Monday, August 31, 2009
Edith Wilkins Streetchildren Centre, Darjeeling, India
During the "Monsoon Wedding" trip to Darjeeling earlier this month, we were lucky enough to get to visit Edith Wilkins uplifting Streetchildren Centre - of which my cousin, Emma O'Brien (the Bride), is Assistant Director. After reading Slumdog Millionaire, and seeing the movie, I was expecting something grim - but Edith's happy centre is far from grim - as you can see from these pictures, it's full of light and joy (thanks to cousin eile, Niamh ni Aodha for the pix). But I guess these are far from the conditions these kids have been rescued from.
Edith Wilkins is an incredible Cork woman, who trained as a nurse in Cork with Emma's mother, Eileen, after which she headed off to India "for a few years". Famous last words - that was 26 years ago! She initally worked for Goal in Calcutta. In the meantime she set up The Hope Foundation for Streetchildren in Calcutta, worked with Goal in Sudan (among other places), where she bumped into her old friend Mother Theresa (they both looked at each other and exclaimed "What are you doing here?"). Edith most recently moved to Darjeeling where she set up the wonderful new centre which we (about 30 of us, from Ireland), visited, as part of the Emma O'Brien/Roshan Rai wedding party. Oh, and Edith has also fostered 20 children (she has grandchildren now), and adopted two - the lovely Omar and Krishma. Krishma was one of Emma's beautiful flowergirls. In Edith's lively centre on the day we vistied, leading up to Emma and Roshan's "Dhog Bet", and wedding, the kids were singing, playing the guitar, playing games, and chatting to us about their schooldays and their lives. They are a super, happy, well cared-for bunch, thanks to Edith's initiatives, and of course the support of Irish Aid, fundraising, and private Irish donations. For example, while I was there - one well-known Irish businessman sent over a considerable sum of money with some of the wedding guests to pay for a heart operation needed by a child in Calcutta. Edith's foundation was keen not to waste even one penny in bank charges, so the donation was delivered by hand. That's pretty typical of how this inspiring NGO works. Check it out: www.edithwilkins.org.