The Hope Foundation is very proud to be a long-time partner of the International Rose of Tralee Festival. Every year the reigning Rose travels to Kolkata to visit HOPE projects and to see first-hand the importance of our work on the ground there. Here, 2018 Rose of Tralee Kirsten Mate Maher recalls her experience when she visited the City of Joy last October.
The 2019 Rose of Tralee Festival takes place from 23 to 27 August. Find out more at roseoftralee.ie.
At the end of October 2018, I had the opportunity to travel over to Kolkata, India with Maureen Forrest and so many of the other wonderful, dedicated volunteers. HOPE run over 60 various projects around Kolkata.
I visited girls’ homes, hospitals, boys’ homes, baby homes, the HOPE cafe where people learn amazing life skills and even went out with the night ambulance. It was shocking to see the scale of the poverty that is in India.
Parts of the trip were challenging as it was difficult to visit the slums on the dump and see such poverty. I got to visit the HOPE hospital, which was very clean, well run and is very well equipped. The staff were so nice and caring and it struck me to see so many names of Irish people who had donated towards the hospital on plaques on the walls. It gave me a lot of hope.
I really enjoyed going out to the slums with the night ambulance as they gave the most vulnerable people of Kolkata a chance to receive healthcare. For a lot of street and slum people in Kolkata the HOPE ambulance is their primary source of healthcare. They try their very best for the people of the streets of Kolkata and to see this was very inspiring. I also visited Bhagar dump with Maureen Forrest. Maureen is an exceptionally caring, compassionate and selfless person who has done incredible work for the children of Kolkata. Bhagar is a slum built on and around a dump. To say it was heart breaking is an understatement.
I also visited an unregistered slum on a railway track where thousands of people lived constantly in immediate danger. Yet I met the most amazing happy go lucky kids there. I thoroughly enjoyed dancing and singing with the children, all they wanted was some love and attention, just like any child anywhere in the world. They really have such a love for life and seeing that filled my own heart with joy.
I’d like to sincerely thank The Hope Foundation for giving me this amazing opportunity. The work HOPE do is phenomenal, and I look forward to working with them again in the future.
Kirsten Mate Maher, 2018 Rose of Tralee
Image: Arthur Carron