Bedford gives HOPE to the street children of Kolkata, India

Local resident, Jacqueline Merne, established the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group in 2018, to help raise vital funds and awareness for The HOPE Foundation (HOPE).  HOPE is a charity helping vulnerable street connected children and slum dwelling communities in Kolkata, India.  The vision of HOPE is of “a world where it should never hurt to be a child”.  

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(A young boy in a HOPE Education Centre)

Jacqueline is a Stress Management Trainer and the author of “Stress to Success” and “The Happy Beans Best Day Ever Gratitude Journal”.  She has been a dedicated supporter of The HOPE Foundation for many years and has visited HOPE projects in Kolkata on numerous occasions.  Jacqueline first met Maureen Forrest, the founder and Honorary Director of The Hope Foundation, whilst working in war torn and famine stricken African countries during the 1990’s.

HOPE was established in 1999, and since then has positively changed the lives of over 2.9 million people, supporting and providing them with the means to lift them out of the abject poverty into which they were born.

HOPE implements over 60 vital humanitarian programmes in Kolkata, supporting street connected children and slum based communities across a range of programme sectors including Child Protection, Education, Healthcare, Vocational and Life Skills Training, Nutrition, and Emergency Response.  HOPE’s central projects include providing holistic care to extremely vulnerable children across 11 Child Protection Homes; and delivering medical and surgical care in the 42 bedded HOPE hospital which caters for the street and slum communities in Kolkata.

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(Children in HOPE's Education Centre in Kolkata)

Jacqueline’s experience overseas helped cement her understanding of the power of giving and was the catalyst for the formation of the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group.  She says “to see first-hand how people who have virtually nothing at all, and show so much gratitude for the simplest of things, has etched a place in my heart and enriched my life forever.”  Jacqueline believes that this experience opened her eyes to a life filled with joy, happiness and contentment.  “Even though you never expect to get anything in return, you do a thousand times over.  Giving elevates our mood and fills our heart with joy.”

Jacqueline, and the other core members of the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group, Seema Grantham, Poonam Chand, Karen Crofts-Hotston, Sharon Vanspall have shown nothing but kindness and generosity; selflessly giving their time and energy to HOPE.   Every member brings their own unique style and skill-sets, and each is inspiring and creative in their fundraising ideas.  

Each member of the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group sponsors children in Kolkata, through HOPE’s child sponsorship programme which provides vulnerable children with an education. They all passionately and continuously increase awareness about this vital programme and encourage others to become Child Sponsors.  The Bedford community now has 33 children sponsored and this is directly attributed to efforts of the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group.

After semi retiring, and having worked in India, Karen Crofts-Hotston was looking for the right Charity in which to invest her time and was fortunate to be introduced to Jacqueline.  “After two hours of passionate discussion, I had found the Charity I was looking for ... or I like to think it found me.  HOPE is a family of dedicated individuals and I know that every penny goes to the children who need it.”

Seema Grantham has now been involved with HOPE for three years and has had the opportunity of visiting Kolkata, and meeting her sponsored children and visiting numerous projects. “These projects support children from birth to adulthood.  I am proud and happy to be involved with HOPE and support the amazing work that takes place daily to improve the lives and chances of street children.  Kolkata is a city where 5-star hotels and branded malls sit comfortably less than a few minutes away from abject poverty, the only escape is through education for any child from the street.”

Despite the fundraising challenges of 2020, due to Covid restrictions, the HOPE Bedford Fundraising Group, and groups associated with them, have continued to raise funds.  Over the past three years, Bedford supporters have helped raise in excess of £27,000 for HOPE’s programmes in Kolkata.  Successful fundraising events have included a series of virtual curry nights, a sponsored fast, and sales from HOPE cookery books.  Pre-Covid,  more traditional fundraising events were held; including a fundraising lunch at the Thali & Tandoor, a Valentines Dinner in 2019,  and two Indian -  themed movie nights at The Quarry Theatre in  Bedford.

Poonam Chand, owner of the St Peter’s Club in Bedford, and member of the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group. "Being a volunteer fundraiser for HOPE has been an amazing and worthwhile experience: especially knowing that our efforts are providing the funds to save lives and provide street children with a safe environment to be nurtured within. In the process of fundraising you bring your community together and help create wonderful memories, which are all the more enjoyable, knowing that your efforts are resulting in children being given the hope of a better future - safe from harm.”

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(Left to right - Poonam Chand, Jacqueline Merne, Maureen Forrest - Founder of HOPE, Karen Crofts-Hotston and Seema Grantham)

Most importantly, alongside the fundraising, the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group raises awareness of HOPE among their friends, community and colleagues and have put the charity on the map in Bedford and beyond.  They have truly empowered and motivated others to help change the lives of so many people for the better.

The support in the local community towards HOPE has grown because of the Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group, and there are now many associated individuals and groups in the Bedford area who regularly fundraise for the charity, including the Bandhan Group, Eamon McDonnell, Michelle Jovic, Dee and Billy Gill, Jagtar Singh and Jashpal Mann. Local Bedford businesses have also been extremely generous by donating prizes and directly supporting fundraising activities.

Phil Mumby, Chair of Trustees at HOPE UK, who lives in Bedford, said “HOPE is incredibly grateful to have such a dedicated, compassionate, and pro-active group of fundraisers in the Bedford area.  HOPE is a small charity in the UK, and strives to increase awareness and funds for its vital projects in Kolkata, to help vulnerable street children and slum dwelling communities.  The Bedford HOPE Fundraising Group, and the support shown to them from their local community, has been wonderful and the fundraising is especially appreciated during this challenging pandemic.”

HOPE is more than just a charity – it is a community of individuals with a passion to make real and sustainable difference to some of the world’s poorest and most neglected children and communities.  HOPE relies on its dedicated and compassionate supporters; such as the HOPE Bedford Fundraising Group, who are all volunteers, to help raise awareness and funds to sustain its vital projects in Kolkata.  

To get involved and find out more about fundraising for HOPE in Bedford, please contact or telephone her on 07825 683 612

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For further information on HOPE’s child sponsorship, please contact

To donate to HOPE or learn more please visit or follow HOPE on social media.

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