Seamus Flynn, a native of Drumshanbo, has spent three weeks volunteering in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), India with the Hope Foundation and such was his experience now wants to return this year.
The Hope foundation is a charity that works with street and slum children and their communities, in Kolkata. HOPE provide funding and support to over 60 projects in Kolkata. HOPE's programmes include Education, Healthcare and Nutrition, Protection, Life skills and Vocational Training, Awareness and Capacity Building and Emergency Response.
Seamus became involved with the Hope Foundation after meeting a friend who had returned from volunteering in Kolkata. Once he decided to volunteer, he started his fundraising with a table quiz and a car boot sale and received alot of donations from friends and family. He quickly raised over €2,000. The generosity and kindness of people was overwhelming. What Seamus did not realise, was that this would be a life changing experience for him.
On arriving in the airport in Kolkata he was met by one of the Hope Foundation team and brought to his accommodation. He was immediately struck by the abject poverty he witnessed. He found it very harrowing to walk through the streets and see young children being reared on the streets. It is estimated that up to 250,000 children go to sleep on the streets and slums of Kolkata - hungry and without protection. In the three weeks that Seamus spent in Kolkata he worked in the HOPE protection homes - where many of these street children call home. They have been rescued by HOPE from the street and slums.
"There are many injustices in the world but few are as harsh as a child's future stolen – their lives over before it has begun. It should never hurt to be a child", Maureen Forrest, founder of HOPE said.
“This is so true when you are on the ground and see it first hand what injustice and poverty can do” said Seamus. “Despite all the poverty and injustice people are still very warm and welcoming and appreciate so much any help they get. This is not a holiday but you can meet a lot of like minded volunteers from Ireland and from other countries”. Seamus did not get overwhelmed with all he saw and did and in fact he is planning to return to Kolkata with HOPE in 2019.
HOPE are always looking for volunteers to go overseas to help with their street childrens programme. They are also looking for corporate sponsors and volunteers to assist with fund raising activities. For example HOPE have their national fundraising day, The Day of Hope which is on 11 October and they need volunteers and companies to help with this.
HOPE also have an immersion programme for TY and 5th year secondary school students whereby they go out to Kolkata for a week to experience first hand the work that HOPE is engaged in.