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DMU launches initiative to support thousands of lives in India

Teams of students and academic experts from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) are set to help improve the lives of thousands of India’s poorest and most vulnerable families.

The initiative, Square Mile India, will see the university draw on its research and academic excellence to transform the livelihoods of people living in poverty in the westernmost state of Gujarat.

Work will be undertaken to connect remote villages to sustainable energy sources like solar power, and install intelligent electricity systems which ensure power is used efficiently.

Adding an overseas dimension to Square Mile, the university’s local community outreach project, a new Square Mile is being created in the slum area of Ramapir No Tekro in Ahmedabad. The slum, within the largest city in Gujarat, is home to 160,000 people, in the same sized area as the 7,000 in the Leicester Square Mile.

More than 200 skilled students will travel out to help people needing treatment for eyesight and hearing problems, and to use art, education and psychology training to improve community life – through #DMUglobal, the university’s pioneering international experience programme.

One Nursing student, Preeya Kagdadia has already visited the slum with #DMUglobal, as part of the project and said: "I would like to thank DMU for this amazing and life-changing opportunity. Sometimes we forget to value the really important things."

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A charitable sponsorship scheme is giving DMU staff, students and the general public the chance to donate money to support a special home in Ahmedabad which supports around 120 Dalit children – youngsters at the bottom of the Hindu caste system – who face widespread discrimination and are often left impoverished, uneducated, and illiterate.

Under the scheme, the Square Mile India Fund, people will be able to make regular donations, which will go towards providing those children with books and stationery, uniforms, access to basic medicine and healthcare, better food and equipment for sports and games activities.

The children’s home is based within the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, where Mahatma Gandhi lived for 12 years.

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S P Varma, the Vice President of the Gandhi Global Family, who run one of the charities in the ashram has endorsed the initiative: “We have been aware of DMU Square Mile for a long time and have seen its impact in Leicester. Recognising the same, our organisation Gandhi Global Family awarded Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard with the prestigious Mahatma Gandhi Seva Medal. 

“We are delighted that DMU has acknowledged Leicester's unique relationship with India and we are excited that they will be able to share their expertise and passion for helping communities here. We believe Square Mile India will have a huge impact in the areas that need it most by sharing the university's knowledge and research and its values of respect and equality. 

“For taking such a noble initiative in India, Gandhi Global Family offers honorary membership to all volunteers of Square Mile India." 

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Back in Leicester, internships will give 80 Indian students at DMU the opportunity to learn transferable skills in health and education to take back to their communities to share with others.

DMU will also work throughout the year to identify opportunities and create partnerships with other universities and organisations. It will also deliver the Gandhi Global Peace Conference in Leicester later in the year, an international meeting which aims to further peace initiatives worldwide.

Professor Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor of DMU, said: “We believe completely in the power of universities to improve communities. At DMU we want to challenge convention and put this into practice, not just locally, or nationally but globally, too.

“This expanding programme in India shares the diverse skills of DMU's research academics and students, and gives a renewed focus on supporting communities in the country. It will make a real difference to thousands of people’s lives.”

Join in with the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #DMUIndia.

Posted on: Thursday 11 February 2016

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