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Irish hope for city kids without home

A sons often follows in his father’s footsteps but Brian Flanagan had to follow his son’s to find his true calling. The 52-year-old Irish businessman visited Calcutta for the first time in 2005 to see with his own eyes all that had moved his son Shane during his visit to the city under a student exchange programme the previous year.

Two years later, Brian set up Bekind Ireland that now supports 93 underprivileged children lodged at various homes in the city. The organisation’s latest project, Bekind Boys’ Home, which has come up with help from Hope Foundation Calcutta, will open on Rajdanga Main Road in Kasba on Wednesday. It will provide shelter to 19 street children between four and 12 years of age and also send them to school.

“What I saw in Calcutta in 2005 made a deep impact. The visit to Nabajiban (a home in Howrah run by Missionaries of Charity Brothers for abandoned and mentally challenged children) gave me a new life too,” said Brian. He wanted to do something for the underprivileged children of Calcutta but was not sure how to go about it.

His doubts were put to rest after Bekind started taking baby steps. Since 2007, Brian has returned to Calcutta every year and spent a couple of months, funding a new project for kids every time. “To me seeing is believing, so I go and check every project to see what it is like, who are the people running it and if they are trustworthy,” he said.

Bekind Ireland, most of whose seven board members are friends or family members of Brian, including Shane, currently backs projects by CINI, SEED, Rupayan and six other Calcutta organisations.

“Bekind Boys’ Home would not have been possible without Hope Foundation as I have a family back in Ireland and can only spend a limited amount of time here. The children who are staying there are having the time of their lives and I intend to do my best to keep it that way,” said the car dealer who is now winding up his business to devote more time to Bekind.

The Ireland-headquartered organisation has so far raised Euro 300,000 to help underprivileged children in Calcutta. Some other children have also benefited from the funds. Like 168 Kurseong girls whose transportation cost to and from Edmund Rice Free School is provided for by Bekind.