Saturday 18 November 2017

Cricketers go to bat for poor in slums of Calcutta

Kevin O'Brien meets children being helped by GOAL in the Bhagar colony in Belgachia, in northern Calcutta, yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Kevin O'Brien meets children being helped by GOAL in the Bhagar colony in Belgachia, in northern Calcutta, yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Ireland's cricket team proved they're not just heroes on the pitch as they gave sweets and school supplies to children in the slums of Calcutta yesterday.

Stars Kevin O'Brien, Ed Joyce and Alex Cusack visited several humanitarian projects in the poverty-stricken city on behalf of the Irish aid agency GOAL.

The team -- which stunned the cricketing world with its shock win over England on March 2 -- took time out ahead of tomorrow's clash with the Netherlands in Calcutta's Eden Gardens to see how the agency is helping desperate families who are forced to scavenge at local dumps to survive.

Team members along with manager Roy Torrens delighted fans as they visited the Bhagar colony in Belgachia, in northern Calcutta.

Mr O'Brien last night said he was humbled by the reception they received. "They have one communal TV here and they watch all the cricket. It touched me that so many people knew who I was," he said.

"It is such an eye-opener. This is an experience that will live with me for many years," he said.

"It's great what GOAL can do. The Irish money has been pumped in and there are decent buildings. We were in a very sturdy classroom and they are building houses as well," he added.

"This is so overwhelming. Just the idea of people living in a dump is distressing. But the kids seem so happy."

Meanwhile, the team will take a day off after training this morning to celebrate St Patrick's Day with a visit from the Irish ambassador before taking on Holland tomorrow.

On Saturday they will turn their attention to the city's infamous street children as goodwill ambassadors for the Irish HOPE charity.

They will spend the day visiting five of the charity's projects based in Calcutta, including its boys and girls home, a drug rehabilitation centre, hospital and a cricket coaching centre.

They are then due to return home to a heroes' welcome on Monday.

Irish Independent

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