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June - July 2008

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The UKs first structured volunteering scheme to target the Indian diaspora was launched today in North West London with the support of Cricketing hero Monty Panesar.

The 1.3 million Indian community in Britain is recognised to be charitable and supportive of causes internationally and in Britain, often repatriating huge sums of money to causes in India and elsewhere. However, this new initiative seeks to take advantage of their interest in volunteering by making it easier for them to find local groups and charities, which can make good use of their time, skills, and experiences.

SEWAVOLUNTEERS is a flagship initiative of leading British charity – Sewa International. Whilst it is aimed at promoting volunteering to the Indian diaspora, it is not restricted to the community and interest from people of all backgrounds is welcome.

In the first phase, the scheme is to be implemented in North West London, which is home to a large Indian population. It is envisaged that this scheme will be rolled out in other cities and towns with significant Indian populations.

The first set of partner charities are:

Harrow Mencap – works with people with learning difficulties

Middlesex Association for the Blind – help the visually impaired

Age Concern Harrow – lend a hand to the elderly

Sansaar – teach Gujarati through pantomime and music

The Fryent Country Park (Barn Hill) Conservation Project – protect the natural environment

This is the FIRST scheme targeted at the Indian Diaspora which:

Provides volunteers for a number of local causes.

Actively monitors & manages the ‘volunteer experience’.

Transcends all affiliations to temples, faith groups, youth groups, regional groups, caste associations, companies and businesses etc.

By promoting volunteering, Sewa International aims to:

Engage people from all backgrounds with local projects that deliver services to disadvantaged communities. By doing so, providing our partner charities with much needed skills and experiences that enable their success in dealing with tough social issues.

Build awareness of social & cultural issues challenging local communities in Britain.

Raise the profile and virtue of public service. The Indian diaspora is renowned for its philanthropy and financial support for causes. This initiative aims to promote the need to provide ‘time’.

How to register as a SewaVolunteer:

On-line –

Paper registration forms can be provided by calling: 020 7193 7108

A team of volunteers will be attending key events & festivals to recruit volunteers

Arup Ganguly, President of Sewa International (North London), said:

“The most valuable commodity that people can donate to charity, in this relentless world, is their time. I find the willingness of our community to give up their leisure time to help the needy, quite frankly, humbling.”

Due diligence: “We’ve conducted interviews and assessments of the charities in order to satisfy ourselves that those who register with this scheme will be managed properly and will receive guidance and support throughout their association with a particular charity.”

On volunteers: “We value the time that people want to give. To ensure that they receive appropriate advice, we will brief each volunteer individually with the aim of understanding their background and motivation in coming forward so that we are able to pair them with a local group where we believe a ‘fit’ exists.”

Future plan: “We envisage this scheme expanding to include other towns, cities, and we will also focus on developing relationships with companies who encourage volunteering as part of their training & development programmes. Eventually, we’d like to promote volunteering as a tool to encourage development internationally by providing opportunities overseas.”

Monty Panesar, the face of the scheme, said: “I support SewaVolunteers, please give some time”.

He added: “Your time – every minute, every hour, you give makes a difference”

New Gujarati reading group comes to Green Street Library

Newham Council launched a Gujarati reading group on Thursday, April 24 at Green Street Library with prominent authors in attendance.

Gujarati literature enthusiasts had the opportunity to meet with Vipool Kalyani from the Gujarati Sahitya Academy of London and other literary figures. The launch was from 2 to 4pm and was open to all. It is the first reading group to be set up at the library in addition to the successful Urdu and Tamil Reading Groups being held regularly at The Gate and East Ham libraries.

Anyone can join the group but participants must be able to speak the language. Members will meet to enjoy Gujarati literature, read novels, short stories and poetry.  They will also have the opportunity to discuss current affairs and read Gujarati newspapers and magazines available in the library.

When the group is launched it will form part of Newham Library Service’s commitment for continued improvements for borough’s multicultural communities.

Councillor Jo Corbett, executive member for culture said: “The group is a wonderful opportunity for residents to get together and enjoy the facilities of the library and meet other Gujarati literature enthusiasts. It encourages people to engage in reading and discussion.”

The Gujarati Reading Group will meet at Green Street Library on the last Thursday of every month from 2pm to 4pm with the next one taking place on May 29.

Lord Dholakia Wins ‘Judges Choice’ in Parliamentary Photo Competition

Lord Dholakia, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader in the House of Lords, has been awarded one of seven ‘Judges Choice’ awards in the 2008 Jessops Parliamentary Photo Competition. This year’s competition attracted over 500 entries, of which the best were displayed on Monday 21st April in Parliament. Jessops made a donation on behalf of each of the seven winners, of £700 to the charity CLIC Sargent.

Lord Dholakia, speaking at the event, commented, “Taking photographs is my hobby. I am delighted that I received ‘Judges Choice’ for one of my photographs, which was taken on Juhu Beach in Mumbai. The picture is self explanatory.”

Lord Dholakia’s winning photograph of a ‘Tourist Massage Centre’, taken on Juhu Beach.

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