On Aug. 25, just as they have for the past six years, Mill Valley residents Annette and Paul Venables and their supporters are leading an effort to support education for children from the Santal tribe, a group that has a longstanding history of facing prejudice and generational poverty in Kolkata, India. They’re doing so via an annual fundraising gala on August 25th at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon. This year’s party features a “Pick a Flower” Raffle, Henna Artists, Indian Dance, and Exciting Live Auction and Fund-a-Need with Auctioneer and MC Liam Mayclem.
The Venables support the Santal people via Tribe Rising India, their Mill Valley-based nonprofit that builds schools and provides educational opportunities for the Santal people in West Bengal, India. Tribe Rising India is currently constructing the first high school for Santal students. “We have has already built the first girls’ dormitory and gifted over 700 scholarships for children grades K-7,” says Annette Venables. “You can help us create generational change—one hopeful student at a time.”
Tribe Rising’s support for the Santal people began in 2017, when Father Maria Joseph Savariappan made an impromptu visit to Mill Valley’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church to step in for a vacationing Pastor Pat Michaels. Savariappan educated parishioners about the plight of the Santal, and that education has had cascading impacts thousands of miles away ever since. Their work in support of those people has continued despite a 7,800-mile span between Mill Valley and St. Xavier’s Gurap campus, the hub for post-primary education.
“They know how to do hard things,” Venables says of the children. “They do them every day.”
Tribe Rising India has raised tens of thousands of dollars and funded the construction of much-needed buildings that will create lasting positive change for the Santal. In 2020, amidst some of the worst months of the pandemic, the Venables hosted a virtual gala that leaned on Indian meals from San Rafael’s Delicious Catering delivered directly to the homes of “attendees,” as well as a Fund a Need campaign.
The Venables took two trips to the region in 2019, including for the groundbreaking of the very first girls dormitory, providing girls in fifth through tenth grade their own space. “The Santal children have never had a school that is unique to them and their needs and offers them a safe place,” Venables says. “The kids that show the most promise are the most at risk of failing because the cultural norm and mainstream culture requires them to give up their education in favor of supporting their families.”
“The ones who don’t come back are the girls,” she adds. “They get married off or get caught up in chores. The dorm is there now, so that we can say to them, ‘the opportunity is still here for you.’”
“We want to show our students that while they are hidden in their villages during COVID, far from the news headlines, they are not forgotten,” Venables says. “We can show them we still believe (that) hope is for everyone.”
For more information go to TribeRisingIndia.org or contact Annette Venables at email@example.com.