Wednesday 19 September 2018

Kolkata's forgotten children

Thousands of tiny children roam the streets of ­Kolkata each day, exposed to every ­possible risk and danger. ­'Irish ­Independent' ­photographer ­Arthur ­Carron has ­captured images of them

A young woman and her child, making struts for kites at her home in Howrah in Kolkata, India. Photo: Arthur Carron
A young woman and her child, making struts for kites at her home in Howrah in Kolkata, India. Photo: Arthur Carron
A girl and her baby sister, living on the streets of Kolkata, India. Photo: Arthur Carron
Children playing at a creche funded by the Hope Foundation in the Bhagar area of Kolkata in India. Photo: Arthur Carron
A young girl living on the streets in Kolkata, India. Photo: Arthur Carron
An elderly woman living in her makeshift home near Howrah bridge in Kolkata. Photo: Arthur Carron
A young child playing on his own near his home in Chitpur slum in Kolkata, India. Photo: Arthur Carron

Kolkata, a city of 14 million people and 3,500 unregistered slums, suffers from grinding poverty. As many as 250,000 children roam the sprawling Indian city's streets and slums, many of which lack basic sanitation.

Dundalk photographer Arthur Carron travelled to Kolkata with the Hope Foundation, the Irish charity which runs crèches and education projects for the city's "forgotten" children - kids who have been victims of trafficking, violence, abandonment, prostitution, sexual abuse and severe neglect.

His incredible images - of which a small selection are included here - capture the extreme poverty of the residents of the slums in Kolkata but also the richness of personality and capacity for joy he came across among the people.

Carron has visited Kolkata several times over recent years. "I keep thinking I am going to go somewhere else but I just keep going back," he said. "When you see what kind of things can be achieved, you just want to do what you can."

An elderly woman living in her makeshift home near Howrah bridge in Kolkata. Photo: Arthur Carron
An elderly woman living in her makeshift home near Howrah bridge in Kolkata. Photo: Arthur Carron

Some of his photographs show slums where families live with four, five and six people to a single room, sheltering under tarpaulins. Bhagar, one of the city districts Hope works in, "is basically a giant dump," Carron said, where women and children (rarely men) work all day to retrieve plastic bottles and other sellable items from the mounds of refuse.

Carron said he was mindful not to exploit his subjects and was careful to secure their permission for being photographed. "For me, it's important that everyone's dignity is protected, even though their situation is very difficult."

The Hope Foundation tries to remove children from these kinds of working conditions and move them into education.

Charlotte Nagle of the Hope Foundation, who last week accompanied a group of 70 Irish Transition Year students who had fundraised for the Kolkata slums to spend some time there, said it was almost impossible to track slum residents precisely.

"They don't have passports, they don't have birth certs; there are just so many," she said.

The Hope Foundation was set up in 1999 by Cork native Maureen Forrest, who runs the organisation without taking any salary. Her initial goal was to open a home for 25 children. Today the foundation runs over 60 projects including 11 child protection homes with 501 children in full-time residence, and a hospital.

Over 2.7 million individuals (children and adults) across Kolkata have received access to healthcare services through the charity's intervention while over 48,800 children have received educational support.

More information at www.hopefoundation.ie.

Indo Review

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life