Crusade for street children rides high on glamour

April 21st, 2009 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Fardeen Khan By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) The crusade to improve the lives of street children in India is going high on glamour.

In its first mega fund-raising charity dinner and concert for street children, “Salaam Rocks”, the Salaam Balak Trust fused music, fashion, showbiz and an auction to raise Rs.4.7 million for street children in the capital. The trust, a charitable organisation, takes care of nearly 3,500 children through a network of 10 shelters and outreach programmes.

The event was held at The Hub in the DLF Emporio mall in Vasant Kunj Saturday. The highlight was an auction which saw several attractive propositions. These included a day’s golfing with ace Jyoti Randhawa, a walk-on part in a Bollywood movie, a part in a 102-episode television serial, a holiday at a game lodge in south Africa, gym membership, a pair of designer shoes and even a track request by the music group Indian Ocean.

The bids ranged from Rs.15,000 to Rs.100,000. An enthusiastic buyer from the capital’s Page Three fraternity forked out Rs.200,000 for a walk-in part in a Bollywood movie starring Fardeen Khan and Sanjay Dutt.

“The money will be spent on building a new long-term shelter for girl children in Delhi, because girls need a home till they can branch out on their own. We have more kids than we can accommodate. Space is at a premium in the capital,” Sanjoy Roy, trustee of the trust, told IANS.

Roy feels celebrities make a difference to causes provided their involvement is projected in a meaningful way.

Surina Narula, president of the “Consortium for Street Children”, a Britain-based global umbrella of 59 organisations that works in 89 countries for the welfare and rights of children living and working on streets, says celebrities and glamour have a bigger reach in promoting social causes.

Narula was the brain behind the Salaam Balak Trust fund-raiser.

“When I thought of an event for India, the first thing that came to my mind was why not fuse music and fashion and create a fund-raiser that could become an annual affair. This year we roped in popular musicians, but next year we will promote young unknown artistes and give this platform a greater social relevance,” Narula told IANS.

The child rights activist who has been working with celebrities for the last 20 years feels the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” (which portrays the life of children living in Indian slums) has been a catalyst in generating more aid for street children.

“Recently, the makers of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ donated 500,000 pounds to Plan India, an organisation that has been working for the street children of India for the past 30 years. It is expected to benefit 5,000 children in Mumbai slums,” Narula said.

The movie, said Narula, will be screened in New York April 30 by Plan USA to raise funds for children in India. “The initiative is being backed by (Pepsico chief) Indra Nooyi and her husband, who is on the board of Plan USA,” she said.

Highlighting the importance of celebrity endorsement for the welfare of street children, Narula said her first show would not have been possible had Amitabh Bachchan and designers Tarun Tahiliani and Rina Dhaka not pitched in with their “mass appeal”.

Actress Pooja Bedi, who has promoted several charity causes in the last 10 years, supports six children through World Vision India.

“Celebrities should lend their voices to social responsibility projects so that others can lead by example. I have also inculcated these values in my children Alia and Omar. My daughter recently painted a canvas for Khushi, an NGO working for the rights of street children, to raise funds,” the actress told IANS.

“I have supported the cause of AIDS awareness in 1991 and lent my voice to breast cancer awareness,” Bedi said. The actress has also rehabilitated 500 tribals at Kondivile village in Raigad district of Maharashtra, who were affected by floods in association with Habitat for Humanity.

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