On the 6th of April 2017, four Transition Year students and two teachers from Pobalscoil Na Tríonóide, Youghal, embarked on the journey of a lifetime across the world to Kolkata, India.
Ailbhe Griffin (Gortroe), Dean Mac an t-Sabhasaigh (Youghal), Darragh Geary and Marcia Ní Mhóinséil (Killeagh) along with their teachers Edel Charles and Kelly Motherway travelled with Hope to see first-hand their amazing work with the street and slum children.
Students Dean Mac an t-Sabhasaigh and Marcia Ní Mhóinséil write about their experience.
Prior to our departure we raised €2,300 each for The Hope Foundation and because of this we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves into the Indian culture and saw how all this money affected so many lives.
Why did we get involved? Being only 16, some people might think what difference can we make, seeing as we live in a small town in East Cork but we really felt that fundraising for such a worthy cause was something we were so passionate about doing.
We wanted to see how the other half lived, we wanted to get outside our comfort zone but most of all we wanted to help.
Every day we visited two or more protection homes and crèches that were either solely owned by HOPE or sponsored by HOPE.
These homes cater for the street and slum children of Kolkata who range in ages. We also went to a Rehabilitation Centre and The Hope Hospital which we all found hugely eye-opening. This trip was like no other and we got a serious culture shock just looking at their reality compared to ours.
What we found quite overwhelming was when you would see an expensive car dealership, a gate and then other people’s ‘homes’ made out of black plastic bags.
Something that really affected us in particular was when we visited a crèche inside the Chitpur slum. We walked down an narrow alley that could only fit one person at a time.
It was made of bamboo sticks, plastic bags and anything else the slum dwellers could scavenge. At the end was a small room filled with infants aged between two and three years old.
We had very mixed emotions when we were playing with the children in the crèche, but found it almost more difficult when we came out onto the streets of the slum and were greeted by the most amazingly positive children living in the most difficult conditions.
Here we are one month later back in Ireland, in our new reality. Personally it has changed our outlook on life. As clichéd as this sounds it was the experience of a lifetime and we would go back in a heartbeat.
We really do feel that everyone should go and see first-hand the life these people live. Overall it was an emotional rollercoaster but the reward it gave us and the people we met was so worthwhile.
We made friends for life and have memories we will never forget.
We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone in our community who helped us to achieve and exceed our fundraising targets. We are extremely grateful for all of the support and kindness we have received.