Homeless man wins “dream” place at Britain’s Cambridge University

Geoff Edwards, 52, says he left school at a young age with two qualifications and few ambitions, then ended up homeless in the city of Cambridge after work as a field laborer dried up. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Homeless man wins “dream” place at Britain’s Cambridge University

LONDON: A 52-year-old man who spent most of his adult life sleeping rough and selling copies of a magazine to help the homeless has enrolled at Britain’s illustrious Cambridge University.
Geoff Edwards, 52, says he left school at a young age with two qualifications and few ambitions, then ended up homeless in the city of Cambridge after work as a field laborer dried up.
Now Edwards is studying English literature, having completed a college course designed for adults who want to return to education or need extra qualifications to go on to university.
“I didn’t think of applying to Cambridge — I didn’t think Cambridge University would take someone like me, but my (course) tutor encouraged me to apply,” Edwards said in a statement.
“It is the first thing I am proud of in my life,” he said.
Edwards said it had always been his “dream” to attend Cambridge, considered one of the top universities in the world.
The number of homeless people in Britain has soared past 300,000 — an increase of 4 percent on last year — with one in 200 sleeping rough, the housing charity Shelter said this week.
Edwards said selling “The Big Issue” — a magazine founded in 1991 to help the homeless earn a living — while sleeping on the streets had helped give him back “a bit of self-respect.”


Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

Updated 27 April 2018
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Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

KOLKATA: Mohammad Maqbool Ansari puffs and sweats as he pulls his rickshaw through Kolkata’s teeming streets, a veteran of a gruelling trade long outlawed in most parts of the world and slowly fading from India too.
Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life, but Ansari is among a dying breed still eking a living from this back-breaking labor.
The 62-year-old has been pulling rickshaws for nearly four decades, hauling cargo and passengers by hand in drenching monsoon rains and stifling heat that envelops India’s heaving eastern metropolis.
Their numbers are declining as pulled rickshaws are relegated to history, usurped by tuk tuks, Kolkata’s signature yellow taxis and modern conveniences like Uber.
Ansari cannot imagine life for Kolkata’s thousands of rickshaw-wallahs if the job ceased to exist.
“If we don’t do it, how will we survive? We can’t read or write. We can’t do any other work. Once you start, that’s it. This is our life,” he tells AFP.
Sweating profusely on a searing hot day, his singlet soaked and face dripping, Ansari skilfully weaves his rickshaw through crowded markets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Wearing simple shoes and a chequered sarong, the only real giveaway of his age is his long beard, snow white and frizzy, and a face weathered from a lifetime plying this disappearing trade.
Twenty minutes later, he stops, wiping his face on a rag. The passenger offers him a glass of water — a rare blessing — and hands a note over.
“When it’s hot, for a trip that costs 50 rupees ($0.75) I’ll ask for an extra 10 rupees. Some will give, some don’t,” he said.
“But I’m happy with being a rickshaw puller. I’m able to feed myself and my family.”