Hope springs eternal in the 'City of Joy'
Mum Denis Mulcahy takes local students to help desperately poor and vulnerable kids in Kolkata
A mother of four who has volunteered at the Hope Foundation in Kolkata in India for the past two years has already booked her place for her return in 2020.
Denise Mulcahy gushed about the work which the Hope Foundation undertakes and said each year on her return she can see the improvements for so many children.
However, while work is certainly being done with the €30,000 raised, the picture for so many children, teenagers and adults is still stark.
Denise takes 10 students with her and each student must raise €3,000. Denise broke it down and said €250 will help educate and clothe one child for one year and at the Hope Foundation there is a huge emphasis on education.
She explained that she became aware of the Hope Foundation as it was set up by a Midleton woman, Maureen Forrest. She went to Kolkata to visit her sister, a nun, and was horrified with the living conditions of children. She started off with one Hope Foundation and today there are 60.
"The Hope Foundation works with Kolkata's forgotten children who are victims of abandonment, human trafficking, physical abuse and for whom every day is a struggle," said Denise. She said the foundation helps to provide a "pathway out of poverty" and provides children with ambitions and dreams of a better life and this is done through education.
"They provide healthcare, protection, nutrition and education for all children saved by the Hope Foundation living in this so-called City of Joy. It runs protection homes, crèches for the slum children, life skills trainings and a night watch for the people living on the dangerous streets of Kolkata," said Denise.
As explained by Denise, each Irish student funds their own trip personally and brings with them funds that are vital for the ongoing running of the foundation. Throughout their week they spend their time playing, singing and talking with the "forgotten children of Kolkata".
Denise said it is almost difficult to describe the poverty. "If a region has a footpath that is seen as something else as it means the children and people are up off the ground from the rats. Girls are treated so poorly in India and there is still is a dowry system in place."
She said the generosity of spirit of children who have nothing is a sight to behold. She explained that when she has given chocolate to children and if another child had already got some, they will approach Denise and say, 'Auntie, I have already had one".
Denise has brought students from St Mary's in Mallow and the Patrician Academy to Kolkata. She said they could see the huge work which the Hope Ambulance does at night time as it provides a mobile A&E service to the people who need it most. Those who need further help are brought to hospital and homeless babies and children are brought to one of the Hope Foundation homes where they are given a chance of a new life through counselling and education.
"Hope looks after the children until they have a trade or go to college," said Denise. She said the Hope Ambulance driver was homeless as a child and he was given an education by Hope.
Throughout the year, Denise fund-raises for Hope by selling chocolate and schools hold Hope Days along with coffee mornings.