Hope Foundation – Kolkata: ‘City Of Joy’
Just before Easter six Transition Year students along with Mr Noel Murray and Old Clongownian, Pyers O’Connor Nash (OC’69) set off for Kolkata, India – ‘The City of Joy’ – as part of the HOPE Foundation trip. The purpose of the trip was to visit and engage with students who are in HOPE centres in Kolkata (schools, hospital or crèches) – children HOPE has rescued from the streets. Peter Excell reflects on the experience…
I was fortunate enough to travel to Kolkata, India with six of my classmates, our teacher Mr Noel Murray, a past pupil Pyers O’Connor Nash accompanied by seven girls from Newtown school in Waterford. We travelled both in hope and with Hope (Foundation) after raising money to fund the whole trip. All we knew is that we were visiting a city the size of Dublin but with a population of 20 million approximately half of whom live in slums or on the streets.
We arrived the next morning jet lagged and tired but straight away on the ‘bus journey to our hotel we could see poverty and dirt everywhere. After settling in and getting some food we headed out to visit a home for girls ranging from 4-12 years old. At first it was very hard for us to fit in as we embarrassed ourselves in dance offs with the girls from Waterford but when we surprised the locals with small gifts (which for them would be big) they were buzzing. The bubbles were the first to go.
Although we were only there for a week, it was really hard for us to witness such poverty; it really goes to show how blessed we are for having roofs over our heads, comfy beds to sleep in at night and hot meals in front of us three times a day. Our many ‘bus rides around the city and visiting centres in the slums meant we witnessed the poverty first hand. We saw families taking turns to have a wash on the side of the street using only dirty water gathered from puddles and water openings, living and cooking on what was once a foot path but is now their home.
What shook me most was seeing young teenagers in rehab centres, who had turned to drugs. Nonetheless, I have never seen so many energetic, happy kids in my life. Throughout the different homes we visited most of the kids were very chatty and the first thing I realised was how good their English was. Each of these centres is run and paid for by Hope with no Indian government aid.
This trip will forever hold a place in our hearts, as I don’t feel words can do justice to describe the amazing week we had. While we visited many attractions in Kolkata like the Mother Theresa Home, walked the Howrah Bridge, attended the Irish Ambassador’s ball at The Grand Hotel and even had a 24 hour stopover in Dubai on the way back thanks to the O’Neill Family – we will always remember the children. Despite having almost no material goods they showed us that they had what mattered.
On behalf of the group I would all like to thank the school for this wonderful opportunity and encourage more TY students next year to go. In particular we would like to sincerely thank Mr Noel Murray, and Mr Pyers O’Connor Nash for their time and effort, before departure arranging induction talks for us and our parents and most especially during the trip for they manner in which they led the group.