Life changing trip for Fife lecturers sparks fundraising drive

Ross pictured with the children of the Arunima Hospice on their trip to Nicco Park in India.
Ross pictured with the children of the Arunima Hospice on their trip to Nicco Park in India.

Fife College lecturer Ross Stirling has pledged to raise further funds for terminally ill children in India just days after returning from a life changing trip to Bengal.

Ross, who is from Lochgelly and fellow lecturer Fiona McLeod, from Kirkcaldy, travelled to the slums of Kolkata to help improve the lives of children suffering from HIV and AIDS, by taking clothes and funding to build an extension to the local Arunima Hospice.

The funding had been raised through events and activities organised by students at Fife College and from kind donations from students, staff, family, friends and members of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

During their six day stay Ross and Fiona met 47 children who are affected with HIV, most of whom have heart breaking stories to tell. Many had recently been orphaned after seeing their parents die from the disease or from being abandoned themselves, due to the stigma that surrounds their condition.

The Arunima Hospice provides medical support, for both nutrition and general medical practice and also provides a home for the children and counselling when required.

During their visit Ross and Fiona visited a variety of church groups to give presentations and raise awareness of the good work of the hospice. They also visited rural Bengal to meet tribal communities who were being supported by the Arunima Hospice – educating the women in garment making, and helping them to become self-sufficient.

Ross and Fiona also purchased sports equipment for the children including three bikes, two cricket bats, two footballs, a volley ball, a net and two badminton rackets and organised new external lighting to allow the children to remain outside for longer, especially on hot summer nights.

Ross said: “The trip was certainly a life changing experience for myself and Fiona and I’m already planning my return to the Arunima Hospice at the end of the year.

“The next project will involve raising funds for a new roofing structure to the existing building at a cost of £4,000 which was approved while we were there. I’m hoping to continue working with the Events Students, as part of their studies, to organise further events which will help improve their skills and also raise money for this very worthwhile cause.

“One of the highlights of the trip was taking 47 children and staff to Nicco Park for the day This was a special treat that we paid for through the funding and it was great to see the children enjoy themselves. Fiona and I supervised the children, held their hands, joined them on the amusement rides and served them lunch.

“During a visit to another slum area, we met sex workers who are infected with HIV/Aids to find out how the Arunima Hospice project is helping them and other external groups through education, prevention and well-being. This was probably one of the most harrowing experiences during our trip.”

Bryan McCabe, head of department said; “We are all very proud of Fiona and Ross for the way they are helping the children of Arunima Hospice. Their trip has also inspired many of our students to get involved in raising funds which in turn has helped them improve their own event management skills.

“Fiona and Ross are great role models to us all and we look forward to hearing more about how the hospice is progressing in the near future.”

Both Ross and Fiona are lecturers within the Hospitality, Tourism and Retail team at Fife College. Ross first heard about the plight of the Arunima Hospice through St Finnian’s Scottish Episcopal Church which he attends regularly in Lochgelly.