Who are they?
THE FRIENDS OF BAALE MANE GOPALAPURA.
Where are they?
UK charity supporting a project in Bangalore, India.
What do they do?
Provide long-term support for a home for homeless girls.
How big are they?
The UK charity aims to raise £100,000 this year.
What did they receive?
Eagle Audio Conferencing and Microsoft Office software.
Good quality teleconferencing between the UK and India is now possible at a realistic cost.
Situated in Gopalapura, on the outskirts of Bangalore, the Baale Mane (literally ‘girls’ home’) is home to around 50 girls aged 6-16. Many of these children have been rescued from domestic service; some have been living on the streets.
Chris Harrison is the Chairman of the UK charity that exists to provide long-term support to the home. “Bangalore is the centre of the IT industry in India,” he says. “In many ways it’s more socially progressive than other parts of India, and there is more opportunity there for people. We try to give the girls the best we can to fulfil their potential.”
This entails not just shelter, comfort and security, but also education. “In Bangalore you must speak English to get anywhere,” reports Chris. The home already employs a part-time English teacher; the charity is considering the implications of funding pupils to attend fee-paying schools. “We have one girl who has now left school and has the equivalent of A-levels and who is doing a diploma in IT – she will be able to get a job in the industry,” he says.
Chris initially came to CTX for Microsoft donations, but Eagle Audio Conferencing immediately caught his eye. A relatively new product to CTX, the package includes a free call bridging service to India – ideal for addressing the charity’s communication needs.
“Conference-call charges can be really high,” he explains. “We were using a system that was costing us something like £45 per hour and we had to consider this cost before every call. Whereas with Eagle we can just set up a call when we need one - the difference in cost is substantial, which makes it accessible day-to-day.”
Chris cites superior call quality as vital, especially in discussions between those with different first languages and cultural backgrounds. “The biggest challenge for us is effective communication between here and India, and being able to use a service with a good quality connection is the next best thing to meeting face-to-face. Eagle is really good, and has worked really well for us,” he says.
Alongside this, donations of Microsoft Office Professional software have prompted Chris and his team to progress on the IT front. “We’ve recently been able to develop an Access database to record the children’s’ educational, family and health records,” he says. “This is a real step forward for all sorts of reasons, and such a small outlay has made a big difference. Having the donated software available from CTX was a prompt to get things done.”
There are ambitious plans to improve and expand in Bangalore; the UK charity aims to raise £100,000 this year to help realise this. One aim is to increase the home’s advocacy work – to promote the abolition of child labour, for instance. But the charity’s top priority will remain the children at the Baale Mane.
“Our primary focus is the girls in our care,” says Chris. “We want to make a big impact on their lives.”
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