A world of giving

THE FUNDRAISER: Family packs up all with hope to help

It's just smack in the face, says Marong's Jeremy Dyck.

"There's just no easing into India. Even on the drive from the airport to the hotel, there are cows on the roads, homeless people everywhere, beggars at the car window."

It's this world that Jeremy will soon move to with his family. 

Selling everything but their sentimental belongings, they will live in Kolkata to help the addicted and abused street children of India.

With two children aged seven and five, Jeremy and Meg say the thought of moving to India - in all its conflicting glory - came with some apprehension. 

But travel is a concept more laden with experience, action and learning for the family.

"At first we worried if the kids would get kidnapped, if they would be safe, but we have friends over there who we've spoken to and they've put all our fears to rest," Jeremy said.

"You hear about crime, but it's really no different to anywhere in the world - there just happens to be 17 million people in Kolkata." 

While the boys are most looking forward to "a world where cows walk the streets", Jeremy says it is the knowledge the boys will gain living in a third-world country that spurred them to move.

"You think of the amazing stuff they'll learn about how the rest of world works, being at an international school with so many nationalities, and they'll meet kids in India living in shocking conditions," Jeremy said. 

"Part of the reason we both said yes to this is that we both feel that travelling itself is an education that you could never replicate here."

Meg and Jeremy are prepared for what they will witness in Kolkata - children trapped in a cycle of poverty, living in desperate conditions, and gripped by sex slavery.

The sub-continent may be a world away from Bendigo, but as EMMA-JANE SCHENK discovered, one local family is intent on spreading their wings in the hope of giving.

But there is nowhere else they would rather be. 

"My heart will be ripped out of my chest, no doubt about it, but it will also be insanely rewarding and that's the whole reason we're going," Meg said.

"We are leaving our comfort zone, leaving our jobs, leaving everything to go over there to volunteer."

The idea to pack up their lives began as an idea over a pot of tea - with the couple saying to their Indian friends it would be amazing to come over and help.

They are familiar with India through the History Makers Church and after weeks of research about cost of living, safety, transport, and the rush and instability in India, the couple decided it was "the next thing to do in life".

"I feel so peaceful about going, so excited," Meg says. 

"You know there are people everywhere in the world who need help, but to know we are going to make a difference and see people's lives change is just amazing."

Meg will travel to three different slums, seven days a week, with Vision Rescue to provide food, medical help and a non-formal education to " those who desperately need helping".

She will also help set up the Kolkata Tree House, run through the History Makers Church, which she says will help provide a future for local boys.

A house mum and dad will take legal guardianship of boys with desperately poor parents, so they can receive a proper education and travel to university without having to return to the slums.

Jeremy, who will work to train Indian pastors and provide help to outlying villages, travelled to India late last year to experience all it has to offer. 

My heart will be ripped out of my chest, no doubt about it, but it will also be insanely rewarding... - Meg Dyck

"There's nowhere else in the world like it," he said. 

"There are poor people and babies living on the streets and then you literally walk through a gate into a beautifully manicured garden with a gardener working on roses.

"But Kolkata is a vibrant place, there is always stuff happening and there are just these incredible contrasts."

Jeremy says middle class doesn't exist in India, with people working for rich families and not being able to afford returning home - so they live on the streets nearby.

However he says it is a place where generosity prevails. 

"They don't smile, but that's because it's just not part of their world," he said. 

"It's such a generous culture and the locals are friendly, genuine people despite the poverty."

The family is under no illusions about how much they will stand out - a white, middle-class family living in the centre of India.

But Jeremy says it's where life has led them.

"We are going to commit to 12 months there, because we really want to get settled and experience the culture," he said.

"We know it's going to be hard to come back and live our normal lives in Bendigo after seeing all of those intense things. 

"Who knows - maybe we'll stay. We're really not sure what's next.

"We'll just go until we get there."

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