- Our foundation was founded by Chido Govera.
- BRINGING HOPE FOR THE FUTURE TO INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES IN HAITI.
- Charity Details
- Future Hope
Tim was educated at Rugby school and still played the game, and he knew that this highly physical sport would be perfect for them. Not only would it release aggression, it would offer them the chance to compete against other schools in Calcutta.
When Tim and Erica married, they already had children. Now they have three of their own - Sophie, Christopher and five-week-old baby Lucy - who play happily with their siblings.
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The family tries to visit one of the homes for a meal of rice, chicken and dhal several times a week. The day after our late-night joyride we go to Rowland Road, the home for the youngest children. The building is painted white, with blue shutters. The children are sitting in their school uniforms red-and-white checked shirts, donated by Pembridge Hall School in London eating bread, eggs and bananas.
Our foundation was founded by Chido Govera.
They joke and jostle on the benches before going upstairs to class, clutching pencil cases and satchels. Tim doesn't just know them all by name - he knows their nightmares and their dreams.
A family atmosphere, good food, safe places to play, education, sport and a future is what they need to help them to heal. Like any pushy London parent he spends hours trying to place them in the right schools - paying for extra tuition, cajoling friends to give them work experience - and thinking up treats for the holidays. The boys have been on boat-trips down the Hooghly river, picnics by the lakes, treks in the Himalayas and on evening outings to the cinema action films and fellow orphan Harry Potter are their favourites.
Their greatest treat is to hire a railway carriage to go to the seaside - the longer the journey, the better. The oldest boys he teaches to drive. Today, Tim's first two hours at work are spent tending to a boy with malaria, trying to get him the correct pills. He'd be terrified all alone.
They're not frightened of death - just illness, ghosts and the dark. Another boy has broken a front tooth playing a rowdy game of indoor rugby and is sent straight to the dentist for a crown. In their break, the boys play cricket on the roof, while the girls there are only 10 enjoy a very competitive game of ludo.
At first, the children only want to show me their exercise books; but soon they start to chat. One little boy holds a log to his eye like a camera. He wants to be a film producer.
BRINGING HOPE FOR THE FUTURE TO INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES IN HAITI.
Tim took him in after he saw his mother being stabbed to death by his alcoholic father. Now he is one of the brightest children in the school. Ranu, who runs Future Hope's newspaper, left home at four. I slept by the taxi stands and then I found a job in a teashop for my food. But my life really started here. Many of the children are musical. Paratosh gathers a group of boys to sing round his harmonica. He lost one hand and part of his foot when he fell under a train, and when Tim found him, his ear was badly torn. In his first few weeks at Future Hope, he ripped his ear another four times in fights.
We watch the boys practising rugby at St Lawrence High School, where some of them have won places. Future Hope boys now make up 17 of the All-India junior rugby squad. They've even been sponsored to play in England. Their cups are displayed in a glass cabinet. The police who once chased them with sticks now love to play against them.
Many of the new arrivals fight and steal, but the other boys keep them calm and teach them to respect each other's space and few possessions. No account is taken of religion, caste or background: Hindus play with Muslims and Christians, and each mark the others' festivals. At another house, Saladeen is celebrating his birthday. He has saved up his pocket money 25p a month to buy everyone sweets. Some of the boys here don't know their surnames, many don't know their real age and scarcely any know their birthdays, so each boy picks a date when he arrives.
Saladeen has the same birthday as Tim's old nanny, so they exchange postcards. In the oldest children's house, they are getting ready for a party organised by the private schools in Calcutta - putting gel in their hair, ironing their shirts, teasing each other about girls. Bombass House, where the to year-olds live, is painted pink, with green shutters. There are piles of trainers and sandals at the front door. There is no television in any of the homes, but in other ways they are like a British boarding school: there are posters of sporting heroes and film stars in the dormitories and they are saving up for computers for a cyber cafe.
Each home has dedicated house parents as well as house tutors to help the children around the clock. In return, the children do much of the cleaning and cooking, and wash and mend their own clothes. Even when living on the stations, they all try to wash in the puddles once a week. The youngest children like to bake cakes; the older boys make curries on Sundays. They all love the storeroom of clothes where they can rummage around for donated outfits to alter. These children aren't normal. For a start, they are extraordinarily polite, and they speak beautiful English.
They are unusually composed.
Many of them know the train timetables inside out; they're addicted to geography and can quote the names of towns all around India. They're also curious. These are the survivors. They realise that they are special - not just because they are often the first in their family to receive a good education, but also because they will now live to enjoy it. After they have settled in, many want to find their families, to help their brothers and sisters, to tell their parents they are still alive. Whenever they can, Tim and his staff try to reunite the children with their parents.
Tim has just been to Hyderabad with one boy, scouring the streets but, on this occasion, to no avail. But if a child has suffered serious abuse at home, we make it clear to them that we will protect them and they can always stay with us. One afternoon, Tim takes me to see a mother who sent her little boy and girl to Future Hope. She lives in the red-light district next to a sign that reads: "Hookers will go to Prison. Another charity put her in touch with Future Hope: she has Aids and was desperate to secure her children a better future.
Tim chats to her in Bengali about the children's antics and they laugh together. He promises to bring them to visit soon. The children are free to come and go as they please. The security firm Group Four has donated three guards free of charge - not to keep an eye on the children, but to protect them from intruders. Most children run away at least once before they adjust to the rules.
After a few good meals and a set of clothes, they can miss the excitement of the railway station, the knowledge that they can jump on a train at any time, and go anywhere. Most come back when they remember the violence. Sometimes they have to hit rock bottom. Tim has just received news of one of his boys, the first to gain a scholarship to a top boarding school in Britain. He is thrilled when he reads the boy's report: it's glowing.
Another boy, one who ran away 30 times, has become a top chef; a third is at university; a fourth, formerly the best pickpocket on Howrah Station, became a security guard and won an award as India's most honest airline employee of the year. Future Hope has also had its failures, however. One boy, a heroin addict, couldn't defeat his addiction and returned to the streets.
But when he had a son, he brought him to Tim and asked him to take care of the boy, now the youngest child at Future Hope. On the stairs, Tim greets a boy he hasn't seen for five years. He was one of the sharpest boys, and Tim had placed him in a travel agency, but he had suddenly quit one day to explore the world. Tim receives telephone calls from police stations all over India. A child caught riding free on a train often gives the police "Uncle's" name.
He ends up travelling miles to bail them out. Future Hope has many friends. The best magician in Calcutta is a trustee, as is the actor who played the rickshaw-wallah in the film City of Joy. Calcuttans pay for Future Hope's school; the London Harlequins provide the rugby kits; Compaq gave computers; British Airways donates satchels and toys. It costs only 28p a day to feed each child. Many of the staff work for nothing. What the charity desperately needs now is somewhere for the children to play outside.
The roof isn't big enough for proper cricket matches, and they have to beg other schools to lend them pitches for rugby and football fixtures. The streets are clogged with the traffic of 11 million people. And these children have so much energy. For the street children of Calcutta that is our dream. For publishers wishing to reproduce photographs on this page please phone 44 0 or email syndicat telegraph.
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