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August 21, 2001
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UK dinners fund Indian children

Sanjay Suri in London

A few dinners in London have brought education to 800 children of widows in India, thanks to a trust that raised 100,000 through the charity.

The last charity dinner by the Pushpawati Loomba Memorial Trust on July 18 raised the money (Rs 6.8 million), a spokeswoman for the trust told the Indo-Asian News Service.

The Duke of Kent, Lord Richard Attenborough, Conservative Party leader William Hague, cricketer Ian Botham, former Indian envoy to Britain L M Singhvi, BBC director general Greg Dyke and other celebrities attended the dinner.

The money goes towards an extensive programme launched by the London group to support widows and their children in India. Education for the 800 children will mean a grant of Rs 650 per child per mensem for five years.

What's more, the trust that has held the charity dinners plans to take that number into thousands over the next few years.

"Our immediate target is to fund the education of about 3,500 children in different parts of India," chairman of the trust, Raj Loomba, said.

The current programme funds the education of 100 children in eight states -- Delhi, Orissa, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

This is the only Indian charity abroad working for the betterment of widows and their families. The effort is being supported by the charity, Care International.

"What we are doing is to turn illiteracy and poverty into income-generating possibilities," Loomba said. "The centrepiece of the solution to poverty must be education and skill development."

The trust says there are an estimated 33 million widows in India, with about 100 million children. Although the numbers the trust can actually fund are small in relation to the total numbers, "you have to make a start somewhere and we hope also that this will help to draw attention to the larger problem", the spokeswoman said.

Care International chairman Ian McIsaac said, "Girls' education is a priority for Care as girls are disadvantaged in Indian society."

The charity won the backing last year of Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson. An appeal on Virgin Atlantic flights netted almost 100,000 in funds for the charity.

Loomba, who runs a knitwear company in Britain, launched the charity trust in 1997 in memory of his mother.

Indo-Asian News Service

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