Friends of Vellore (FOV) UK has been playing a vital role in the development of CMC since the 1940s and gained charitable status in 1952.
Initially FOV was an overseas arm for the Administration of CMC. The brief was to raise funds. Secondly it was able to purchase equipment which in those days was not available within India. There was an Indo-UK government agreement which offered discounts and waived customs duty into India. Thirdly, FOV facilitated placements for staff, both going out to the Institution and arranging training for staff coming to UK from the Hospital, both missionaries, and, vitally, upcoming Indian staff so that they could get the necessary specialist training needed to upgrade CMC to a higher standard.
FOV held big, annual fund raising concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, with soloists such as Dame Eileen Joyce, and later the annual concert in Birmingham. There were as many as a dozen branches whose main task was fund raising. The quarterly newsletter mainly told of the activities of the branches, with some news of staff who had gone from the UK to CMC; not a lot of news from India.
The big concerts lost their appeal. With the demise of the Indo-UK Agreement it was no longer cost effective to purchase equipment for the hospital here in UK. It became possible, and desirable, to order supplies from within India itself. As the hospital grew to be staffed mainly by highly trained Indian staff, and took on the full responsibility of the Institution’s maintenance budget, provision of funds for the day to day running ceased to be an issue.
In time the role of FOV has moved on, responding to the changing development of the Institution. In keeping with India’s nationhood and the inauguration of the Church of South India and the Church of North India, ownership of CMC was handed over by the foreign Boards to the Institution’s own governing Council. It became a self governing, autonomous Indian organisation. In 1970s the governing Council of CMC put on record the Institution’s desire to continue to seek partnership with churches and organisations overseas to proclaim the worldwide Christian witness and the desire to maintain an international presence in the hospital. The continuing involvement by FOV in CMC is very much appreciated.
Thus, the role of FOV has changed from being a much needed source of income. We do still fundraise for vital projects, such as the Person to Person (PTP) Fund and Palliative Care, to name but two projects. The focus of FOV has moved from being just UK focused to providing information for prayer and celebration of the work which CMC is doing. We are a source of encouragement to the staff, sometimes enabling them to carry forward their own aspirations for CMC, illustrated in the work which FOV supports with the Low Cost Effective Care Unit in the slum area of old town Vellore.
Although India seemingly grows more wealthy by the day, still the problems and demands of the poor outstrip this growth. There is truly no sense in which the need for FOV is completed. There is still much work to be done. CMC continues to look to FOV for encouragement and help.