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All current HUGGS students heading to VUDU Park.

HUGGS Canada Board members Marilyn Gullison and Helen Kline have had a busy time with the program in Vizag, India. Now they are on their way back to Vancouver. Here’s Helen’s final post.  

HELEN’S BLOG October 24, 2017


Hard to believe the time has flown by so fast, as Marilyn and I wrapped up our visit with a Saturday night excursion to VUDA Park with all 41 current students, and a Sunday night dinner for all the alumni who could join us at the HSC.

The evening out at VUDA Park gave students a chance to relax and enjoy being outside and with each other. They organized several games for themselves, then gravitated toward a playground with high swings and climbing structures.

 For the alumni, Coordinator Madhu had dinner brought in by caterers. There were many  conversations going on as people enjoyed the food and caught up with each others’ news. It was satisfying for us to see familiar faces from earlier years, eager to still connect with their HUGGS families, and living strong, independent lives.

During the evening, the alumni asked us specifically to tell you, their community of supporters, what a difference you have made in their lives. One said, “My life is forever changed because of HUGGS, and I will always be grateful.”

                   Picnic at VUDA Park                                                Alumni                                     Serving a curry dinner to the alumni       

Students' Picnic at VUDA Park    Alumni   Alumni Dinner     

Madhu with son Mittul wearing his new maple leaf shirt          HUGGS first student Viveka, now Senior ICU Nurse                

             HUGGS Coordinator with Mittul                                       Viveka - First Student


HELEN’S BLOG October 22, 2017: Home Visits

Marilyn, Helen, and Madhulatha (HUGGS Coordinator, Vizag) have visited the homes of all ten new students accepted into the HUGGS program in 2017. For most of these students, the switch from Telugu (in Grade 10 = high school graduation) to English medium (in Grade 11 = Intermediate college) is a huge challenge.

All 10 students also come from very poor homes in the city, with little hope of continuing their studies past Class 10 (unless they are sponsored). The parents usually have no education, can’t read or write, and have only the most basic labourer jobs. So they are often close to tears as they thank us for giving their child a good education. These young people are bright, hard-working, and serious about their education. Thank you all for helping us help them!

These photos give you a glimpse of our home visiting days:

One of our new students lives with her mother and younger brother in a one-room apartment in this government housing

Student's Home

We often received fresh coconut water to drink during our visits, direct from the shell.  Always fresh!

Home Visit Oct 2017

Two hundred steps lead up to this student’s home, but we met her family in her aunt’s house, at ground level

Home Visit

This street leading up to a mosque is decorated with flags, but Muslims, Hindus, and Christians live side by side in the neighbourhood.

Home Visit


HELEN’S BLOG October 20, 2017: DIWALI

Festival of Lights! Diwali is an important festival in India, with the main celebration falling on October 19. Many people get the day off and spend the time with their families, but stores are open, especially stalls selling the clay diyas for Diwali lights, fireworks, and special sweets. Once it’s dark, the sight and sound of fireworks fill the air.

At our hotel, guests like Marilyn got sparklers to get into the Diwali spirit, and some of the staff created a lovely peacock design on the floor (it took them 3 hours, using salt and powdered colours).

Bobby David, HUGGS Administrator, and his extended family drove into town to celebrate the holiday with us—Bobby with his wife and 2 daughters, his brother with his wife, son, and daughter, and Bobby’s father. The children especially loved the lights, the fireworks, and the special buffet in the restaurant. Lovely to have their company!

These photos give you a glimpse of our Diwali celebrations:

    Diyas for Diwali lights on sale everywhere    Marilyn with Diwali sparklers     Diwali floor art, peacock design, at our hotel                                   

   Diwali October 19, 2017   Diwali 2017    Diwali 2017 Floor Art                         


HELEN’S BLOG: October 16, 2017

Today, all 41 HUGGS students, staff, and visiting Board members Marilyn Gullison and Helen Kline, gathered to celebrate the opening of the new HUGGS Study Center.  Coordinator Madhulatha and the 3 HUGGS graduates who are  tutors this year had colourfully decorated the room. A photographer was present to record the event in photos and videos.

Marilyn and Helen cut the ribbons, and brought congratulations from the Board: our students exemplify HUGGS’ vision of EMPOWERING YOUTH THROUGH  EDUCATION. Certificates were handed out to students completing  intermediate  and to college graduates.

Then Madhulatha, Helen and Marilyn cut the cake which the tutors served. Administrator David Benjamin closed with words of encouragement and blessing. There  was a great sense of camaraderie among the students. What a privilege to be there!


                New HSC Opening Cake                  Staff, Tutors, Marilyn and Helen, HSC Opening Night                      

    New HSC Opening Night

      HUGGS Students at the new HSC         Graduate Vanaja receiving HUGGS certificate from Helen

          HUGGS Students                  Graduate Vanaja with Helen


To make first-hand contact with students and staff, and experience the conditions personally, HUGGS Canada Board members volunteer to visit the program in India one or two times a year.  Marilyn Gullison and Helen Kline are currently visiting the program in Vizag, India.  Helen is going to keep us updated on what they do during their two-week visit.

HELEN’S BLOG: October 15, 2017

Marilyn and I have arrived in India, and are adjusting to our new time zone. Sunny days on the weekend, changing Sunday night to sheet lightning, and rain!

We’ve had several long planning and information sessions with our staff—and now we’re looking forward to a busy week, starting with the official opening of the new HSC tomorrow (Monday October 16)!


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HUGGS Student

HUGGS Canada is a registered Canadian charity, empowering youth through education in South East India. HUGGS focuses on promising young people who have the ability to excel in education, but are without the resources to study beyond Grade 10.

Thanks to our generous donors, we sponsor young people in Visakhapatnam (Vizag), to complete their secondary and post-secondary education. Students are selected based on financial need, academic ability and family encouragement.

Today more than 30 HUGGS graduates are working in their communities in careers including nursing, teaching, engineering, finance and computing.