Fabulously Glamorous women from Wiltshire

PUBLISHED: 16:36 19 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:44 20 February 2013

Fabulously Glamorous women from Wiltshire

Fabulously Glamorous women from Wiltshire

Anna Vaught meets some dynamic (and fabulously glamorous) women who have got a vital project off the

The project is the establishment of a committee to organise events and publicity for The Hope Foundation, and the determined band is made up of Andrea Whitwell, Caroline Purdon, Gill Fee, Caroline Cundy and Jill Brown. They are all energetic mums and from diverse professional backgrounds in and around Wiltshire, spanning nursing, to careers counselling, to teaching, to corporate consultancy. Having spent a good bit of time with them now, I can also say that as well as being compassionate, they have impressive business nous. Oh, and they wear shot Bengali silk with panache!

The Hope Foundation works with its Indian NGO partners to help street children and their surrounding communities in the Indian city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). It is an Irish charity but, until Jill Brown found out about it, it did not have a link in the South West of the country. So, from her home in Bradford on Avon she established one. Its aim was to work in the Wiltshire community to raise what funds and folks it could to help children in desperate need of help. Because of our teams hard work, this link is now the biggest regional link in the UK.

In Kolkata there are over 200,000 children who live on the street. They are born there, have to survive there, and in many cases this is where they die. So, Hope set up a childrens hospital, a healthcare programme, a vocational training centre, an anti-child trafficking programme, a child-watch programme, an HIV/Aids hospice and a community development programme. Currently, it is managing to reach out to over 18,000 children in the city and so, not surprisingly, it is extremely well known. It is now the largest and most recognised NGO in Kolkata. Its aim is, frankly, to break the cycle of poverty and abuse and to help to free street children from a life of horror and fear. And I think its important to state that Hope has only one paid member of staff in the UK, so what is raised goes straight to where it is needed. The charity relies solely on volunteers such as our Wiltshire dynamos.

Since the forming of the Hope South West link in Bradford on Avon just over a year ago, the group has organised a highly successful Christmas sale (with local stallholders and Indian food demonstrations); two of them have been out to Calcutta to support the projects; there was a great clothes swap (raising over 1,000 in one very girlie, giggly evening); and up-and-coming are a tennis tournament (kindly sponsored by Knight Frank), a sponsored half marathon and towpath cycle ride. The team is also working on establishing links with local primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, fundraising lunches and another Christmas sale. These are intended to involve local people, so keep an eye open.

One area which the new Hope committee wants to develop is the promotion of its projects for Gap Year projects. And not just for students between school and university, for there is a growing market for people of all ages to take time out to help on a worthwhile project in a developing country. The committee suggests that a three- to six-month placement would be ideal, and during this time you would get a chance to work in a variety of areas. Yes, it would certainly be demanding, sometimes distressing but also extraordinarily rewarding. And I write as someone who not only knows and loves this city, but also has considerable experience working with street children there.

The committee is also looking for new members. You may not have much time to give, but they would be delighted to meet you and talk about how you could help in the Wiltshire community to give hope to children in one part of India. To encourage you, Jill Brown, who plans to return to Kolkata in November, talks of her last visit:"It was a roller coaster experience where we experienced the worst that life has to offer, such as the Bagha dump where children work alongside pigs and rats to try and make a living. But this was contrasted with the happy faces of the children in Hope crches,

How can you help?
Fancy playing in the fundraising tennis tournament?"
Contact andrea.whitwell@hotmail.co.uk, who says:"The tournament is very relaxed, is fine if your ball skills are not, err, extensive, and the day includes a great lunch. Also, you do not need to bring a partner.

Want to speak to someone about Gap Year projects?"
Whether you are 16 or 60, contact Jill Brown:
jill@jmc-consulting.co.uk. Alternatively, if you would like to get involved out and about in the county, e-mail Jill (as above) or caroline.purdon@gmail.com. Or you could sponsor Caroline in the Chippenham Half Marathon in September, which she is running for Hope: see www.justgiving.com/caroline purdon.

Do you have a fundraising event you would like to get off the ground, or are you a possible sponsor?
Perhaps you are a teacher in the county looking for a charity with which your school might establish a link, a sixth former wanting to organise a fundraising concert, or someone who could commit a few hours to help out at an event? Or are you are part of a Wiltshire business, big or small, which would like to sponsor a future event or be associated with this charity on a more permanent basis? If so, Jill and the team would be delighted to

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