Sebastian Indian Social Projects (SISP)
May 4, 2012
Like most great organisations it starts with a story. This Story is about Paul Van Gelder. He first came to India in 1994/5 when his brother was working in Chennai, as part of his travels he came to Kerala and Kovalam for a beach break. This particular trip he found himself on the beach and the local children coming up to him and asking him to teach them ‘ABC’s. He obliged.
Whilst he was there one of the young boys’ father, Krisna 6, died. His mother Sumitha was distraught and was at a loss, her husband was dead, she was one her own and her baby daughter had TB, Paul was taken aback and he had not expected this for his beach holiday. He did what he thought he could, he promised he would come back, SISP was about to be born.
The story Paul tells is of SISP and its creation, there are parts of the story that come out as you chat with Paul. He does not overstate his role in anyway shape or form but the Man from Belgium had his life changed and has changed the life of many within the Kovalam community.
Paul came back in 1996, he rented an old Keralan House, hired two teachers and so the first SISP school opened for disadvantaged children, 15 came for an education and for food. This was still a part time role for him as he had a Bed & Breakfast in Belgium that he used the profits from to funnel into SISP. Fast forward to today SISP is now in its 4th building, opened 3 years ago, it is a well established and impressive centre for SISP and its operations.