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February - March 2008


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Dispatches & Reports

Raleigh International spices up volunteering with first ever expedition to India

Officially launched this month, places on Raleigh International’s brand new expedition to India are quickly being snapped-up, as details of the unique line-up of challenging projects are unveiled for the first time.

Departing in February 2008, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds from across the UK and abroad will join teams of young people from India to work on Raleigh International’s new projects, in some of the most remote areas of the country – far removed from the well-trampled tourist trails.

Lasting four, seven or ten weeks, participants will find themselves working on environmental, community and adventure projects across the Southern states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu – with a permanent base camp in the ‘City of Palaces’ Mysore.

Environmental projects will see volunteers assisting rangers in some of India’s expansive National Parks, including conservation work in protected elephant and tiger reserves, as well as working in The Nilgiri, or ‘Blue Mountains’, undertaking scientific monitoring in one of the world’s most beautiful and rarely seen wildlife habitats.

On community projects volunteers will be living and working alongside families based in some of India’s poorest rural areas, installing safe drinking water facilities and sustainable sanitation, as well as developing organic gardens in schools, as part of long-term plans to improve health and educational services – all while gaining a unique insight into the lives of people living in extremely remote areas.

The adventure projects, meanwhile, will provide volunteers with an unforgettable challenge, trekking through some of the last undisturbed tracts of the diverse Western Ghats and camping in the wilderness, as well as canoeing through Kerala’s renowned backwaters which are rich in flora and fauna and dense with coconut palm groves.

‘As with all our expedition countries, India will offer the opportunity for volunteers to live and work in completely new and challenging environments, as well as contributing to projects that will make real and tangible improvements to the lives of people in rural communities,’ commented Stacey Adams, Raleigh International CEO.

Celebrating 60 years of independence this year, India’s rich history, vibrant culture and diverse environment continues to entice young people from the UK with increasing vigour. The popularity of Raleigh International’s pioneering expedition not only reflects India’s appeal as an inspirational travel destination, but also reveals how young people continue to seek adventurous experiences in remote locations, while aiming to make a positive contribution to worthwhile projects overseas.

While news of Raleigh International’s exciting new projects have captured the attention of budding volunteers, organisers say February’s first expedition to India is just the start of what they hope will become a long-term partnership between young people in the UK and India.

There are still a few places remaining for venturers, aged 17 to 24, and for volunteers managers, aged 25 and over, on Raleigh International’s first expedition to India departing in February 2008. For more information visit www.raleighinternational.org or call 020 7183 1270.


Zara Phillips rides into St Moritz for golf’s‘coolest’ tournament

- Zara Phillips announces new deal with Chivas Regal -

4th January 2008: Current World Equestrian Games gold medallist, Zara Phillips is swapping the saddle for the snow as she swings into action at the Chivas Snow Golf Championship from the 11th - 12th January 2008. Zara’s appearance at Chivas Snow Golf in St Moritz forms part of a new two year sponsorship deal that will see Zara making a number of personal appearances at Chivas Regal events around the world.

Golf’s coolest tournament is set in the luxurious surroundings of St Moritz and will boast a field of over 75 competitors from 12 countries. Playing in the shadow of the stunning Corvatsch mountain in St Moritz, Zara will be hoping for a winning start to the year by freezing out the rest of the women’s field while champion racing jockey Frankie Dettori takes part in the men’s amateur competition.

Zara Phillips said:

“I am delighted to be announcing my new sponsorship with Chivas Regal and I am really looking forward to attending their luxury events - starting with the Chivas Snow Golf Championship in St Moritz. Apparently the course is spectacular and very cool. I am a novice golfer but I’m looking forward to a new challenge and the odd snow golf lesson from the professionals. With the Olympics coming up, 2008 is a big year for me and a few days in St Moritz is a great start to my New Year.”

Champion Jockey, Italian Frankie Dettori, completed the unique Derby double in2007 by winning the UK Epsom Derby and the Prix Du Jockey Club in France. Golf enthusiast Dettori is set to face one of his biggest challenges on the ‘whites’ of St Moritz.


Gita Jayanti at Hindu Cultural Society finchley London

Gita Jayanti was held by HIndu Cultural Society in their Hall in Friern Barnet on Saturday, the 8th December, 2007. The reading of Gita by various members was followed by Kirtan by a Mandali from ISKON. In his short parvachan Swami Raman Uja Das from ISKON emphasized the salient features of the teachings of Bhagavad Gita and the relevance and importance of those teachings in our day to day lives. He elucidated in commonly intelligible language the three central themes of Gita, i.e., Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and JnanaYoga: Life, Love and Light. All life is action, but every little finite action should be a surrender to the Infinite without expectation of any reward for it. Love is the bond of union between man and God. Jnana is the Light of God, the highest goal.

The atmosphere throughout the whole function was serene and spiritually- inspired.The programme ended with the distribution of prasad and serving of priti bhojan.


