Annual Diwali Gala Dinner in London - Cherie Blair, wife of the former British Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair, and President of the Loomba Trust welcomed hundreds of celebrities, who turned out in style at the Whitehall Banqueting House in London, for the Loomba Trust Annual Diwali Dinner that also marked the UN International Day of Non-Violence, commemorating the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an Apostle of non-violence.
Famous Bollywood star, Kajol Devgan, added a touch of glamour as she accepted to become a Goodwill Ambassador. Kajol said she was honoured and hoped she would be worthy of this appointment when she accepted a plaque from Cherie Blair. The event raised £150,000 for charity to provide scholarships for the children of poor widows in India, which was supported by Virgin Atlantic, KPMG, Telecity Group, Barclays, Trikona Trinity Capital, Clariden Leu, Clegg Gifford and Co, Beechson, Cobra Beers Ltd, Precis, London City Airport, University of East London, Metropolitan Police, Wates, Schneider Electric, Singhania and Co and Rinku Group.
Cherie Blair said that the Loomba Trust helped to educate at least a hundred children of poor widows in every state of India totalling 3,600 and also extended its projects to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Syria and Columbia. The Trust is planning to expand its work in Rwanda, Tanzania and Botswana during 2009.
The Founder and Chairman Trustee, Raj Loomba, said that women often lose their husbands due to violence in many countries and it is therefore fitting that on this day we commemorate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of non-violence, who added "We should light a candle tonight to celebrate the festival of lights and give those unfortunate women a ray of hope."
NRI Institute of India held a dinner at the Habitat centre in Delhi to celebrate the recent successes of the Loomba Trust and, in particular, Raj Loomba’s CBE Award, which was announced in HM Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2008.
Amongst over 100 prominent guests, the dinner was attended by Sir Richard Stagg, British High Commissioner, as Chief Guest, and Mr. Mohan Das, Secretary of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, as Guest of Honour.
The Loomba Trust Accredited as an UN NGO - The Loomba Trust was approved for association with the Department of Public Information (DPI) of the United Nations on 30th June 2008. Through the United Nations accreditation, the Loomba Trust is committed to raising public awareness about the purpose and activities of the United Nations and issues of global concerns, especially on the plight of widows and their children who are suffering through poverty, illiteracy, diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Malaria, conflict and violence and social injustice.
The Loomba Trust organised events in 7 countries around the world to mark the 4th International Widows day on 23rd June, 2008.
UK: London: Concert at Trafalgar Square - Trafalgar Square, London played host to one of the capital’s most colourful free concerts on Monday 23rd June 2008, to mark the occasion of International Widows Day and help raise awareness of a cause that is gaining global momentum. Over 300 celebrities, VIP’s and high profile dignitaries from the UK and abroad joined in unison with members of the public, to remember the plight that widows face across the world.
UK: Leicester - Lord Mayor releases balloons at the De Montfort University: The first Asian woman Lord Mayor in the UK, Cllr. Manjula Sood, a widow herself, highlighted the plight of the widows around the world and marks the 4th International Widows Day by releasing multi-coloured balloons in the city of Leicester on Monday 23rd June 2008. The event was staged by the Loomba Trust in association with De Montfort University, The Punjab Link Council and The Sikh Welfare and Cultural Society UK.
USA: United Nations in New York - International Widows Day was marked in the United States with a gathering of influential, international women, who came together for a lunch conference at the United Nations in New York. Guests included Elbrun Kimmelman, a member of the Trust’s Advisory Council, and Grazyna Sen, wife of the Permanent Indian Ambassador to the UN.
India: New Delhi – British High Commissioner Marks International Widows Day at his residence - On Monday 23rd June 2008, Sir Richard Stagg KCMG, British High Commissioner, hosted a lunch at his residence to support the Loomba Trust and Mark the 4th International Widows Day in India. The event was attended by a number of the Trust’s beneficiaries. They were all presented with gifts by a supporter of the Trust, Mr. Mukal Anand.
The High Commissioner presented certificates to 10 widows who had successfully completed the Beauty and Hair Care training from Blossom Kochhar Training Institute, under the Loomba Trust Entrepreneur Programme. The three-month training was offered free of cost to these widows and will enable these widows to become self-reliant. Later, he released hundreds of balloons as a symbol of freedom in the company of Mr. Lalit Mansingh and Mr. K.M. Singh, Trustees of the Loomba Trust. Mr Mansingh read a special message from the President of the Trust, Cherie Blair.
India: Dhilwan (Punjab) – Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala District releases balloons at the Shri Jagiri Lal Memorial Senior Secondary Government School in Dhilwan to mark the 4th International Widows Day. The event, organised by the Loomba Trust, was attended by over 100 students at the school as well as many Government officials and the village leaders.
Sri Lanka: Colombo – On Monday 23rd June 2008, an International Widows Day Commemoration was held to mark the 4th International widows day. The ceremony was sponsored by the Loomba Trust (UK) and organized by the HYBT and the WDF. The event was attended by 450 widows in Hambantota District.
Nepal: Kathmandu – The Loomba Trust Entrepreneur Programme, in partnership with the YBI Network, has also reached Nepal. On the 23rd June, NYBF, the local youth business programme, hosted a gathering of businesspersons (and potential supporters) in conjunction with the Nepalese Chamber of Commerce.
Syria: Damascus – In Syria, International Widows Day was celebrated in conjunction with BIDAYA, the local partner of the Youth Business International Network, which is helping widows start their own businesses. As part of the ceremony, candles were lit and a tree was planted in the Botanical Garden close to the Damascus Castle.
Kenya: Nairobi – In partnership with the Youth Business International Network, The Loomba Trust has begun a programme to empower widows in Kenya. International Widows Day was launched in Nairobi with a launch of multi-coloured balloons. Over 100 widows and their children, each of whom had an individual story of success, attended the event.
Trust’s Founder, Raj Loomba, receives CBE – “Commander of Excellence of British Empire” Award from Her Majesty The Queen in the UK - “For charitable services to poor widows and their children overseas particularly India, and to UK/India interests more widely”
First Ever Indian Festival hosted by US Ambassador in London - The iconic event, the first ever of a Punjabi festival to be celebrated in the premises of the US Embassy in London, was organised in close collaboration with the Loomba Trust. The ceremony was conducted in the auditorium of the Embassy.
A golden milestone was reached in the great history of the Sikh community and their rich heritage, when the US Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle hosted the Vaisakhi festivities at the heavily secured American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London.The day’s events started with a lunch given by the Ambassador for 12 select invitees including Mr Loomba and Mrs Monika Mohta, Minister of Culture of High Commission of India. It was followed with the formal launch of the festivities by Ambassador Tuttle and Punjabi Bhangra performed by a group from Leicester.
The Loomba Trust Entrepreneur Programme was launched by the British High Commissioner at the International India centre in New Delhi. The programme aims to set up businesses for 100 poor widows in India, whose children are already being educated by the Loomba Trust.
Dr Blossom Kochhar Group has agreed to give training, free of cost, for Hair and Beauty care to these unfortunate widows. After the training, the Loomba Trust will either find a job or open a salon for each of the participant in this programme. As part of the pilot project for 10 poor widows from Delhi state, the participants received the training kits at the launch.
Lord Dholakia, Sir Sigmund Sternberg and Chair of the Friends of the Three Faiths Forum Raj Loomba hosted a lunch at the House of Lords to launch the Friends of the Three Faiths Forum. The Guests of Honour was Cherie Blair. Guests included Rt. Hon. Lord Woolf, Mr. Peter Bottomley, Mr. Francis Campbell Ambassador to the Holy See.
Cherie Blair, President, launched the Loomba Entrepreneur Programme in South Africa at a private dinner at the Summer Place in Johannesburg. Rt Hon Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, Honourable Finance Minister, Mr. Trevor Manuel and HE Paul Boateng, the British High Commissioner to South Africa, attended the launch amongst many other prominent business leaders
The Loomba Entrepreneur Programme aims to set up business for at least 100 young widows in South Africa. The Trust is establishing a South African Chapter with its own advisory Council, which will be chaired by the Trust’s Patron Lady Williams. It will work in partnership with leading international NGOs to deliver the programme.
Both Mrs. Blair and Mr. Loomba in their speeches stressed the importance of winning recognition for June 23 as International Widows Day. Mrs. Blair said such international recognition would help “draw global attention to the scale and scope of the problems that widows face around the world”.
Mrs. Blair came to New Delhi for a conference: ‘Bharat Nirman (Development of India) Through Corporate Social Responsibility: Empowering Women and Educating Children in India’. “How can an Indian widow become an asset instead of a liability?” was the core concern of this conference attended by Shri Vayalar Ravi, the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, as the Chief Guest and presided over by the British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg at FICCI Federation House, New Delhi on Sunday, 13 January, 2008. Among other dignitaries were Lord Dholakia, Sir Mark Tully, Mr Dhindsa, representatives of UNICEF, other NGOs and social activists.
At this event, Mrs Blair met 50 students sponsored by The Loomba Trust for their education, their widowed mothers and some of their teachers. Keynote addresses at the conference were delivered by the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Lord Dholakia, Mr Raj Loomba, Sir Richard Stagg and, of course, by Mrs Blair. A dossier was launched at this event by the main guests. This dossier presents the situation of widows around the world and advocates the United Nations to declare 23 June as the International Widows Day. After the formal speeches, Mrs Blair met the conference participants at lunch. In the afternoon, she visited the Bahai Temple, the Catholic Church and the Akshardham Temple in New Delhi before returning home the next day.