The Loomba Foundation’s Global Partnership Projects

The Loomba Foundation extended its reach beyond India, with education and empowerment programmes in countries across Asia, Africa and South America. The Loomba Foundation’s empowerment programme invests in skills training, equipment and microfinance to help widows set up in business and become independent.

In 2007, The Loomba Foundation launched an empowerment partnership with Youth Business international – a project of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum that helps disadvantaged people in many countries, start up new sustainable businesses and create jobs. Branded the Loomba Entrepreneur Programme, this partnership venture has delivered support to widows in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Syria, Kenya, Uganda, Chile and Guatemala. Every effort was made to engage governments and the international community.

In 2006, the Foundation joined forces with Virgin Unite, the charitable arm of Sir Richard Branson’s group of companies, to provide community rehabilitation support for 1,500 HIV and AIDS orphans in South Africa, managed by the Starfish Greathearts Foundation in five townships near Johannesburg over 18 months.

In Nairobi, the Foundation has partnered with the Kenya Youth Business Trust, which brought together widows, along with Loomba Entrepreneurs who had been trained and supported under the Foundation’s empowerment programme, and who were interviewed by a local radio station, sharing their personal experience since receiving loans and the differences they have made in their communities through their economic independence.

In Nairobi, the Loomba Entrepreneur Programme has been in contact with over 5,000 widows and orphans in nine communities. Some 300 of these participated in business skills training and 92 widows attended further workshop courses on how to start up a business.

Raj Loomba realised, however, that the problem can never be fully addressed without concerted global action to raise awareness, fight injustice and change deep-rooted cultures. That is why, on 26 May 2005, The Loomba Foundation launched a flagship new initiative: to designate 23 June as International Widows Day, a global day of action to bring the plight of widows and their children to the attention of the world, so that in time it may be eradicated. On the day the initiative was launched in the House of Lords in London, Lord Loomba also initiated a campaign to persuade the United Nations to give the initiative its official recognition.

The Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Helpline (B’Yeah) paid tribute to widows at a special event attended by ten widows, including two who were direct beneficiaries of Loomba programmes. In Sri Lanka, the fourth consecutive International Widows Day event was celebrated in Hambantota and organised by the Hambantota Youth Business Programme in collaboration with the Women Development Federation. With the help of The Loomba Foundation, Hambantota Youth Business Programme has provided financial and mentoring support to 48 underprivileged members of female-headed households aimed at creating economic independence.

In Nepal, 40 people were receiving support under the Loomba empowerment programme, had a rally organised in the cultural city of Bhaktapur.

Oxfam and the agricultural cooperative UCODIP held a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, to highlight the importance of action on widows and promote International Widows Day.

In Sri Lanka, there were a large proportion of female-headed households due to internal conflict in the country, labour migration and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Working with local women’s organisations, the Loomba Entrepreneur Programme identified women who were interested in starting their own business, leading on to training and investment in jewellery, garment making and other businesses.

BIDAYA, Youth Business International’s network member in Syria, celebrated International Day by planting a tree in the botanical garden near the Damascus Citadel as a common symbol of hope, while in Gauteng Province, South Africa, schoolchildren released 300 orange balloons to mark the day.

Leading Non-Resident Indians in Europe came together at a Conference for Overseas Indians organised by India’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in The Hague, Netherlands, on 19th September 2009. Attended by the Minister Mr Vayalar Ravi, Lord Loomba was invited to attend and speak on ‘Empowerment of Indian women and the role of the Diaspora.’

In partnership with Oxfam and with the support of the Rwandan President Dr Paul Kagame, The Loomba Foundation delivered aid including training and start-up funding to 350 Rwandan widows who were genocide survivors.

The Rwandan genocide in 1994 ravaged the country and with many conflicts and natural disasters – the hardest hit are those who are marginalised in the community: widows and their children. The Loomba Foundation had already learned a great deal about the specific issues faced by widows in sub-Saharan Africa from its successful partnerships with Youth Business International and Virgin Unite when a chance meeting between the Mayor of Kigali, Dr Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, and Raj Loomba at the Commonwealth Business Conference in 2009 led to an expansion of the foundation’s empowerment programme in that country.

In Scotland, the Foundation was formally launched on 26thJune 2002 at the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Centre in Edinburg, sponsored by Cairn Energy PLC and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Sir David (now Lord) Steel.

Sir Richard Branson has made significant personal donations to help educate the children of poor widows in India, and as a Chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways, he gave further support through the ‘Change for Children’ Appeal on Virgin flights, raising significant sums between July and September 2000, and again from September to December 2005. Sir Richard also made an appeal in support of the Foundation on BBC Radio 4.