Press Release: Stars rally to back HOPE

Press Release: Stars rally to back HOPE

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Jeremy Irons and Dame Judi Dench among stars backing HOPE, ahead of International Day for Street Children

Film and television actors have spoken out in support of a charity serving some of the most disadvantaged children in India, ahead of International Day for Street Children on 12 April.

Award-winning actors Jeremy Irons, Dame Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, Alison Oliver and Shelley King are backing The Hope Foundation for Street Children (HOPE), as the organisation marks 25 years of restoring human rights to street-connected children and families from marginalised communities in Kolkata, India.

It is estimated that there are 250,000 street-connected children in Kolkata, who are from the most disadvantaged communities in India. 

Many street-connected children come from families who struggle to access daily necessities such as food, clean water and somewhere safe to sleep. Others are alone in the city, working from a young age to provide for themselves, vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation.

Jeremy Irons, who has supported the organisation for many years, has been named HOPE’s Special Ambassador for its 25th anniversary. He said: "I am honoured to serve as Special Ambassador for The Hope Foundation as it marks this significant milestone. The work it does in Kolkata is truly life-changing, providing hope and opportunity to those who need it most."

Jeremy is a passionate humanitarian who visited HOPE’s projects in Kolkata in 2019 and witnessed first-hand the plight of street-connected children in the city.

He continued: "For 25 years, HOPE has been a beacon of light and compassion. But its work isn’t finished. It remains dedicated to ensuring that every child remains healthy and has access to education. We all have our part to play because merely talking of change is not enough - please help make this a reality and support in any way you can."

Founded in 1999 by Irish humanitarian Maureen Forrest, HOPE has been steadfast in its commitment to providing a brighter future for those living in poverty and facing the harsh realities of life on the streets in Kolkata.

From a single childcare centre set up to protect 13 vulnerable street-connected girls, the organisation now implements 57 transformative projects in the city including four creches, 10 Residential Childcare Centres and a state-of-the-art hospital.

To date, HOPE has touched the lives of nearly 3 million people.

Dame Judi Dench is a HOPE Ambassador. Commenting on HOPE’s work, Dame Judi said: “Since 1999, HOPE’s support has impacted the lives of 3 million individuals who live in Kolkata’s slums and throughout the city’s streets.

“Your contribution, no matter the size, will play a crucial role in extending HOPE’s reach and touching the lives of countless more people. As we come together to give, we not only change lives but also collectively shape a world where HOPE and a better future is a universal right.”

Television actress Shelley King, who is best known for playing Yasmeen on ITV soap Coronation Street, is also an Ambassador of HOPE. Originally from Kolkata, Shelley has visited HOPE’s projects on several occasions, including education programmes for children, many of whom are first generation learners.

“The Hope Foundation for Street Children provides a world-wide template for NGOs engaged with the protection, nurture and care of abandoned and abused children, young adults, and support for impoverished families. Its residential childcare centres, hospital, schools for children of all ages, advanced education programmes, nutritional and psychological support are all exceptional,” said Shelley

“Over the last ten years I have been proud to have been a supporter and ambassador. I have absolute admiration for the integrity and tireless dedication of HOPE’s staff on the ground in Kolkata, and for its founder, the extraordinary Maureen Forrest and her team, who continue to inspire.”

Olivia Colman CBE has supported HOPE for a number of years and visited Kolkata in 2018 as part of BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?

Olivia said: “For many children living on the streets and in the slums of Kolkata, life is an immense struggle. They lack access to the necessities of life such as food, clean water and access to healthcare.

“This is why the work of The Hope Foundation for Street Children is so necessary – the organisation is restoring basic human rights to some of India’s most disadvantaged communities to create sustainable change.” (Read Olivia’s full statement)

Saltburn actress Alison Oliver was recently announced as a new HOPE Ambassador. Watch Alison’s video of support.


Footsteps for HOPE


On International Day for Street Children, HOPE will be launching a walking challenge called Footsteps for HOPE. Participants signing up commit to walking 10k steps per day from 12 April to 12 May to raise funds for education projects for street-connected children.

In accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, HOPE believes that inclusive, quality education is a fundamental human right that should be enjoyed by all children, irrespective of their background. 

By helping street-connected children – many of whom are first generation learners – to access education, we are helping to build their knowledge, skills and confidence, and providing a pathway out of poverty. 

100% of funds raised will be invested in HOPE’s education programmes.


Notes to the editor

  1. The Hope Foundation was founded in Ireland in 1999 by Maureen Forrest. Running more than 60 projects in areas including healthcare, education, vocational training and child protection, the NGO works to restore the basic human rights of children and families living on the streets and in the slums of Kolkata, India. The UK branch of the Hope Foundation was established in 2007.

  2. Key stats from 1999 to March 2023: HOPE has enabled 2,900,000 individuals to access healthcare services, 97,000 children have received educational support, 15,435 children and adults have been protected from abuse and neglect, 10,633 young women and men have received life-changing vocational training, 33,935 families who have been supported through HOPE’s emergency programmes.

  3. Follow HOPE: Facebook @TheHopeFoundationUK, Instagram @the_hope_foundation_uk, Twitter @HOPE_UK

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