How visiting the depths of despair in India changed Tim Ince’s life forever


If you think you’ve seen poverty strewn across the streets of England, Tim Ince tells Matthew Chandler a whole different story about his ventures to South Asia.

Deep in the slums of Ahmedabad, India, some of the world’s poorest people can feel their lives ebbing away.

Children are raised in a disease-ridden environment. Many have no access to education. Food, shelter and clothing are in desperately short supply. Essentially, you are born into an early grave.

It is, therefore, a testament to the good work done by Tim Ince and his colleagues at De Montfort University Square Mile that, through their organisation, life has become slightly more tolerable for these families.

Having graduated from DMU in the summer of 2016, Tim became projects and outreach co-ordinator in October of the same year, with Square Mile India having launched the previous February. Incredibly, more than £35,000 has already been raised since then.

Tim has spearheaded a multitude of fundraising campaigns for these unimaginably destitute human beings, including numerous visits to the slums.

Simply by asking him about his accomplishments, he radiates a remarkable and understandable sense of pride. He had visited India with Square Mile before, on canal clean-up exercises, but nothing could compare to these experiences.

“We run a number of fundraising activities throughout the year for Square Mile; last year we did an abseil to raise money.

“It really is an initiative that everyone on campus has bought into and the work we did with Square Mile India could not be achieved without all those groups.”

Much of the time in Ahmedabad was spent working with Manav Sadhna, a non-profit organization based at the historic Gandhi Ashram, dedicated to serving the underprivileged.

But there are two memories in particular which strike a chord with Tim.

“We did a project where audiology students provided hearing tests for the community.

“They were able to identify kids in the slum who had ear infections so those kids were able to get healthcare to protect their hearing.”

Free sessions over three days in a Wankaner hospital saw more than 200 people seen to and more than 80 have hearing aids fitted. Most notably, one visitor regained the ability to hear after 15 years of near-total deafness.

His second tale is arguably even more commendable. In March 2016, students built washrooms for a disadvantaged school in Indore, West India. For every washroom built, an estimated 150 girls stay in school.

Jessica Bogic, outreach officer, told at the time how the impact this had on the children could not be understated.

She said: “When we built the washroom, they were literally saying things like ‘I am going to be a doctor’, ‘I am going to be a scientist’.

“They genuinely said that now, they have the opportunity to finish their education because they have a washroom. Yet to us, it’s just this thing that we don’t even think about, that we take for granted.”

Tim, of course, could not have achieved so much alone. Aside from Manav Sadhna and the classes and workshops put on for the children, Josh Hargreaves, public engagement officer at Square Mile, has also got behind numerous fundraising projects.

The annual Bollywood Party, a fun-filled evening of immersing yourself in Indian culture, took place on October 27 to great success; something for which Josh, having helped create, is especially proud.

“It is a nice celebration evening. You can get a taste of the Indian culture through the dancing, the food and the general atmosphere and it is part of a great cause,” he tells me.

“You get to have a great time but also know that your money is going to a worthwhile cause which both staff and students can see in front of them.”

Like Tim, he has visited the impoverished region several times; only last week he returned from a five-day trip with drama students to run workshops for the children, further evidence of just how well this scheme has been backed by the university on a wider scale.

It may only take roughly 10 hours to reach India by plane from Britain. But the short time I spend with them makes the two places feel worlds apart.

So, could either of them really believe what they were seeing when they first laid eyes on the slums?

“It is a really eye-opening experience for everyone, especially the DMU students who volunteered,” Tim says.

“For them to be able to experience that kind of environment is really valuable. There is a lot to process and that is why these trips stay with you for a long time.”

Josh is similarly candid in his recollections of Indian life.

“When you are travelling around India, it is very eye opening but when you are with the kids you forget all that’s around you and just focus on the children.”

“You cannot really prepare for what you are going to see.”

From the experiences he and Tim share, it is impossible not to believe him.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: