THEY have been swapping letters, school work and life experiences for almost eight years, but have never been introduced.
Now, members from 51st Bonnyrigg Boys’ Brigade are preparing for a trip to India to finally meet four children who are being educated thanks to a BB fundraising campaign.
However, youngsters Jay Aird, 17, Lewis Houliston, 12, Blair Wright and Michael Daniel, both 15, won’t be filling their suitcases with pencils, books and paper to give to the Indian children.
Instead, they will be packing 100 pairs of white socks to donate to the youngsters to be used as part of their school uniform – as good quality socks are hard to come by in the village where they live.
The Midlothian-based BB company has been sponsoring 15-year-old Ajit Prasad, 14-year-olds Irfan Ansari and Divja Jamble, and 13-year-old Harshada Deshmukh by funding their education at Lady Khatun Marium Navik School in Nhava, India, for the last eight years.
Along with four BB officers – Derek Houliston, Keith McLennan, Paul Thomson and Calum Marshall – the youngsters, who are all pupils at Lasswade High School, will fly to India on February 9 for their first visit since the project was started eight years ago.
The project, set up by former BB officer, Eric Lamb, 71, pays for schooling costs, uniforms and meals for the four Nhava children.
It costs £100 per child, per year, to fund their education, all of which is paid for with BB funds.
The youngsters have been exchanging letters, artwork, photographs and schoolwork almost since the start of the project.
One letter sent to the Bonnyrigg youngsters by Ajit Prasad read: “I want to thank you for sponsoring my education and want to let you know that I’m spending each day at school with lots of enthusiasm and hope.”
Over the past few months, the BB has raised more than £900 for the Indian youngsters through various bucket shaking events – bringing the total over the last eight years to around £4000.
Lewis, a first-year pupil at Lasswade High, said: “We asked the teacher in India what else they needed and the reply was socks. It’s hard to get hold of good quality white socks there, which are part of their school uniform, so we are packing a case and taking them with us.”
After buying the socks, money left over will be given to the school itself to pay for new equipment.
Lewis’s dad Derek, 42, company secretary of the 51st, said: “We are all very excited about our trip to India.
“Even though we haven’t been over there before, we feel like we know the children already. They send us letters and cards regularly and we can’t wait to actually meet them.
“It should be a real eye opener for the boys so they can see how other people live.
“All the young people here are very keen to help out fundraising and have been taking part in various events, including shaking buckets outside the Playhouse, where we raised £800 in one night.”
The eight-strong BB group will spend a week in India, during which they will see how the children live, as well as working with them at the school and visiting a slum in Mumbai.