A GROUP of Ennis teenagers will travel to one of the poorest cities in the world next month to work in conditions few would relish. They will wash, feed and dress patients, as well as clean floors and walls and hand-wash laundry at an orphanage for severely physically and mentally challenged children and in a hospice.
To help fund supplies for the project in Kolcata (Calcutta), St Flannan’s College will hold a book swap at the Rowan Tree Restaurant in Ennis later this month.
This novel book swap fundraiser encourages all readers, including people who would like to read but maybe cannot find the time to do so, to meet and discuss books. Each person is asked to bring a book, have a cup of tea or coffee, chat to other book lovers and bring away a different book, as well as making a donation.
As part of the Calcutta Youth Project, 18 students from St Flannan’s College and six leaders will embark on the journey of a lifetime to India from March 21 to April 6.
Preparations for the trip began last September with weekly meetings to prepare the students for the severe poverty and hardships they will see first-hand while in Kolcata.
Their work in the orphanage and the hospice will be challenging physically, emotionally and psychologically. In the afternoons, the students will have the opportunity of putting their academic and creative qualities to use by teaching homeless street children maths, English, song and dance.
The average day in Kolcata for the students will begin at 5am and end at 10pm. Those involved have paid their own fares to India and are actively fundraising to bring supplies and money to Kolcata.
There they will present the funds to the local NGOs who are working tirelessly to ease the pain and suffering of the many millions of children and teenagers alone and abandoned on the streets of Indian cities.
During their stay in the city, they will get involved in several projects, especially the projects carried out by the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order set up by Mother Theresa.
The Calcutta Youth Project is being led by Shona Cahill, a teacher in Flannan’s, accompanied by Colm McDonagh and Fionnuala Rooney, Shane Greene (teacher in Ballynacally) and former students Kate Minogue of Coláiste Muire and Iarlaith McNamara, a psychology student in NUIG.
The pupils travelling are Clare Chadda, Eleanor Custy, Maire Garry, Chloe Hayes, Steven Hehir, Caitlyn Horgan, Clare Kearney, Róisín Keogh, James King, Aisling Maher, Alan O’Brien, Daniel O’Brien, Adam Pillis, Sarah Russell, Rebecca Spencer, Sarah Talty, Niamh Talty and Senan Tuohy-Hamill.
Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal and although a small city, it has a population of over 20 million people. Thousands of children in the city are born and brought up on the streets. Most of them lack the basic necessities of nutrition, shelter, education and medical care.
Another Kolcata-based project run in St Flannan’s College is the Hope Foundation, being led by religion teacher Myriam Black and colleagues. Over the years, several groups from the college have visited Kolcata to witness and get involved in charity work in the city.
Last February, a group of senior students accompanied by two teachers travelled there to experience and get involved in the work of the Hope Foundation.
Of specific interest to the students was their involvement in the St Flannan’s Cricket Coaching Centre, which allows over 60 slum children to develop skills in cricket, the national sport of India. Several of these children have secured jobs as cricket coaches and have been elevated to the status of professional cricket coaches. The successful children are the first to secure well-paid jobs in their families.
St Flannan’s College has also very recently started to coach its own cricket team.
Isobel O’Dea is facilitating and organising the book swap fundraiser in Ennis. Everyone is welcome to come along, share their love of books and support these worthy causes at the Rowan Tree Restaurant, from 2.30pm to 5pm, this Sunday.