WE were a privileged few at the Kenton on this Tuesday evening in February as we listened entranced to Tim Grandage, the founder of the charity Future Hope, based in India. Tim was introduced by our very own Jon Ryan, a trustee of the Kenton Theatre, and a volunteer at the charity with his wife, Sue.
The street children of Calcutta were at the centre of this lecture, although Tim occasionally allowed us to glimpse his own personal odyssey. As an HSBC banker he met some street children on a parking lot next to the Calcutta Bank and from there his interest grew in helping them. When a boy became fevered he rang a doctor customer who agreed to help. It was then a short jump to having 35 children sleep on the floor of his flat. He was posted to Hong Kong in 1990 but his heart was with those children in Calcutta and he resigned from the bank the same year. Future Hope was born.
The charity offers street and slum children the opportunity to enjoy a proper childhood in a safe and loving environment. Fundamental to this are homes, where the children are looked after by responsible and caring local house-parents. There are five boys’ homes and two homes for a growing number of girls. A key aspect of Future Hope is the education that children enjoy from kindergarten to year 12 (A level). Started in 1998 as a hut on a Calcutta roof, today it is a state-of-the-art school that raises the self-esteem of its enthusiastic pupils. It educates more than 250 scholars and to date 40 have gone on to university. Sport is a vital component of Future Hope’s offering and the U16s and U20s rugby teams are the best in India. So Henley RFC, if you are looking for a game…..
Tim illustrated his talk with many photos of the children before and after becoming part of Future Hope. This truly brought the organisation to life. Who could forget the images of an impoverished street child being suckled by a dog, or a young girl rescued from abuse by passing lorry drivers? Yes, for a precious moment, we the audience were part of the lives of individually-named children thousands of miles away across the other side of the world.
A marvellous Kenton Lecture evening that was enjoyed by all — but on this occasion it gave oxygen to the flame of hope that burns in all of us.
The next Kenton Lecture on Tuesday, March 26 by Colin Hayes is entitled The Persistence Of Memory: The Life And Work Of Salvador Dali. Box office (01491) 575698 or visit www. kentontheatre.co.uk