Kolkata – the City of Joy and Hope
In Kolkata, in a slum, the morning spent chatting with Sujit and Khushboo gives me a lot of
joy and hope.
by Kevin Chiu, Chief Executive Officer of World Vision Hong Kong
January is cool even in Kolkata. This is very different from my previous visits in May or July when air was hot and stuffy, and everyone could not help but sweat continuously. Kolkata is well-known because of its size (15 million people), its extreme poverty, and Mother Teresa who served there for 50 years and died there. World Vision also started its ministry there more than 50 years ago.
Through the Child Sponsorship Programme, Hong Kong donors support community development projects in Kolkata. We also implemented nutrition programme, HIV/AIDS programme, and education programme.
Sujit is the president of the Youth Club organised by World Vision in the slum area we visited. He took me around the area – everybody knew him and greeted him warmly. He told me stories after stories of the people there – why some were still living on the street, why some were getting on better, what World Vision had done among them, etc. Last year, Sujit graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree and has been working. "My goal is to go back to school and get my Master’s and Ph.D. I want to teach so that more poor people would receive education and get out of poverty," Sujit told me. His family came to Kolkata from the state of Bihar, after a few seasons of poor rain and harvest. Sujit joined the World Vision Children’s Club and then Youth Club and learnt many things and skills there. "World Vision gives me confidence," he uttered his biggest gain.
Khushboo is also a leader of the Youth Club. She is an English major and speaks Oxford English with articulation. She has been teaching English in a secondary school and is also attending classes to get her Teacher’s Certificate. She lives with her parents in a small flat one street next to the slum. Things have improved for them. Her siblings, even her younger sister, have all got married. "I am not worried," her confidence was obvious, "My parents would arrange it for me in due course." Arranged marriage by parents is still the norm in Kolkata, even among the educated. "They know better than I who to take!" Khushboo smiled with a sweet assurance on her face.
Today, through the Youth Club and their examples, Khushboo and Sujit are sharing what they learnt and gained with their peers and the next generation of children: "...the value of education, the value of family, the value of saving,... the problem of alcohol, the problem of child labour, the problem of child abuse,... These are important values and they change our destiny and they would change the destiny of people here."
Kolkata's traffic jam has improved and they got a new airport. But it is the young people I met, like Sujit and Khushboo, that give me joy and hope!