My trip to Calcutta, India with the Hope Foundation in photographs and diary entries
8th November 2014
A year ago today I was catching a plane to India.
Every year I like to challenge myself. Last year’s challenge was a pretty big one. I will forever be grateful to my family as without them it would not have happened.
I am also extremely grateful to Mark Carey – a professional wedding and travel photographer.
Mark is pretty amazing as he gives his time for free teaching street photography in Calcutta twice a year. His requirement is the cost of the course goes directly to the Hope Foundation.
The Hope Foundation in return are wonderful as they allow us to document many different areas and projects they are involved in, such as the schools, the slums they help, the hospital that they own and run, the night ambulance and much, much more. As I write this today, Mark is in India with another group of photographers who are learning street photography from him as he continues to raise money and awareness for the street and slum children of India alongside The Hope Foundation.
I am truly blessed to have been able to help, to have met Maureen Forrest who is the founder of The Hope Foundation and have learnt so much about the foundation and a country that I have been interested in for years.
The adventure begins
8th November 2013
One month ago exactly I was sat in a café in Peckham with a photographer friend who mentioned he had one space left on his street photography course which is held in Calcutta, India, raising money for the Hope Foundation (helping the street and slum children of Calcutta who live in the most terrible conditions and are exposed to every risk imaginable).
I had wanted to visit India for a while and am always looking to be inspired with my photography. I have admired Mark’s work with the Hope Foundation for a while. This trip would be an experience of a lifetime but as I have a young family and we are saving to visit my brother in New Zealand I did not think it would be a possibility for me in the near future.
Mark explained how safe he felt when he was there and that I could probably fundraise to help pay the donation to the Hope Foundation. Once I heard these two things I realised this could be a possibility and this trip ticked all the boxes. I would get to help people, grow as a person and a photographer and, of course, I would get to visit India.
I spoke to my husband later on that very same day and as always he was completely supportive, despite the large request on my behalf. The next day I told my daughters, and then the fundraising plans began to spin around in my head. I have helped other people fundraise by taking photographs at events to raise money or for the newspaper, by donating gift vouchers for their raffles, or by spending at their events – but never had I organised my own fundraising event.
My family have been so supportive during the past month. They helped me with all the plans and on the day itself with an indoor car boot sale (my eldest daughter was an amazing support helping me every step of the way with this event) and it was a great success.
My youngest daughter agreed to do a charity 6-mile bike ride, too. My family made me feel so proud and in the process of planning the event I learnt so much and found out just how kind people can be to help others raise money for a good cause. I also found out just how physically tiring it is to fundraise alongside a full-time job and raising a family.
My dad and husband setting off with Sienna on her 6-mile sponsored bike ride – Sienna was very proud to be helping the street and slum children of Calcutta and the off-road bike ride was tough for her at times – Mummy was very proud as she raised lots of money for children in India
After a month of organising flight bookings, immunisations, my first visa and fundraising whilst re-arranging my work calendar and arranging a home rota of lifts etc. for my girls whilst I am away, it was time to say goodbye. I’d also had an extremely busy diary of studio shoots whilst feeling ill most of the month (thankfully this is most unusual for me).
Feeling very tired and emotional I said an incredibly hard goodbye to my family. My husband took me to Gatwick airport where I met Marcia and Stuart (two other photographers) and we all got to know each other a little before our flight to Dubai, then on to Calcutta.
A family in their home in the slums
I could hear some great drum playing in the slums. We found this boy and his friends and they where very proud to play their music for us
A lady prays as people around her wash themselves and their clothes in the water
This girl was outside her home in the slums with her family
This girl was great fun
It is amazing that at these slums people literally live and spend their time on the railway lines moving when a train comes along
The Hope Foundation provide schooling at the slums that they help. The children are very happy in school.
Young children and women work at this dump which is basically a mountain of rubbish that we kept driving up until we got to the top. They go through rubbish trying to find something of value, working in very hot conditions with no safe clothing. It really is disgusting, it stinks, there are pigs, and even dead dogs, everywhere.
This girl works with the ladies and her friends. Behind you can see the city and get an idea of how high the rubbish goes.
I will remember this little girl’s face forever as she poses for me here in her torn dress. The reason I will remember her is she must be the same age as my youngest. In this picture she has just returned from work at the dump (whilst men sit in the slums playing cards). If you look at the picture above you can spot her on the lorry working.
A blind old lady sits at the side of the street begging. I put some money in her hand and she gave me the biggest smile ever.
These are just a few of my favourite images from some of the places I visited. I am looking forward to blogging some more images soon. Please feel free to comment and do come back and visit the blog.
If you would like to visit the Hope Foundation’s page please click here
If you would like to visit Mark Carey’s page to see his work please click here