Goan students 'benefit' from
German ex-banker


SIOLIM: It's Indian masala and tea blended with German flavour by benefactor Rudolf Schwartz from Oldenburg that has been helping needy Goan students complete their education over the last 20 years.

This is the story of Schwartz who founded the Indian Students Educational Aid Foundation in 1991 providing financial assistance for the education of the bright and needy and technical education for dropouts.

Completing 20 years of service to Goan students, Schwartz's organization takes pride saying that 2,400 students benefited from the financial assistance through this institution.

The foundation is a registered non-government organization having its office at Siolim. It was set up in November 1991, when Rudolf and his wife, Elfie, were on their first visit to Goa as tourists.

As they travelled around the state, they observed many children were working in fields and not attending school. On inquiring they learned this was because of financial difficulties.

Schwartz decided at the time that the best way to help the poor would be by helping them get an education.

While at a nightclub in Baga, the couple met Umberto Vincent D'Souza. Reposing faith in D'Souza, they asked him to arrange four students who were intelligent and could not continue their education because they did not have sufficient finances.

D'Souza, from Siolim, arranged four such students from the St Francis Xavier school in Siolim, and the foundation was born. Schwartz then contacted his friends in Germany and many started sponsoring students in Goa.

As years passed, the number of beneficiaries increased and as of now over 2,400 students have received scholarships from this foundation.

Every year, the heads of high schools from across Goa are asked to recommend the names of deserving students for the scholarships. The minimum requirement is that the student should score 50% marks at the SSC level and should be from a poor family.

After scrutinizing the applications, eligible students are called for an interview. Selected student profiles are sent to the sponsors who then select the students. Each sponsor chooses a student and the sponsorship continues till the student completes their studies.

For transparency, the students are given the address of their sponsors. They have to write four letters in a year to their sponsors so that sponsors know that their money has reached the students.

Rudolf, who is a retired banker, collects money from his friends in a unique manner.

He returns to Germany after every visit to Goa with Indian tea and spices. Inviting his friends for a home-cooked meal he talks to them about his organization and convinces them to sponsor needy, bright students in Goa.

In 1995, he started a technical institute for dropouts. The Bhumika technical institute was started in Paliem, a remote village in Pernem. It was launched as Schwartz felt that if a student is academically weak it doesn't mean that he/she is a failure. The good response he received encouraged him to start another such institute-the Keerti Vidhyalaya technical institute is in Siolim.

Courses like computer hardware engineering, computer software programming, electronics engineering, fitter, turner, welding, plumbing, motor mechanics, air conditioning and refrigeration, electrician, tailoring, cutting and embroidery, home nursing, hotel management and catering are offered at these institutions.

The foundation, meanwhile, also financially assists 'Valentina's little heaven', an orphanage home in Colva, and 'Atmavishwas', a special school for mentally-challenged students.

The foundation's management is carried out by the staff at the office in Siolim. It is run solely on the efforts of Schwartz and his generous friends from Germany, England and Switzerland.

"Seeing the success stories of the students, I feel very proud. The four students who I met for the first time in 1991 still know me. They come to me and share their happiness. It's a great pleasure," says Schwartz.

"Being here for 20 years helping students, taking their blessings and good wishes... nothing like it," he adds.

Reena Borkar, who was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, but with help from Schwartz is cured and works at Infosys in Pune, says, "Sir Rudolf's vision has helped me accomplish my dreams."

"The encouragement and support I got from Rudolf sir has helped me to be what I am today," says Pooja Khorjuvekar from Vasco, who joined the foundation's "family" in 2004 and now works as a software developer at a German-based firm, Lelesys Infotech, in Panaji.

Schwartz has also set up a website called 'Ausbildungshilfe Indien EV' which translates as 'Education help for India' to attract more sponsors.

There are over a thousand success stories of different students from across Goa who benefited from this institution to secure their career and support their families. The 60-year-old Schwartz says he will continue doing the job till his health supports him. His next plan is to have an Indo-German techno centre and a world class institute of hotel management at Marna in Siolim.