Distance of thousands of kilometers was bridged last weekend when students of a county school in Midleton organised a run to raise money for street children of Kolkata.
“It is our friendly gesture for children living in extreme poverty on the streets of Kolkata, unlike us, who enjoy all luxuries of life,” said John O’tballor, a student who participated in the 25-kilometre run from Midleton to Youghal in southern Ireland.
Seeking small contribution from shopkeepers to residents to provide better life to some of the street children in Kolkata, O'tballor said about 9,000 Euros raised through the run would be given to the NGOs when they visit Kolkata early next year.
The money raised may not make a huge difference to the lives of over 2 lakh street children in Kolkata but the students term their effort as a ‘gesture of friendship’.
The first such run organised for street children in India in Ireland was brainchild of Maura Smyth, O’tballor’s teacher, who visited West Bengal in 2004 and was left numb seeing the condition of children on the streets of Kolkata. “It was then I realised that there are two worlds, one for rich and another for poor. Here we take everything for granted. But, in India, one has to fight for survival always,” she said.
After her return to Midleton, the town known for producing best Irish Whiskey Jameson, she gave insight to her students about the ‘fight for survival’ that Indian children face every day and the world of extreme poverty.
Her stories inspired O’tballor and his five friends to take up a project for welfare of street children. “They (the students) came up to me and asked me what they can do for these children. After much discussion we decided to raise money for them and visit them,” she said.
Six students along with Smyth and another teacher would be visiting Kolkata and a school run by Christian Brothers for poor children in Asansol to experience the life of Indian children.