Diary of a visit to Calcutta with the Hope Foundation

The HOPE Foundation works to free street children and poor families from lives of pain, abuse and poverty. Over 250,000 children are forced to exist on the streets of Kolkata (Calcutta). Around 5 million people live in horrific conditions in slums. They do not have clean water and children are often hungry and suffer with diarrhoea and skin diseases. To survive children scavenge in rubbish dumps to find scraps to sell or beg on the streets. Many children are abandoned and are at a high risk of abuse, exploitation and child trafficking. We worked with committed people and a committed organisation to change those people’s lives. We individually raised €3,000. Our money will be instrumental in keeping children at school, providing necessary medical care, housing, wells, treating water and feeding many. The supplies we took in our suitcases now have a new lease of life. For some it is the beginning of their education, a way for them to move on and lift themselves out of the slums. I know that I will never forget this trip. We walked into many a room full of kids to see sullen faces turn into smiles as we played with them, danced with them and taught them new games. Do you know how much a smile is worth to these kids? Priceless. Hopefully our smiles will stay in their hearts.

Michael Vaughan’s recalls his trip to Calcutta and Shanghai

This year I got to travel to Asia twice. Early in the school year Anne Copplestone from the Hope Foundation came to talk to our year group. Paul Weedle and I had been looking to do charity work and we picked this one. Thomas Hunt and Shane McCarthy also volunteered. We had to raise €3,000 each. I did this by selling chocolate, running a cake sale and having a leg wax! On March 24th sixty students met in Cork, travelled from Dublin Airport through Dubai and on to Kolkata. We visited different Hope projects including a girls’ and boys’ home, the Hope Hospital, various drop-in centres and slum centres.

Meanwhile, I had been studying Chinese in school. Our teacher, Faun Pan from Shanghai told us that U.C.C. was running a trip to Shanghai at the end of the year and some places were available.

Cormac Henry, Killian Egan and myself were lucky enough to be chosen. We only had to pay for our flights and on April 10th thirty students left from Cork Airport. A quick stop in Amsterdam and 11 hours later we landed in Shanghai. We lived in the international students’ dorm on the Yancham Road Campus. We had full access to all student facilities including canteen and sports facilities. We attended daily language classes, lectures on Chinese history, culture and economics . Among the events we attended were a tea art show, an aerobatics show, and we also visited a Buddhist temple, an island garden and much more. After two weeks we headed home and were very sad to leave.