Last night Susan McManamon and I joined the night rescue team of The Hope Foundation, supported by Irish Aid. We spent 3 hours driving through areas of Calcutta where people live on the street or in slums or work in the red light district. This is very real and distressing. What touched me more than anything is the work that The Hope Foundation are doing. We drive and walk past these people everyday, but who are they, where have they come from, what's their story? Does anybody care?
The first group we checked ended up in the city, after a natural disaster struck their rural home, they have lived on the pavement for the last 25 years. The group in the nighttime photos are Muslim, so the social worker turned her shawl into a makeshift hijab, for their comfort. They've lived under the main highway for 30 years, running water is a 1.5 km walk away and the children don't go to school. On the pavement outside a set of shops and nearby a bar, lay a group of families, including one with 8 children, who all lay sleeping next to each other, their father passed away recently.
During the day the shops are open, so they must pack-up and the kids go to a government school nearby. We met one lady who was 8 months pregnant, her baby will be born in a government hospital. One group had banter with us and said the social workers were 'no help' because they give 'no money'. They are farming people who migrate to the city temporarily to beg and live near Park St. and Sudder St. They are used to getting cash from tourists, sometimes in foreign currency. The social workers of course do help, they are very much concerned with their health, education and childcare. Long-term they care very much, the night rescue patrols are carried out 13 nights a month, with a follow-up for people who need immediate care.
I had to see with my own eyes the extent to which The Hope Foundation work with the people who live on the streets and slums of Calcutta. They are truly an incredible organisation who is doing mind-blowing work in partnerships with local NGO's, Government and the Police. They make a HUGE difference for many people's lives. Maureen Forrest is an Irish woman with a huge heart and vision, to build the professional team and transparent foundation to support the people living on the street in Calcutta. This organisation deserves to be supported in any way possible.