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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Kolkata slum girl, now a British banker returns home to help destitutes

PTI  Kolkata, July 30, 2014
First Published: 11:33 IST(30/7/2014) | Last Updated: 12:04 IST(30/7/2014)

A British corporate trainer, who was brought up in the slums of Kolkata two decades ago, has now decided to return to her roots from her London home with a mission to transform the lives of other destitutes.

Born to British parents who stayed back in India after 1947, Jillian Haslam was raised in abject poverty in a slum at Kidderpore from where she rose to become a successful banking professional.

Haslam later migrated to London as a motivational speaker and corporate trainer.

"Now I really want to give it back to my city Kolkata. I shifted away, but my heart and soul lie right here and so I will introduce some of the best practises followed in the UK in the rehabilitation of destitutes, prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families," Haslam told PTI.

During a visit to the city, Haslam, the daughter of a British army officer, relived old memories and met friendly neighbourers in the slum who had helped her family in times of distress.

Under the banner of her charitable organisation Remedia Trust Foundation she has created five teams of volunteers from different fields who will work on the mission to transform lives of the underprivileged.

She has bought land near Kolkata to set up a training centre and promises to return back to the city in November.

"I am building my teams here which will operate from here and I will keep visiting Kolkata very regularly now," said the 43-year-old whose Indian accent hasn't gone away since she left the city as a teenager in the nineties.

Based on UNESCO reports, her team has developed a programme called E3 (Educate-Empower-Employ) which has already proved to be successful for the marginalised communities in the UK.

The programme includes imparting employable skills like that of a waiter, bartender, tailor, beautician, etc. followed by soft skills and basic education.

"And all this must result in a job. We will work with employment agencies on this," Haslam said.

She is also talking to other civil society organisations and government bodies for co-operation.

Besides slums, they will also work for physically-challenged people and thalassemia children.

"We will also work for rehabilitation of prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families," she said.

In the UK, the 43-year-old runs 'Help Yourself Associates', a corporate training firm which has some of the world's leading companies as clients.

Recalling her journey from being homeless and hungry in the dark squalid by-lanes of Kolkata to becoming a successful entrepreneur in London, the adversity survivor said her slum days gave her the hope of survival against all odds.

"We lived in an 8x10 room with no electricity. We had a hand to mouth existence and I had given up all hopes of ever coming out of that. I lost four siblings due to malnutrition and poverty. Some people abused us while others were kind enough to help us. This is what gave me the hope," said the Britisher who calls herself a 'Kolkata girl'.


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