This Saturday, April 12th, is International Day for Street Kids. It is, to be honest, a day not a lot of people know about, but one in which the Consortium for Street Children has been promoting and celebrating for a few years now will continue to do so until it is fully recognized by the United Nations. You can help this process by signing their petition HERE.
Living in South Korea, where there is almost no poverty and the idea of kids living on the streets of Seoul is almost, I said *almost*, laughable thanks to the extremely high standard of living experienced by the majority of the population and some of the most advanced technology in the world to help progress the nations needs, it is hard to identify with the plight of street kids around the world.
Kids in Korea have more money than they know what to do with, go to school for more hours than any other children on the planet (and probably more that they actually should), and have phones that are so smart and so expensive that children in other pockets of Asia can only dream of.
This time last year, I was a far cry from this life of excessive spending, smart phones and private tutoring. I was working for The Hope Foundation, a not-for-profit International Development Organization that works with street and slum children in Calcutta, India. After almost a year working as their PR and Media Coordinator, I had the chance to visit their amazing projects in Calcutta and to witness first hand the incredible work they have being doing in the areas of health, education and protection mainly for young kids who have been living on the streets or in the slums.
Upon returning to Ireland after one short week in Calcutta, my goals for the future, my outlook on life and even my career choices had all been altered. I realize it is difficult to believe, but 1 week really can change your life. So much so that I wrote all about it HERE.
Two events that will stick with me forever, and had a profound effect in me, happened a few days after arriving in Kolkata. The first was walking through the slums. I had never been in a slum before and everything about it was just awful. The lack of space, the rubbish, pigs running around and sniffing their way through dirty, black water, the overcrowding, the smell, the lack of access to adequate sanitation ( you could see small children squatting to go to the toilet on the side of the road, or grown men just leaning against a wall or railing in broad daylight) and the general feeling of helplessness.
The second experience that shocked me to the bone was going on Night Watch. The HOPE Night Watch team is a team of 3 people (a driver and 2 ‘watchers’) that patrol the streets of Kolkata in a make shift ambulance each night looking for abandoned or sick children or adults that may need urgent medical help.
Driving through the streets of Kolkata at night was nothing short of eye-opening. Suddenly, as if they had come out of nowhere, I could see that there were people sitting and lying on thin sheets of plastic everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t think I could ever imagined there would be so many people living and sleeping on the streets. Or maybe I thought it was just individuals rather than WHOLE FAMILIES. It was devastating to see young children and even babies curled up next to their mother with nothing to protect them. We even saw a new-born baby, probably only a few weeks old, lying on the cold ground next to his mother, who was fast asleep outside a train station. Anyone could have taken this baby. It was frightening to see, to witness, to know that people must live like this just to survive.
Even though I am now in Korea, and living a very different life to the one I was living last year (and to tell you the truth, still not the life for me…the search continues….) I still follow the great work that The Hope Foundation does and the stories of the children they help and the lives they save. In fact, that is why I am writing this post!
This Saturday, in order to raise awareness for International Day for Street Kids, HOPE has launched a twitter campaign called #selfies4streetkids. It is a fun and engaging way to get people around the world to snap a fun photo wherever they are and to show their support for street children worldwide. So what are you waiting for?! Grab your phone, and get whoever is around you to jump in for a fun selfie and upload it to twitter with the hashtag #selfies4streetkids.
Also, make sure to follow @HOPE_UK or @hopefoundation on twitter to stay updated with their work.