Being part of changing lives
Aisling Kelly, a fifth-year student at Crescent College Comprehensive SJ, is a volunteer with the HOPE Foundation Program. She recently returned from an immersive trip to Kolkata in West Bengal, India. On her visit, Aisling had the opportunity to meet for the first time a child she had sponsored using her Holy Communion money. Aisling reflects on her experience below.
Asling explains that the Hope Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering positive change and improving the lives of those in need. It looks at a wide range of social issues and focuses on providing support and resources to marginalized communities and promoting education, healthcare, and sustainable development.
Its mission is to empower individuals and communities, creating a brighter future for them with initiatives that foster a sense of hope and resilience. Through collaboration, innovation, and a deep sense of compassion, the organization aims to make a lasting difference in the world, one community at a time.
‘A Journey That Shaped Me’
I had heard about the Hope Foundation when I was younger and decided to sponsor a child in Kolkata, India, with my Holy Communion money. The child’s name is Rikita and since then I have received cards and reports about her every Christmas. The trip gave me the opportunity to see what life was like for children living in Kolkata and I was also lucky enough to meet Rikita.
Before travelling to Kolkata, I assumed that the whole City would be extremely poor and that there would be no wealthy people, but it was quite the opposite. Wherever there was poverty there was also extreme wealth.
The Hope Hospital
While in Kolkata we visited numerous projects that were set up by the Hope Foundation and met with people who ran the different programmes. We also visited many schools and homes for children our age and younger. One such example is the Hope Hospital. The Hospital is the only hospital in Kolkata that provides care for the homeless, slum dwellers, and street dwellers at an affordable cost. Kolkata has a population of 14.5 million people, but many people are homeless, and over 1/3 of the population lives in slums. The Hospital relies heavily on funding from the Hope Foundation in Ireland.
Initially, the Hospital started off with 5 doctors and 10 members of staff in 2008 but now has 40 doctors and 60 members of staff. While we were getting shown around, something that struck me was that each piece of equipment in the Hospital had a plaque next to it showing who had donated it. As well as that, the CEO, Samiran Mallik, who showed us around was so incredibly passionate and proud of everything they have achieved. The Hospital staff are saving and helping so many lives with their medical care. We also visited schools and creches around the city and in the slums.
Ronaldo or Messi?
All the schools that we visited were sponsored by people in Ireland and England. The sponsorship allowed the children to attend school, have food, and provide counseling. It was amazing to see how much of an impact this money can have on their lives. When we visited the schools, the children would usually have some songs or dances to perform for us. Other times they would all say their names, ages, and hobbies. One school we visited a young boy spent the whole time coming around to all of us and asking, “Who is better Ronaldo or Messi?!”
The kids were just like us. Many of them played soccer, and one boy had read all the famous five books just like I have. One such slum we visited was next to the Dhapa landfill. The landfill is permanently on fire and people living in this slum earn money by going into the landfill and going through rubbish. (See cover photo).
Without the presence of Hope schools in the area, many children would be going through the landfill for food or work. Many of the children who attend HOPE schools would otherwise have no breakfast and would be sent into the dump to pick through rubbish for the day.
Meeting my sponsored child
I was lucky enough to meet my sponsored child while I was in India. After my Holy Communion I decided to sponsor a child in Kolkata, her name is Rikita. At the time she was seven years old, just a year younger than me. Due to family circumstances, she and her siblings had to go into HOPE’s care. I had received cards at Christmas time made by her with photos
I met her in the HOPE café. I was nervous to see her in case her English was not very good and we could not speak. However, her English was excellent, and we spoke about each other’s families and our different hobbies, she told me about how she loves soccer and had a big match coming up soon. The HOPE Foundation has changed so many people’s lives and I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to see the work they do first-hand.
This trip was an opportunity to see different people’s lives who are less fortunate than us. It puts into perspective how lucky and fortunate we are that we can go to school. In Kolkata, there are so many obstacles in the way of them attending school and going on to college. Many of the children in HOPE Schools are the first members of their families to learn to write and receive an education.
While I was over there, meeting people who attend the Hope Schools and other projects, I kept thinking what would happen to these people if this charity did not exist? The trip also showed how much of an impact anyone can have on a child’s life. For just 265-euro you can sponsor a child’s education for one year.
I would love to return to Kolkata again.
Crescent College Comprehensive SJ