“ Your Grace,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Coming back to India, especially in Sendivakkam, is for me full of memories, emotions, feelings as you cannot imagine. It took me a long time before I could even figure coming back here.
First of all, I want to thank all of you, for being gathered here today. Today it is four years that Alfredo Cuomo, my late husband, passed away, I was destroyed and my universe collapsed. Among the few, the very few things that kept me alive, there was the Foundation and its meanings.
Alfredo and I, started this adventure together in Kovalam strolling on the beach more than twelve years ago. With the passage of time, we saw our dreams come true.
From a small Portuguese church with a tiny school, we grew and grew every year. You all know as much as I do, how strong was Alfredo’s spirit and how much he was proud of all these achievements; your achievements. The Foundation has survived him as I did , and we the Foundation staff , did it not only for the sake of his memory but because we , as him, strongly believe in what we do here ; India is and will remain the core of the Cuomo Foundation.
Sendivakkam School is today renamed Alfredo Cuomo R.C. High Secondary School. I feel proud for him and as time has gone by, I do not feel sad, but happy, to be with you, to celebrate this event. You gave him, you gave me a wonderful present, thank you.
Life goes on and as such the Foundation is committed to support Education and will do it. As I said previously India is the Core of our Foundation.
However times are changing, as fast as life goes by.
The Foundation like any individual has to evolve in order to survive. From one man’s will, it has, it had to become an organization.
As such the Foundation needs to know what is done, what are the success rates, what are the weak points in order to improve its actions, to reinforce some activities and to redirect others. The world around us is getting more and more challenging every day. Education is the first step to remain a free human being. However India is a country of huge contrast, where extreme poverty is next to extreme wealth. You must aim to be neither poor nor rich but proud, educated, honest men and women.
Internet and Social Media may lead one to believe that all can become engineers, architects, bankers, medical doctors, but Indian society needs everybody, like in every other society. You will need carpenters, builders, plumbers. You will need agricultural engineers, water specialists to overcome your own challenges. Your education can be supported by the Foundation, BUT the Foundation cannot help you to get your right place in your own Society. You will need to do the appropriate studies to be not only educated, but to choose the appropriate job fitting your own abilities and be able to have a family and run a happy life.
All these issues were not as acute when we started twelve years ago. They are not tomorrow’s dilemma, they are today’s critical matters. We as the Foundation are prepared to help you with these new challenges, but we can only do it with you. The future is bright, but full of pending choices. The Cuomo Foundation is excited and stimulated by all these challenges. During these last four years, although I did not come here, I worked with you for you and I continue to do so with the same spirit.
I need to thank especially, Peter Hungerbulher and Erik Reksten for their dedication to India. I also want to thank the staff of the Foundation based in Monaco, and especially Anne France Ballaro. But as the Foundation needed to be structured, we had to reinforce our governance and you met some months ago our new General Manager Mr. Francisco Antonio Diaz Lison.
All these people are in place to help you, to serve the Foundation and allow concepts and ideas to become real. We will prolong for as long as we can, if not forever, the life of this twinkling star we saw with Alfredo twelve years ago on a beach!
I cannot conclude my speech, without very special thoughts and warm thanks to Mr. Charli Kulandai for his efficient, permanent presence, and thoughtful actions throughout all these years. Thank you Charli.
I want to thank all of you, the pupils, the students, our pupils, our students, all of you coming in as children, growing, to become teenagers and adults. You are the children of the Foundation. We are proud of you and we thank you for working hard. You deserve to be helped.
Maria Elena Cuomo
July 18th, 2013