Two students from one of India’s most deprived areas have been awarded scholarships to study at a Scottish University.
Cain Gomes (21), who was brought up by his great uncle after the deaths of both his parents and Asif Ahmed (21), who helps on his father’s street stall, will leave their homes in Kolkata in January to start BA Hospitality Management courses at Edinburgh Napier University thanks to generous sponsorship schemes.
Businesswoman and honorary Edinburgh Napier graduate Vin Murria, whose family left India when she was three to start a new life in Britain, has pledged £10,000 to pay for one of the student’s education.
A second paid place is being donated by Professor George Stonehouse, Dean of the University’s Business School.
The young men were both supported through school by St. Mary’s Day School and Orphanage, a centre which has helped hundreds of impoverished youngsters access education since its beginnings in 1848.
Cain, who now works on behalf of the charity with abandoned children in Kolkata’s red light district, hopes to find work as a chef after the course.
He said: “For a student like me brought up by an economically challenged family, when I found out I was getting a scholarship I couldn’t sleep for one week. I’m feeling very happy and looking forward to it.”
Asif, who currently spends a full day at college before coming home to help on his father’s street stall selling toys, added: “I’m from a very difficult background so I’m very grateful to be given this opportunity.”
Inspired by the work of St. Mary’s, Edinburgh Napier hospitality students – many of whom previously studied at the International Institute of Hotel Management and the Institute of Advanced Management in Kolkata - have raised £1000 for St. Mary’s through a sponsored walk and a special Indian lunch event.
Edinburgh Napier lecturer Pauline Gordon, who is the programme leader for the course, said: “St. Mary’s were completely speechless when I broke the news about the scholarships to them. They were overwhelmed that so many kind and generous people had wanted to help.
“I met Asif and Cain, who’re living in quite desperate conditions compared to those young people in Scotland are used to. Both of them are really looking forward to starting their courses with us in January and are also excited about joining in with further fundraising ventures to help others like themselves.”
The University already has strong links with the charity – last year former pupil Badar Azim graduated with a BA in Hospitality Management thanks to St. Mary’s funding.
Vin, who is the CEO of Advanced Computer Software, said: "I am delighted to support the progression of young individuals as they step forward in their careers and new lives, particularly where I know that the education of one individual is such a huge eco-system of support for their family and wider community. It is a true privilege to be part of the process”.
Prof. George Stonehouse said: “The work of St Mary’s is inspirational. We are delighted to support the education of these young people and have seen at first hand the difference it makes to their lives”.
Edinburgh Napier has the second largest Indian student population of any Scottish university and in 2009 opened a regional office in Hyderabad.