A FORMER Great Sankey High School pupil is helping to transform the lives of deprived children in India. Gautam Patel, cousin of Great Sankey councillor Hitesh Patel, set up the Home Learning initiative after moving to Gujarat in 2007.

Gautam, who is a senior state government policy adviser, and his wife Krutika, aged 24, run the reading group from 7.30am to 10.30am before the children head to school for 11am and Gautam starts work.

The 30-year-old, who lived in Great Sankey before returning to India, said: “There are days of frustration but it’s very rewarding seeing the progress the children have made from not being able to read or write English to writing stories in English.

“It started with a small group who liked reading books and looking through newspapers so much they brought their friends the next day.”

The group has grown significantly from five children without books to developing youngster’s skills and abilities who live in homes where parents and siblings are not literate and cannot help with homework.

The couple have given up their time and home for children who ‘live with the least, to experience the best learning’ and rely on generous supporters as the group is not state-funded.

Former school friends have been helping the couple during a recent visit to Warrington with books for them to take back and clothes for children living in orphanages which they visit a number of times a year.

Gautam added: “I think people find it more satisfying than donating money because we find out what’s really needed or what the orphanages are missing and ask people to donate that.

“We have had books sent to us that children who didn’t like reading before have now read 20 or 30 times because they enjoy it so much.”

If you can help e-mail gaukhnh@googlemail.com.