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GT900 Rally

Friday, 14 May 2010

With Maureen Forrest and Rosanna Davison

Motor enthusiasts from all over Ireland are signing up for the GT900 Rally - a three day prestige Grand Tour of the west coast of Ireland from 2nd to 4th July - in aid of The Hope Foundation. There's no cut off date for entry, but they'd love to reach their target of 150 entries by mid June ideally in good time for the GT900 Rally.

The GT900 Rally is the first rally of its kind in aid of the Hope Foundation that takes place from Cork to Sligo return on the weekend of 2-4 July.

Hope are trying to raise awareness to reach their target of 150 prestige cars. Maureen Forrest, Director of the Hope Foundation which works with the children of Calcutta is also a spokesperson and speaks so movingly about the charity and has great enthusiasm for the GT900 Rally which hopes to raise €100,000 for HOPE so it's their major fundraising event of the year.
They also hope to attract people on to the streets of Cork, Killarney, Limerick, Galway, Westport and Sligo and towns along the route to see the beautiful cars on the rally.

Maureen Forrest, Hon. Director: The Hope Foundation

Founder of The Hope Foundation, Maureen has overseen the establishment of in excess of 60 projects for the street children of Calcutta. Her dedication and commitment has led to the support of over 22,000 street children through education and the provision of healthcare services to hundreds of thousands more. A former Aid Worker in Africa, Maureen works tirelessly to support children away from child labour, to offer protection and shelter, to restore childhoods and to educate and support women into sustainable livelihoods. She has worked in some of the most secluded and war-torn areas of Africa and now, working for the communities of Calcutta, seeks to educate and support entire populations out of the abject poverty into which they were born, and help provide them with lives which, until now, were only dreams for them. Maureen works on a voluntary capacity, overseeing models of sustainable development unfold through HOPE, the communities of Calcutta and rural areas of India.

Recognised as making a huge commitment to the developing world, Maureen has been honoured with a number of recognition awards including:

. The Spirit of Ireland Award
. International Person of the year award
. (2007)
. Vodafone Passion for the world around us
. award 2008
. ?Ireland Involved 2008.
. National Fundraiser of the year award 2008
. ?Women mean Business Social entrepreneur
. of the year 2009

Work in India

Maureen is just back from India, having spent 6 weeks in Calcutta. She goes there every year in the spring, and then for 2 months in the autumn. She spends most of her time in Calcutta, where most of their projects are and in the surrounding rural areas.
This is one of the hardest times of the year for her, as she is checking all the finances and admin.

Maureen's favourite part of work with The Hope Foundation

Her greatest interest is in helping 20,000 children who are homeless and in difficult circumstances, they run a crèche to get vulnerable children up to speed, then mainstream them into govt schools, and provide a support system for them while they're there. These children are 1st time learners, so Hope give extra coaching in after school centres so they don't drop out of school. This is because the kids get very little support from their parents. So from a 75% drop out rate initially, with these add on services, the rate has dropped to 25% now; it's a more holistic approach. They find out the needs of the community. The teachers are Indian. 740 people work in their projects.
They also run medical and counselling clinics: so they care for the whole family. The clinics provide doctors, counsellors, nurses etc. a drugs rehab unit, a hospital etc. There are now 35 clinics in the community and The Hope Foundation help set them up and run them. 300,000 people have been seen in the clinics.

Peer Groups:

People who have been helped in the health clinics sometimes join peer groups of 15 men and women. They go on to educate the people in getting women to go to hospital when they're having babies, general hygiene, teach mothers to get their children vaccinated. The important thing here is that the locals help themselves and do it their own way. They're being educated to help their own communities. They feel a greater ownership then over their communities and really work towards improving them.

Where funds from the Rally go

The funds from the rally will go to these health or education projects. They also run residential homes for girls and boys - who have been abandoned, trafficked or abused and need shelter.

