Stories of HOPE – Julie Thoms

Stories of HOPE Julie Thoms

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Following on from a wonderful blog by singer-songwriter Holly Riva, we are privileged to share a blog by Holly’s mum and long-standing HOPE supporter, Julie Thoms. Julie has been involved in the work of HOPE for nearly two decades, and here she shares her early memories of the organisation.

I was visiting Kolkata for business when I first learnt about HOPE. Driving through the streets, witnessing extreme poverty, I started to reach out to local friends asking about local NGOs.

The irony was that very same evening, Maureen and Jenny who founded HOPE, were sitting in the Shamiana bar at the Tollygunge Club. In those days it was very rare to meet any westerners in Kolkata, so we all started to chat. I’m thinking 18 years ago.

They were getting prepared to take a group of street children to go on holiday via train to Goa. I was so moved as the children would otherwise never get the chance to experience such an adventure. I just thought, what an incredible journey!

I loved the sincerity of both ladies, they had a simple powerful message believing every child has the right to clean water, food, shelter, and education. I hit it off straightaway and loved the sincerity and the fact that they were making a difference, changing people's lives with a strong vision for the future.

Sponsoring a child

I’d been working with other charities in India, and somehow when I went to visit HOPE, there was a much happier, authentic energy with the people who were looking after the children.

At that stage, Geeta [Venkadakrishnan, the late Director of Hope Foundation India] was heading the charity in India. After going to an event in Kolkata to find out more about HOPE, it touched my heart, and that was it.

I witnessed happy children and that all the money was going back to the children, HOPE was providing locals with fantastic job opportunities. HOPE ticked all the boxes.

We immediately sponsored a child of eight years old, who came from a very abusive background on the streets. As soon as we met her, we had an instant connection; she had the

Hope (For Us)

Holly's new song Hope (For Us) is dedicated to HOPE and our late director Geeta Venkadakrishnan.

Royalties from the song will go towards HOPE’s programmes in Kolkata, India.

Support HOPE by listening to the song on Spotify, add it to your playlists and share it with friends.

You can also find the song on Spotify by searching 'Holly Riva' or 'Hope (For Us)'. 

biggest smile. Now that little girl is 25-years-old and it’s so special to have witnessed her grow up with a career as a dressmaker and having a young family.

The holistic education and vocational training through HOPE made this all possible.

Powerful memories

One of my most wonderful memories was when I went on a night round [HOPE’s primary healthcare mobile ambulance]. We arrived in the centre of the city and there was a young boy dressed in a bright white polo shirt and white trousers, immaculately dressed amid the sleeping streets where people were lying on hessian bags bedding down and ragged clothes for the night.

Geeta told me that she'd like me to meet someone and introduced me to the young boy. He told me he was so excited to come home to his family on the street. He was a HOPE child, and he had come home because the next day he was taking his family to his graduation.

In perfect English he was so proud to introduce me to his family members, serve me chai and made me feel so welcome in their home on the street. It really touched my heart, and I realised in that moment that all these people were celebrating his education and the hope they had.

It made me feel so emotional to see the new beginning for all the family because one educated child effects the whole community.

HOPE's night round team stand by the ambulance
HOPE's Night Round staff
Trust in HOPE

The reason people should support HOPE is that they can 100% trust the charity. Everything HOPE plan, they do, and all funds raised are accounted for.

One of my early memories is meeting Maureen at Panditya Place [a HOPE Residential Childcare Centre], she took me up to her tiny little room, a humble office where she had a single bed. It was overlooking the streets, and it was horrendously noisy.

There was one fan, and that’s where she was living, she wouldn’t dream of taking funds for her own benefit and I feel this example speaks volumes. I think you can rest assured that if you put your time into HOPE, it will come back tenfold.

You’ll see children’s lives change, you’ll see people grow, and if you stay with HOPE for many years, you'll witness the whole process of watching these kids go through their education and take their families off the streets into a more comfortable and humane existence.

I’ve met incredible people who volunteer. We have a HOPE family of friends in different countries that we can call upon. It is truly a wonderful, wonderful charity.

Singer Holly Riva with HOPE founder Maureen Forrest
Julie's daughter, and singer-songwriter, Holly with Maureen Forrest

Julie’s daughter is singer songwriter Holly Riva, who has written a song called Hope (For Us) in memory of the late Director of Hope Foundation India, Geeta Venkadakrishnan.

To mark HOPE’s 25th anniversary and International Day for Street Children, Holly will generously be donating all royalties generated from the song to HOPE. Support us by listening to the song, adding it to your playlists and sharing it with friends!

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