I’m Alan Irwin and I’m the Enterprise Platforms and Technical Pre-sales Lead with Realex Payments. Realex Giving is supporting me, along with 4 of my Realex Payments colleagues to volunteer with Calcutta Connect. Here’s how our trip is going so far!

Day 1: Gearoid

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We had an exciting first day as tourists, exploring Kolkata, which was once one of the jewels in the crown of the East India Trading Company.

My first impression is that Kolkata is very charming, with the local people being the real jewel in India’s crown; so open, friendly and engaging.

Today, some local kids challenged us to a game of cricket, which we lost despite our outstanding hurling skills!! After meeting the local children today, I’m really ready to get started on the most important stage of our trip.

Tomorrow we visit the schools that Calcutta Connect support and I can’t wait….

Day 2: Silva

Calcutta-Connect

Poverty is visible everywhere we go and people live on the streets right outside the walls of our hotel.

Walking past this extreme poverty was almost impossible to believe the first time we did it, but just 24 hours later, it’s routine. That’s just life in Calcutta. We live inside; they live outside.

The area has a large influx of migrants and a large amount of undocumented children, who would not receive any education were it not for our schools. Today was our first step into the classroom where we joined some nursery, pre-primary and primary classes.

It was heart-warming to see the children interacting with teachers, learning basic English, Bengali and maths. Even as an observer on our first day in the school, it was truly special seeing local children thriving in the education environment.

Day 3: Nick

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Today, I rode on the roof of a van for the first time in my life. In fact, we took 6 different modes of transport to get from Calcutta city to Madhubati, two hours away, where we were visiting a nursing home run by friends of ours in Friends of Kolkata’s Elderly.

One of my favourite modes of transport today was what can best be described as a large flat board resting on top of a three wheeled motorbike. Think pickup truck, except without the sides and without the car!

We balanced gingerly with literally nothing to hold onto as the bike drove on to our destination, which conveniently freed our hands so we could wave to the shocked rural villagers we passed by!

Day 4: Michelle

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After just 5 hours sleep we emerged from our rooms ready to set off for Mass at 6am, marking the start of lent.

It was fascinating to see the early rising locals on the long walk to the Mother House (the headquarters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity), where mass is held.

In the afternoon we took a bus and rickshaw to visit Tangra School – a girl’s school in the area located beside a large dump.

There can be a lot of pressure on local children to work in the dump, scavenging for anything of value in order to help support their families, rather than attending school. I spent the afternoon with the vocational students who were learning how to sew – but it was the students of Tangra that were teaching me a thing or two!

It was great to see young people being provided with the skills and education which may allow them to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty – often they are the first in their family to get an education. A really inspiring day!

Realex Giving has supported 5 members of the team at Realex Payments to volunteer in Kolkata with local charity, Calcutta Connect.   Read about the team here or sign up to our blog below to hear regular updates about Realex Payments and Realex Giving.