The Pied Piper of Tamil Nadu in India

Tuesday 2 May 2017

On Wednesday 26th April, Colonel Colin Wagstaff told us that he left the services in 1976, mainly due to injuries sustained in a parachuting accident. His parents and grandparents were born in India. But he personally had no contact with India until 1994 when he and his wife Anne-Marie were asked to care for an 11-year-old homeless Indian boy, Antonyraj, who had been brought to the UK for medical treatment. Colin went back to India with him in order to find someone who could care properly for him, his sister Stella and his three cousins.

After one month in south Tamil Nadu, he decided that there was more that could be achieved in the area than just providing a home for 5 children. He registered a Charitable Trust, Kings World Trust for Children (India), in Valliyoor together with Indian friends and colleagues who he had met during his stay. A similar Charity was also registered in the UK called Kings World Trust for Children.

Whilst funds were being raised in India and the UK for his aim of building a Children’s Village to care for and educate orphans and homeless children, Colin lived in a small house with 5 children, a cook and a motorbike. Within a year there were 40 children in the first house and Colin was father, housemaster, medical nurse, driver, teacher and sometimes cook too. He soon built up a team of professional child care staff and management which still exists today.

In Millennium year, Colin’s Church in the UK made a donation of £20,000 to the Trust which enabled Colin to purchase 30 acres of land. Part of the new site was used to build a home for 30 Girl’s and was called Kings Field. The rest of the site was used as a farm to grow vegetables and fruit which was sold to provide a small additional income for the Trust.

In addition to managing all operations in India, Colin was also responsible for fundraising all the funds in the UK to support this rapidly expanding and developing organisation in India. In his periods in the UK he was tireless with his meetings, visits, proposal writing and speeches which were directly focussed on obtaining sponsorship for Indian children and donations for the ever-necessary building programme. He has never failed to find the money to give a good quality of life, care and an education to Trust children or to provide the buildings and resources to accommodate them.

It was clear that Colin is a strong and inspirational leader with an acute understanding of the Indian culture, customs and language. From 5 children and one staff member in 1995, he now has an Indian staff count of 200 and provides care, education and training for nearly 2,000 children. He also manages a volunteers’ programme involving annually around 100 skilled and unskilled volunteers from the UK, USA and Ireland. Colin is an accomplished communicator with a common touch enabling him to engage and motivate the smallest child right through to prominent officials and politicians. His work in India has touched thousands of lives, not just those with Kings World Trust, but also the whole wider community, rich and poor, who have enormous respect for what he has already achieved and what he continues to develop.

Colin Wagstaff was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen in the 2013 New Years Honours list for Services to Education and Young Communities in southern India.

The photo shows our Chairman Mike Tulloch with Anne-Marie and Colin Wagstaff.

This story was submitted by the ESU Salisbury & Wiltshire branch. Please click here for information on this branch and its upcoming events.