Support for Jagriti India

Jagriti now has fourteen schools in Jaipur and three in Ajmer catering for the education needs of over four thousand underprivileged children, in 2015 this number was in the region of seven hundred. These children are getting their valuable education, school uniforms, stationery and meals with no cost to their families.

With CLF’s assistance, Jagriti is looking to expand to cater to more slum areas so that more children who are currently begging and rag picking can join these schools.

Update on Ace Africa and Jagriti India

Update: May 2021

CLF has continued to support both of these ventures since our last update and we are still proud to be part of two significant projects that are assisting children in both countries. We are currently exploring opportunities to support local projects too.

Support for Ace Africa:

In 2021 and in line with the Ace Africa’s 2019 – 2021 strategy, Ace is continuing to work towards extending the provision of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme for under 5’s children in four other rural schools of Arusha region in Tanzania. These four other schools lack ECD classrooms, trained ECD teachers, furniture and ECD learning materials and due to these conditions attendance by children has been very poor or non-existent.

The following activities will be conducted in 2021 in the Arusha District Council, Arusha region, Tanzania:

  • Renovation/construction of four ECD classes from four schools reaching 200 children
  • Training eight teachers in ECD teaching methodologies
  • Provision of basic ECD furniture and learning materials to four renovated ECD classes
  • Providing twenty two ECD events to eleven schools reaching five hundred and fifty children and eleven hundred parents
  • Conducting four outreach ECD awareness events reaching eight hundred community members
  • Ensure circa eight hundred preschool children from eleven schools attend ECD sessions and receive lunch every day
  • Attend local and international advocacy and learning events to promote ECD

By the end of 2021, CLF will have helped Ace Africa establish eleven ECD classes in eleven schools, train thirty-eight teachers, and enable circa eight hundred children to attend pre-school.

Colourful Life Foundation in India

During a recent trip to India with Gemporia, Gem Collector presenter Alex McKay visited our Colourful Life Foundation India’s first completed project.


The latest school we are sponsoring in Jaipur stands out brightly with its freshly painted walls and new welcome sign, a far cry from the dilapidated buildings surrounding it.

Just six months ago, the Government Middle School in Bais Golam was all but a ruin, with a leaking roof, worse for wear toilets and classrooms which hadn’t been updated in over 20 years. With pupil attendance at an all-time low, the headmaster approached our offices in Jaipur, which are located just 200 yards away, for help.

The cry for help fell upon our Managing Director, Sharmil Mathur. She was quick to visit and was shocked to find that a school so close to our offices was in such dire conditions. Sharmil realised this should be the next project for the Colourful Life Foundation, India. Within just two months, the school has been completely renovated, with new toilets, new food preparation area, the leaking roof fixed, new desks, as well as shoes, uniforms and stationery for all the children.

Schooling in India works very differently to what we are used to seeing in the UK. The government’s educational remit only stretches to the supplying of teachers and daily food for pupils. The condition of the school buildings is left to the local residents and businesses, however many schools, like the one I visited, are located in poor areas, leaving little hope for local donations.

Quite simply, without the incredible efforts of Sharmil and the Colourful Life Foundation, the school wouldn’t be the great centre of learning that it is today. The headmaster was pleased to inform me that since our support for the school began, the attendance ratings had gone from 62% to 85% and that the number of pupils had gone from 69 to 156. This school is now a real success.

I was sad to learn that many Indian families place more importance on educating their sons than their daughters, often sending boys to private schools and girls to the local government school. These schools are usually drastically underfunded and in poor condition, which means that girls will begin their lives at a disadvantage compared to their male peers.

Along with the schools we already support, this Bais Golam school stands as a shining example to those who walk through its gates, telling them that no matter what race, religion or gender they are, they have a real chance to learn and prosper.


Words by Alex McKay

Boys 2 Men Mentor Mentality

Interview with Leon Aston – Boys 2 Men Mentor (

After seeing an email at work asking for volunteers to help mentor local disadvantaged teenage boys, Leon Aston jumped at the chance, having coming from a big family, and having always contemplated working with children. Since having 2 children of his own, he realised working with these boys would enhance his own personal development both for his own children and the boys at the Forge School.

Leon recalls how his own grandad, who had 7 children, was a legend in the family, a great story teller. At age 20 he came over to the U.K. from Jamaica, and brought up his family on the ethos of, ‘hard work, and never stop believing in what you can do.’ Leon fondly tells us, ‘He was 83 yesterday and is still busy working with the carpentry around the church. Whatever you do in life, you work hard, and then you go home and look after your family.’

Leon’s own driving force is making a difference with the kids, gaining their trust, showing them there’s another way to go down. ‘If you work hard, you can achieve anything… if I’m working hard at personally developing them, they’ll find what they’re good at, I’ll find what they’re good at and help them. If they focus on that instead of being disruptive… I enjoyed school, my friends and the environment.’ ‘what I wish I knew then, that I know now, and that I hope I’m passing onto these lads, is just give something a go. If I work hard at something, I can achieve anything.’

