Eat4HOPE Goes Live!

After this week’s launch of Eat4HOPE, a new initiative to raise funds to help some of India’s most vulnerable street children, founder of Wild Frontiers and the Wild Frontiers Foundation, Jonny Bealby, looks back on our relationship with The Hope Foundation.

Ever since Wild Frontiers burst into life 15 years ago, India has loomed large in our story. It was the first country outside of Pakistan that we tried to run a trip to – a journey to Ladakh scuppered only by the threat of impending nuclear war between these two South Asian rivals. And today India is our most important country by pretty much every yardstick: most passengers, most revenue, our own office in Delhi and much else besides.

So when we formed the Wild Frontiers Foundation back in 2009, it was obvious a large part of the proceeds would go towards this most fascinating of countries. And so it has proved.

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At first the Wild Frontiers Foundation was happy to implement our own modest projects, mainly in Rajasthan where we donated a computer lab to a school, helped with reforestation by asking all our clients to plant a tree, re fitted a labour ward in a local hospital, supplied wrestling mats of another school, and a few other things besides.

However, realising the aid game was a somewhat complicated business we also realised that if we really wanted to make a difference we should draw on the resources and expertise of professions.

Just at this time I was spending a lot of time in Calcutta. A magical city of mayhem and wonder, pain and joy, and although there are many uplifting things about this great city there are also so sad elements one has to confront. Spending time at Howrah Railway Station putting Wild Frontiers groups onto trains bound for the hill stations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, I became very aware of one – Calcutta’s army of street children. Often the offspring of the city’s many prostitutes, often addicted to glue sniffing or some other substance, almost always homeless and surviving solely on their wits, they are a sorry bunch, witty and lively as they try to cadge alms from our clients, but sad and desperate just the same.

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It was therefore with great relief that I discovered the Hope Foundation and learnt all that they were doing to help these poor unfortunate characters, upon whom life had dealt such awful cards. At once we started to support their work. At first this was in a very modest way, simply by donating a small sum of money each year. But recently, mainly due to the combined efforts for Karin at Hope and Nardia here at Wild Frontiers, we have now upped our support by sponsoring their hospitality apprentice scheme  where we finance the year-long training and placement of homeless youths through Hopes own café to become employed in the hospitality sector. This week Jamila, our first recruit, finished her first 6 months training and is now going for placement at one of Calcutta’s top hotels.

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And now as a new initiative, working on a project envisaged and created by Ed Francis of Rebel Hospitality, we are very proud to be the sponsor of Eat4Hope; a remarkably simple idea whereby £1 is added to cost of your meal at partner restaurants and then donated to this worth cause.

And last night we had the launch at the wonderful Calcutta Street Restaurant in the Fitzrovia region of London’s West End. This bustling little joint, opened and run by the equally energized Shrimoyee Chakraborty, was the perfect venue where we are all served delicious West Bengal cuisine and buzzed on stories of India.

One of the great privileges of running both Wild Frontiers and the associated Foundation is working with inspiring people, like Ed, Shrim, Nardia, Karin and all those that the amazing Hope Foundation that do so much for those in the world that have so little.

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