The HUGGS Story began with Viveka
2002 HUGGS founder, Lisa Heel, volunteered in a children’s hostel outside of Visakhapatnam (Vizag), India. Here she met teenagers with no alternative at the end of Grade 10 but to take menial jobs or get married. One girl shared her dream of becoming a nurse. That girl’s potential became Lisa’s passion!
2003 Lisa returned to Canada and founded HUGGS Canada as a Registered Canadian charity with the strong support of family and friends.
2003 – 2006 Lisa spent much of the next three years in Vizag where she developed the HUGGS program. She identified several high schools to help find students and also several post-secondary institutions for students to attend. Lisa worked closely with students, their families, and the schools and provided mentoring and ongoing support. She also developed support systems including medical and tutorial help.
2006 To support the growing number of students, HUGGS established a partnership with SNEHA (Society for Nurture, Education and Health Activities) a local Indian NGO to manage the program’s finance and administration.
2011 To provide additional support to students, HUGGS recruited a full-time Coordinator and opened a Study Centre for students to have a safe, quiet and comfortable place to study.
2013 HUGGS celebrated ten years of providing education in India. In total forty-six students had been impacted by HUGGS in the first ten years, including 19 graduates.
2014 HUGGS’ early dream of a Mothers' support group became a reality. A Mothers’ Gathering now meets periodically with the Coordinator to discuss issues of mutual concern.
2015 The HUGGS Study Centre expanded to allow space for the increasing number of students.
2017 HUGGS Study Centre moved into the new building which provides more space for classrooms, a central meeting area, and an office. Ktchen and washroom facilities are also more efficiently designed. Madhulatha received the Leadership Award for Excellence from the BCCIC (British Columbia Council for International Cooperation).
2018 HUGGS 15th anniversary year! This year HUGGS marks the enrollment of the 100th HUGGS student, and reaches the goal of fifty students currently attending the HSC. In Canada, celebrations include the Garden Party in May and the Gala Dinner in September. Madhulatha attends the dinner as part of her speaking tour, thanks to the BCCIC leadership Award.