Midleton Men’s Shed chairman Niall Coffey recently took on a significant challenge; he went on a sixteen-day volunteering visit to West Bengal in India. After fundraising for the trip over the previous several months, Niall travelled with the Hope Foundation who support the street children of Calcutta through education and medical assistance.
During the first days of the trip which was made up mostly of volunteer work, Niall and the group spent time in the schools and crèches located in the slums of the city. These children are taken from harrowing situations and given a lifeline through education. Children are taken in from infanthood upwards, and supported right up to when they are seventeen-year-olds, and even after that are assisted with finding work to maintain themselves. Niall found the poverty these children are forced to survive in before they are rescued to be particularly difficult to stomach, but then on the flip-side, seeing young men and women, supported by the Hope Foundation from early childhood, finishing their education and finding work to live independently was hugely uplifting.
After the slums of Calcutta, the group then undertook the challenge of a charity walk in the foothills of the Himalayas. They travelled to Sikkam province in Northern India, and spent five days walking daily distances of up to eighteen kilometres at altitudes of seven thousand feet. Niall said the scenery was breath-taking, but the distances walked at that altitude were challenging.
Upon returning to Calcutta, Niall spent time on one of the Night Ambulances run by the Hope Foundation, where he experienced more harrowing scenes of abject poverty and deprivation. He also however saw more of the fantastic work carried out by the Hope. The Hope Foundation also has a fully-functioning hospital where Niall met with both fulltime Indian Doctors and volunteer doctors from Europe the US and many other parts of the world who were volunteering their time and expertise to this very worth cause.
Niall’s highlight from the trip was seeing the fantastic work carried out by the Hope Foundation.
The lowlight: The mosquitoes.
More information on the great work done by the Hope Foundation can be found on www.hopefoundation.ie
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