Where Maureen's interest in Calcutta began

Maureen's interest began 20 years ago. She had worked with Goal in Somalia and then Calcutta and then Rwanda. The poverty is horrendous, so much in your face, all seemed so hopeless. Then 11 years ago she set up The Hope Foundation with the help of a lot of people. It carried her rather than she carried it.

Has there been any progress in the communities?

She has seen progress in the communities they do work in. They help develop peer groups who have never left the slum. They came to the office to say good bye to Maureen and conversed with her about their plans for the community. Before they would have been afraid of her.

You're viewed as being fairly superior as a foreigner in India. The Untouchables would normally not talk to her. Now they feel empowered, take responsibility for the improvements in their community, as they are directly involved in bringing change. The people have a great sense of humour, and love gossip, just like us Irish! The fathers are also starting to get involved, in the past less so. They were afraid of change.

How prevalent is child labour?

Child labour is a huge thing there, the Hope Foundation is recuing them from child labour - how the mother saw it. The fathers would think it is loss of earnings, not through cruelty but just for the immediacy for the survival.

What is life like on the dumps?

Life for children on these dumps is horrendous. They've set up a crèche and a health centre in that area. 15million people live in the city of Calcutta; about 5000 people live off the dump daily - Howrah. There are about 50 dumps in Calcutta. There are 300 registered slums, which have semi- permanent structures, and 400 non-registered slums, nothing permanent allowed in these. These are here since 1947, since India was divided into 3 Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Whose brain child was the rally?

Ivan Lavelle is part of a car club, they have super cars, and are motor enthusiasts. He suggested organising the rally on the west coast, similar to The Cannonball Rally for Barrettstown Charity which takes place on the east coast.
Maureen is hoping to take part in some way in a car herself. They're aiming to raise about €50,000.

How to apply to take part

To apply to take part go to and sign up, your car will be assessed (has to be a prestige car to take part- Lotus, Ferraris, Porsches etc), then a few days later you get the ok. It's €400 to enter the car. Then per person sharing it's €450, that pays for 2 nights accommodation (both 4star), meals and entertainment (Jamirrorquai, tribute to Jamiroquai) is playing along the route.

Rosanna Davison, Ambassador for The Hope Foundation

How and why she become part of Hope

She had just won Miss World in 2004, and was invited to be an Ambassador for them. ISPCA and Spinal Injuries Ireland are 2 others of her favourites. She has a big interest in children's charities. It seemed ideal - an Irish charity with an international role.

What does it mean being a Hope Foundation Ambassador?

She's done a lot of promotional work for Hope. It is like being a face for Hope that helps raise awareness for them.

Taking Part in the Rally

She'd love to cheer them on the rally, but probably won't take part in the full rally.

The gorgeous Ferrari is kindly supplied by
Dreamcars, Suite 36, Carbon Room,The Mall, Beacon Court, Sandyford, Dublin 18
Ph: + 353 1 4822307


Notes on the Rally:

1. The GT900 Rally will set off on Friday 2nd July from Fota Island Resort in Cork and head northwest through counties Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Mayo and Sligo, finishing back in Cork on Sunday 4th July with a special welcome home party at the Fota Island Resort. There will be a great atmosphere along the route, as thousands of people are expected come out to watch the rally go by through their cities and towns and support HOPE.

2. The first night will be spent at the Limerick Strand Hotel, lunch on the Saturday will be a visit to Westport House, Co Mayo and the second night will be spent at the Clarion Hotel in Sligo.

3. Live Entertainment both nights will be provided from the GT900 Rally's touring band, 'Jamirrorquai' a top Jamiroquai tribute band (with lead singer Mac Star, a Jay Kay lookalike who performed at the launch).

For further information, check out the website - - sIvan Lavelle's company Uppercase Direct have sponsored it.

The Hope Foundation
Ph: 021 4292990

The gorgeous Ferrari in studio was kindly supplied by
Dreamcars, Suite 36, Carbon Room,The Mall, Beacon Court, Sandyford, Dublin 18
Ph: 01 4822307