While celebrating Diwali, NRIs do not forget the less fortunate in their countries and in India. In every country they have settled, NRIs share the joy of their most important festival by donating to charities in cash and kind; and directly assisting the less fortunate through their organisations or as individuals to share the brightness and light of Diwali.
Having succeeded in their professions or businesses, Indians abroad contribute generously to noble causes to show their solidarity with the place they live in and assist the needy in the country of their origin. One such example is Raj Loomba who raised 250,000 pounds (over $500,000) for poor widows in India including 25,000 pounds for the Safer London Foundation at a charity Diwali dinner in London a few days ago.
He is holding another charity Diwali dinner in New York later this month. Over the last 10 years, he has raised 1.5 million pounds for this worthy cause.
Inspired by the indomitable example of his late mother, Pushpa Wati Loomba, Raj and his wife, Veena, established the Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba Trust in Britain on June 26, 1997. Pushpa Wati Loomba, who became a widow at the age of 37 in Punjab in India, had no formal schooling herself and yet succeeded in educating all her seven children.
The trust works to raise awareness of and care for poor widows and their dependants. The main focus of the trust is to educate the children of poor widows to break the vicious cycle of poverty caused by widowhood. It has achieved its initial target of educating at least 100 children in each of India's 29 states. That totals 2,900 children.
Another 500 were added in Tamil Nadu after the tsunami. Currently, the trust is educating 3,600 children of poor widows in India.
Ten years after it was set up, the trust has expanded its work to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kenya and South Africa and plans to work in Nepal and Uganda in the future. Its international work took off last year with partnership programmes in South Africa and Bangladesh; and Sri Lanka and Kenya in partnership with Youth Business International of Prince Charles and Virgin United of Sir Richard Branson.
Former mayor of London Sir David Brewer hosted the glittering dinner with current Mayor Ken Livingstone. The guest of honour was Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and president of the Safer London Foundation. Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell was also present.
Bollywood legend Dev Anand and film producer Ravi Chopra added glamour. The list of supporters for this trust is impressive. Cherie Blair is the president, Lord Dholakia is a trustee, Lord Karan Bilimoria is a strong supporter and Prince Charles and Sir Richard Branson are project partners.
When Loomba held the first Diwali dinner at UN headquarters in New York, the then UN secretary general Kofi Annan, top UN official Shashi Tharoor and Yoko Ono, widow of the Beatle John Lennon were among the guests who attended the event. Yoko donated $100,000.
This year, a young supporter, Rupy Aujla, raised 10,000 pounds for the charity by climbing Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro.
Donors can participate in the 'Educate a Widow's Child' to directly sponsor a child through its site www.loombatrust.org with 100 pounds for a year in an Indian city or state of their choice. The sponsor is sent details of the child who benefits while the trust bears all administrative costs so that donations go directly to the intended beneficiaries.
Sandeep is one such beneficiary. Only eight years old when his father died, he was about to be withdrawn from school in Gujarat as his mother had no money to pay his fees after spending all she had on her husband's battle with cancer.
Sandeep's school alerted his mother, Kokilaben, to the newly launched Loomba Trust programme and he obtained a sponsorship. Sandeep's continuing progress at school has inspired his brother and sister to join him at school. The trust has 3,600 such heart-warming stories of transformed lives and renewed hopes.
Speaking at the dinner in London to mark the 10th anniversary of the trust, Raj Loomba said: "We are transforming the lives of thousands of families who have been blighted by this prejudice, and raising awareness so that millions more can have hopes of justice and fairness in times to come.
"Let the light from this celebration shine from here on those most in need and let us continue in the next decade to come to work towards redressing one of the oldest and most persistent injustices still present in the world today."
(A media consultant to a UN Agency, Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a newspaper editor and has travelled to over 55 countries. He lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at: email@example.com )