Perhaps one of the driving forces behind both wanting to help and being able to help, is being able to draw on personal experiences in his own life. ‘When I was 16, my own father figure left. From that moment, I had this anger inside me that I couldn’t get out… I started acting like an idiot, getting in trouble and that. It was because I didn’t know how to get this off my chest… Years later, we had a moment in our Boys 2 Men training where we were sharing experiences from our own lives, and at that moment I decided to get it off my chest. And ever since then, the anger I had, has gone. At 16, 17, 18 I was a bit reckless, but I came through it. Having my own kids has helped too. It will make me an even stronger Dad.’

Leon’s ability to make good of his experience with having lost a father figure is what drew Phil to Leon during his interview: ‘this is very much the heart of the programme. Nurturing lads by empowering Dads. Leon’s experience hits right at the heart of what we do.’

And Leon couldn’t agree more: ‘I turned it into a positive. I just want to help these kids. My kids won’t have this life.’ Even though his own children are only 4 and 9 months, Leon is already putting things into place that perhaps he wouldn’t have done a year ago. ‘I can already see little traits that I’m going to nip in the bud. Working with the lads makes me calmer.’

All the mentors work together during their fortnightly mentor sessions, but certain lads gravitate to mentors according to their own interests.

Leon’s own talents have helped him forge his own connections with a couple of the boys, with his interest in music production having resonated with them. ‘with the music, they can put down what they feel… one lad, I could tell he wanted to learn something, but didn’t know what. So I showed him a beat, and then he wanted to know what we could next. I said we could add some words or poetry to it. Then he sat down for a good 2-3 hours just writing music. I told him to put his main rhyming word in the middle of the page… the word he chose was ‘mad’. All the other words were quite angry. Then he started talking about his parents and his life, just from what he was writing down. A conversation is harder. But all his raw emotion was coming out on the paper… then we recorded it. For him to find the confidence to do it, he was just so chuffed with himself. Also, they normally find it hard to share what they’ve done with the rest of the group. But I said how chuffed I was, and would he share it with the rest of the group. He played it to the group, and he had this glow about him. Then after he was asking “when are we working on the next one?”

Phil emphasised what a massive breakthrough this was for Leon and the charity: for this young lad to talk about his feelings, make something, share it AND be proud of it! Leon: ‘We’ve got the breakthrough. Every day with this lad will be productive now.’

When I asked them to share their most memorable day so far, Phil and Leon instantly grinned, and just said ‘Swimming!’ 6 months into the mentoring programme: they went for a swimming day at Droitwich Lido, the last day of term. ‘It was great throwing each other in the pool, messing around, laughing together. It was good to see them with no stress, just being teenagers.’ Phil: ‘these kids, who have so much baggage, somehow we’d built a relationship, the mentors had built a relationship to such an extent that on this day so they were able to be themselves, and just act like 14/15 year olds.’ But the nature of the people within the project, means it’s not always fun and games; one of the boys had a lot of stuff going on this day, and unfortunately didn’t join in. but even on this occasion, Leon’s able to see the progression with the group; ‘normally, when one goes, they all have a go. The lads tried to get him to join in, but he just didn’t want to. But all the other lads stayed, and it was wicked.’

It’s very scary with what might happen to boys like these once they leave mainstream education, and who knows politically what the future holds to help them through social service care. But instead Phil is thrilled at what has been achieved in the mentoring programme. ‘They’ve had a valued-added input that they wouldn’t have had without the Gems Mentors… it’s sown a seed. They’ve had an experience of something good and wholesome, where they’ve been valued. And that stays with you.’

The main hope is that they now get drawn to people like the Mentors, people who can add values to their own lives, having seen what they can achieve through people like our Mentors.

The Forge School are using their work with the charity as part of their submission to Ofsted, showing that they are doing their very best. The activities the mentors engage in is funded by the school with Boys2Men being the facilitator and the link between the school and Gems. The support from the Colourful Life Foundation has enabled Boys2Men to become established as a charity and as part of their work, offer opportunities such as this to young people who are not able to cope in mainstream schools. If the mentors are willing, a new group of lads in year 10 will be introduced to the mentors, taking them through to the end of their time at the Forge School.

It was when I was asking about the different activities that the boys all do together, that another strand to the whole project became clear. So far they’ve taken part in watersports, camping, swimming, climbing, mountain biking. Lots of high energy sports, because risk and adventure is part of the heart of boys – but a father figure as role model during these activities is key here. Learning how to handle situations together – nurturing lads by empowering lads. Back to nature can help this nurturing, spending time outside, having real adventures together, getting hearts pumping and minds racing through the thrill of risk-taking, not trouble-making.

Words – Sian Smith