When Jan May discovered that HOPE supporters and Yoga instructors Vikki Stevenson and Simon Low were taking a group to Kolkata to practice yoga and visit HOPE projects, she knew she had to go with them. Please take a minute to read about Jan’s life-changing experience in the City of Joy
Sometimes an opportunity arises and you know, instantly, that it is something you have to take up, that it could bring change to your life and how you feel, forever.
Such an opportunity powerfully manifested at the Yoga Garden Party 2016. I was there for a weekend of yoga with Simon Low to support The Hope Foundation of which he is a patron.
As soon as I heard that the Yoga Garden Party organisers, Vikki Stevenson and Ruth McNeill together with Simon were taking a group to Kolkata to practice yoga and visit projects of The Hope Foundation, I knew I had to go with them. The idea of combining a week of yoga with these wonderful teachers and a trip to the City of Joy, capped with visiting some of the 60 projects that HOPE has operating on the ground in the city, became a mission to be accomplished. I wanted to see for myself what life is really like for a ‘street or slum’ child and how our donations make a difference to them in this teeming and vibrant city where poverty and desperation are only a smile away
Arriving in Kolkata, my mantra of ‘Be Prepared to be Unprepared!’ came in very useful. We were very well taken care of by the delightful Hope staff but still, to the uninitiated, Kolkata, India can be an assault on all the senses and takes a little time to get used to!
We dived headlong into visiting the projects interspersed with some sightseeing, some with a link to yoga. Any concerns I had about being a ‘poverty tourist’ or ‘getting upset’ were soon dispelled by the rapturous welcomes we received from the children, the warmth of the staff and the depth of gratitude in the eyes of those who were cheered by our presence. From the Hope Hospital to the Girls’ and Boys’ homes to the Rehabilitation Home for Boys to the crèche and pre-school within a slum community built around the rubbish tip from where they scrape a living and at many more marvellous projects, we witnessed exactly what HOPE does on a day to day basis. By engaging with the staff, volunteers and children we could observe and learn firsthand the real and vital difference that HOPE makes to lives and to actually feel a part of this great work whatever our contribution.
I often saw sadness and suffering eclipsed by singing, laughter, kindness and joy. This, plus meeting my sponsored child, Suraj and knowing that I have given him a better chance in life through HOPE was poignant and inspirational.
Our group was fabulous, our teachers supportive and excellent. The experience of visiting the projects probably surpassed the yoga but yoga took us there, kept us going and was the conduit for an amazing group of like-minded yet utterly different people to enjoy a deeply bonding experience and to profoundly explore their own relationship with yoga and life.
Thank you YGP, HOPE, Kolkata – forever in my heart/mind.