WORLD AIDS DAY

New Encouraging figure of people living with HIV/AIDS in India

India Development Trust (IDT) is encouraged by the figures showing a lower than expected figure of 2.5 million HIV/AIDS sufferers in India. This revised lower figure was released by NACO (National AIDS Control Organisation, a Government of India undertaking) and is supported by UNAIDS and WHO. Globally, there are some 33.2 million people infected with HIV/AIDS, with 6,800 new infection cases reported everyday.

Chan Chowdhry , Deputy Chairman, IDT, commenting on these figures, said that Ms. Sujatha Rao , Director General of NACO had done a great job in improving its surveillance system. The revised lower figure will allow NACO to allocate resources more efficiently.

However, Chowdhry expressed regret that India had not been able to achieve its goal of no new infection by end 2007. He also warned against complacency; there was still a huge mountain to climb to overcome this deadly disease. He reaffirmed IDT’s commitment on putting greater emphasis on education and it will bring out an Educational Video on HIV/AIDs in Punjabi in next couple of weeks. IDT already has DVDs in Gujrati and Bengali which can be downloaded free of cost from its website

www.Indiadevelopmenttrust.com


MOU on Academic and Research Cooperation between The Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE)

The Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) signed a MoU on Academic and Research Cooperation on December 10, 2007 at Edinburgh “recognizing the mutual benefit of scientific and other academic exchanges”. The MoU which provides for study visits, fellowships and joint research projects was signed by Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, President of the INSA and Sir Michael Atiyah, President of the RSE. The text of the MoU is enclosed.

It may be mentioned that the RSE is an old and historical institution established in 1783 by the Royal Charter for “the advancement of learning and useful knowledge”. Under the arrangements for international cooperation, the RSE has two-fold objectives – Showcasing the best of Scotland’s research and development capabilities to the rest of the World; and Facilitating two-way international exchange to enhance Scotland’s international collaboration in research and enterprise. The RSE, under their bilateral programme, already has MoUs with China and a number of European countries. The RSE is keen to facilitate, encourage and support research collaboration in all areas between Scottish and overseas research organizations. The object of the international exchange programme, funded by the Scottish Government, is to enable scholars and researchers to come to Scotland or to visit overseas from their Scottish academic base for a short period of time with a view to establishing ongoing collaboration.

The MoU signed with the INSA would be useful in promoting educational and research exchanges between India and Scotland. It may be mentioned that Department of Hydrocarbons of the Government of India has also a MoU with the Aberdeen University on cooperation in Petroleum Technology. These institutional linkages would further cement academic and research cooperation between India and Scotland.


CUSTOMER CHARTER PROMISES BETTER DEAL FOR FAMILIES WHO SEND MONEY TO LOVED ONES IN ASIA

Consumers sending money to family and friends overseas will gain new safeguards under a new customer charter for money transfer companies launched recently by International Development Minister Shahid Malik.

People in the UK send an estimated £2.3 billion a year to loved ones in over 50 developing countries – a key source of overseas funds for many economies. Yet many find the process difficult and insecure.

Charges vary widely and the total cost to send £100 to some countries can range from less than £4 to as much as £40.

According to research by the Department for International Development (DFID), the biggest worry for those sending money is whether it will arrive safely, followed by excessive charges and delays to relatives receiving the money.

The new charter, developed by the DFID-supported UK Remittances Task Force, commits participating firms to giving clear, transparent information in a standard format, including: total fees to the sender, and any fees payable by the receiver; the exchange rate that applies to the transaction; how much money will be received; how long the transfer will take, where and how the receiver can collect it; and what to do if things go wrong.

Signing up to the charter is voluntary for money transfer organisations. Already businesses covering over half of the money transfer locations in the UK have agreed to comply with the charter. These include the Post Office, MoneyGram, Coinstar Money Transfer, Chequepoint, Ria Envia and many smaller businesses represented by the UK Money Transmitters’ Association making a total of over 18,000 outlets.

Each money transfer location that has signed up to the charter will display the charter on their premises to provide a further degree of confidence for customers. Each organisation will undertake an annual renewal process to ensure ongoing compliance.

Further to these safeguards, HM is now consulting on the implementation of the Payment Service Directive which will bring regulation to the money remittance sector.

International Development Minister Shahid Malik said:

“The new charter will give more confidence to people sending money to loved ones abroad by providing better information and transparency. I congratulate participating companies for their commitment to meeting the needs of consumers, many of whom are vulnerable.

“By promoting competition and transparency in the remittances sector we ensure a better deal for consumers in the UK and their families, and also help the fight against poverty in the developing world. We will continue to work with the financial sector to make sure payments are easy, affordable, on time and go through registered channels.”

Seymour Fortescue, Chairman of the UK Remittances Task Force, said:

“I am delighted that the charter is now a reality and that so many money transfer organisations have taken the initiative to sign up to it. It is very encouraging that the industry as whole is taking such a positive attitude to providing a high level of customer service and to being transparent and open.”

The Remittances Customer Charter comes as hits to DFID’s free, independent price comparison website www.sendmoneyhome.org reach a quarter of a million for the last month. The site enables consumers to search international payment companies and compare transfer methods, costs, and speed of transfer.

‘Send Money Home’ was the first website of its kind and has led to other price comparison sites from governments including Germany, France, the Netherlands and Norway.


 

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