After a long flight of 12 hours plus a 2 hour flight change in Dubai the Rockwell students final arrived in Calcutta early on the 16th. February. This is a synopsis of their visits to the various centres which are run by the Hope Foundation.
On the evening of 16th. the Rockwell group visited The BeKind Boys Home. Here they spent some time with the boys (aged between 6-13). The boys are taken out of dangerous situations (many still have their parents, but others are orphaned). Some are returned to their families when it is safe but a number remain in the orphanage. They receive their education in same schools which they had been attending and they also receive regular health checks, counselling and get the opportunity to attend many events and play sports. One such event was the Arts and Crafts Competition that was run with the boys from the Ashar Alo Home (protection home for boys aged 10+) which the Rockwell group visited that evening. Here some of the boys got the opportunity to meet with older/younger brothers also in protection homes. This helps to integrate the children so that moving from one home to another is not too traumatic when the time comes. The students were also told that some of the boys in this home will attend the Cricket World Cup for street children (for which they were selected on ability) in the UK next month.
At 8:30 on the 21st. the Rockwell students along with the High School visited Calcutta International School (CIS), a private school. They knew this school would be different to what they had seen but they didn’t know quite what to expect. Would it be all or mostly foreign students, would they speak English a first language, and how much different would it be to the schools they’d seen so far? They were greeted by happy children playing in the yard, basketball court and soccer pitch, similar to what they were used to at home. It made them realize that education like this shouldn’t be a privilege and should be available to all children; to the children just over the school’s wall living in a slum where a family exists in a hut the size of a garden shed. They went upstairs to a room where there were eight groups partaking in a quiz, with one Irish student allocated to each of the six groups. Following this, they took a mini tour of the school.. There were mission statements posted all over the walls of the school. These stated that this school was preparing to become a standard setting school, where by 2025 they hoped they would significantly improve the standard of education in India and where every child can have a promising future having been fully educated. It was good to see that the privileged in the community were making an effort to solve inequality in Kolkata. The Rockwell students then took a group picture and went to lunch at the Hope Lifeskills’ Centre, where they had been at a few days earlier. This is where Hope trains people in areas such as technology, beauty, textiles and cooking and is also the site of the Hope Café, a restaurant where the trainees gain experience and hone their skills.. Following lunch they went to a male rehabilitation home, where teenage boys from the street are sent, having being addicted to substances, the majority of these being solvents. When they are clean, most can return to their families and are slowly introduced back to mainstream society as they overcome their addiction. This home was very similar to the boys’ homes.The boys were normal and happy and their dancing skills were very impressive, as always. It makes one wonder what would happen to these boys if it were it not for the Hope foundation. They make such a tremendous impact on each child they help and with the help of all of our donations and fundraising, they’re able to help them and give them a better life. Having spent half an hour there, showing their skills in areas like dancing and singing, the students headed for the jersey market. The first row of about twenty shops was full of jerseys, all selling for about the equivalent of €1.70. They had all kinds of jerseys from English football to Kolkata clubs and Indian cricket teams. That night was Sari night where all the students had to dress up in Indian attire and for girls this involved a process of about an hour getting ready. However, for all the effort, it was worthwhile to have the experience (and the pictures). They went to dinner and the Hope coordinator said a few words on the great work they are doing among the under privileged in Calcutta. The students enjoyed their last night in India.It was enlightening to see that a dramatic improvement is taking place among the homeless in Calcutta with the Bengali State government contributing to social welfare over the past four years. This had not happened prior to that.