water to be re-used, are being installed. Together with the waste water treatment, the usage of groundwater can be, therefore, reduced substantially. Many people, who live in the surrounding areas of Balashram, are dependent on the groundwater. For this reason, we will be very careful to use these resources in a responsible and sustainable manner.

In February, the new Balashram Health Centre for our children, as well as for the people living in the surrounding areas, was inaugurated.  Twice a week, people who cannot afford to see a doctor, are receiving free medical care at our Health Centre, whilst a dentist is available twice a month.
Thanks to your donations to Hand in Hand, we were able to buy a much needed blood analyzer (5000 EUR) for our Jagatpur Health Centre. However this year, we still need an electrolyte analyzer, as well as all the basic equipment for physiotherapy.
As you can see, there are many new and much needed projects in 2017, for which the estimated budget is ca. 450.000,- €.

Please continue supporting us in these valuable and forward-looking projects 
with your generous donations!
Your contribution makes a difference.

A heartfelt „Thank You“!


Peter van Breukelen (Präsident von Hand in Hand)

Meet our Balashram children on Facebook- you will be surprised and amazed! You can watch short videos showing our children playing games or doing sports, and you can see class pictures.  No personal Facebook account is needed. Enjoy!

On 1st April 2016 the new school year started at Balashram and, on 2nd May 2016, a small welcome party was organised for the new children joining the nursery. The newcomers received some chocolate and were greeted personally by each pupil.

As already anticipated in the previous newsletter, all class X pupils successfully completed their final exams. Thanks to their good exam results, they have gained access to different colleges and institutions of higher education for vocational training. Pupils chose between the subjects of science, humanities and arts studies, economics, mechatronics, tool design and construction, and the music academy.

This year the Balashram School has applied to the Indian authorities for permission to extend, in the future, the continuing education to include class levels XI and XII.

At present, new school rooms are being added to the old school building which will allow Balashram to offer its own school graduates a continuing higher education, starting from next year.

With the scope of developing the organisation, many teachers have received schooling from Human Resources Trainers. The main focus of this advanced training was on conveying values to the children. Starting from class V and VI, children will not only be given theoretical knowledge but they shall also learn about life and personal values, and responsible living.

As is common in India, the time between April and August was filled with festivities and celebrations, which always offer colourful changes during the year, whilst also providing an opportunity for the children to get in touch with and collectively deal with important subjects.

Among these was the celebration of the “Technology Day”, the “International Yoga Day” and the discussion on the negative effects of tobacco on the occasion of the “World No Tobacco Day”.

On 12th July, the children participated in a campaign aimed at raising awareness on the dangers of malaria. Among other things, they learned about preventive measures against this deadly disease.
A week later there was an event on child labour, which is still an issue in certain rural areas, although in India children under the age of 14 are not allowed to work. Many among the older children went with their teachers to the surrounding villages to sensitise people on this subject.
Some pupils participated also at events outside the school: three of them received the black belt after participating at a Taekwondo competition; five pupils took part in an art competition and won several prizes (on 15 July) for their chosen drawings/paintings.
Your generous donations were also used effectively in the health sector, namely for the 3 Health Centres which allowed 86,536 patients to be treated for free in 2015. A total of 705,671 patients have received help and assistance since its opening 16 years ago. Due to lack of medical assistance in their areas, many sick people have to travel up to 70 km to reach our health centres.

There are new important activities in the Hariharananda Charitable Health Center, Jagatpur:

      • New ways of treatments are on offer for root canals, dental reconstruction with crowns, in ENT treatments (Ear, Nose, Throat), in urology; inhaler devices for children with asthma are now available as well
      • Specific programs are on offer during the year on the early detection of diabetes and on 
metabolic alterations
      • New awareness training on foot ulcers for those with diabetes

Please continue your support to these projects 
in order to maintain this positive development!

A heartfelt „ Thank you“!

Peter van Breukelen (President of Hand in Hand)

Meet our Balashram children on our Facebook page: you can watch short videos on the children while they play and practice sports and you can have a look at many class photos. It does not require you to have a Facebook account. Enjoy!

After ten years we have now reached that moment: 39 pupils of the final Year 10-class are about to complete their statutory education at the Balashram Residential School in India. The pupils find themselves at an important junction in their lives in regards to their choices of work and/or studies. All these youngsters were rescued from lives of extreme poverty and given a promising place to stay at Balashram.

With the assistance of HAND IN HAND, these young people were given the opportunity to receive and complete their education in a supporting and encouraging environment.

For each young person, definite plans for the future have been made via a multi-stage process. Foremost the psychological tests: Interests and aptitudes were equally evaluated together with the academic skills.

In a second phase, all the results and the pupils’ areas of interest were discussed together with the teachers. Based on both tests and the subsequent interviews, it was possible to complete an initial, realistic assessment on each pupil’s future life-plan.

„ A pupil of the 10th and final year greets the youngest“

During the last stage of the process, all results were discussed with the parents and/or the legal representatives. The collaborators of our partner organisation, Prajnana Mission, have the task of creating a schooling basis and also give support to pupils in Year 10 in their decision-making about the future. Ultimately, the parents or the legal representatives are responsible for the minors.

During the consultations with the pupils, it was important to evaluate realistically, their expectations and desires. This included a clear assessment of future working opportunities once vocational training and education are completed. A suitable training place has to be found, and Odisha seems the most privileged due to its location in proximity of Prajnana Mission. It is equally important to find suitable accommodation next to the education centre, for instance in hostels. The young students will also need to be followed and supported by local mentors. Should there be the opportunity to work while studying, then this should be taken advantage of. Please turn over!

While making plans for the future, the „Chrysalis“ project started as well.

Chrysalis stems from the Greek word „chrysos“, meaning „gold“. Chrysalis refers to the golden pupa which will transform into a butterfly. This special project, initiated by Prajnana Mission, has the scope to offer Balashram graduates with their individual, different requirements, the best possible support. The following is planned: a database of all suitable educational institutions; a brochure on fundraising; ways to identify target groups in India who could support these young people in their further education; establish links and connections with companies in order to find employment opportunities for those who do not wish to continue their studies.

All 39 pupils have participated, in March this year, at the „board examination“ - a central and final end of school examination, which is carried out nationwide. The results of these final examinations are crucial for the admittance to secondary schools/colleges and universities. The results are expected by the end of May. During the past months, all pupils had been prepared for these examinations and additional classes were offered on Sundays and during holidays. 
For the continuing education and the vocational promotion, additional financial means are needed.

„Graduation ceremony of the 10th class on 29th March 2016“

Without your support, carrying out these plans, would just remain theory.

Your kindness and your compassion are the driving force and the moving spirit behind these successful ventures. Please continue your support to the Balashram children and youngsters and to the many people in need in India.

A warm heartfelt "Thank You"!


Peter van Breukelen (Präsident von Hand in Hand)

Meet our Balashram children on the Facebook website and let us surprise you!
To view the page you do not need to have a Facebook account and you can watch short animated films, observe the children while they play or do sports, and see some pictures of the classes. We wish you much fun!

Hand in Hand - film english

Hand in Hand - film english