London/India: The Loomba Foundation, an international UN accredited NGO dedicated to improving the lives of widows, commemorated its 25th anniversary last week, on International Widows Day. Over 300 guests including senior politicians and leading business leaders gathered to celebrate the milestone occasion on 23rd June, at the Banqueting House in London’s Whitehall.
The event was dedicated to raising funds for a humanitarian initiative launched by The Loomba Foundation in partnership with Barnardo’s, the UK’s largest children’s charity, to support families, including mothers and their children, fleeing war-torn Ukraine to settle in the UK. The evening culminated with the successful fundraising of more than £60,000 within just a few minutes, with donations still ongoing. The Loomba Foundation has a goal to reach £100,000 going forward to fund the initiative with Barnardo’s to help 1,000 families.
A £100 voucher will be issued to each family settling in the UK from Ukraine to be spent in any of Barnardo’s 630 physical shops or online on essential items including clothing, toys and furnishings. Most recipients are likely to be vulnerable women and children who may have lost husbands and fathers in the conflict. They have experienced significant upheaval and trauma and require urgent support to set up a new life.
During the evening, Guest of Honour Rt Hon. Sir Tony Blair KG, former British Prime Minister, took to the stage to congratulate Lord Loomba on the milestone anniversary and the launch of this new initiative with Barnardo’s. He recalled how in 1997, seeing that this charity stood for a strong cause, his wife, Cherie Blair QC CBE, pledged to embark on the journey with Lord Loomba to advocate for official UN recognition of International Widows Day. He spoke about the inspiring personal story behind the launch of The Loomba Foundation, remembering how as a young boy Lord Loomba saw his mother treated like a second-class citizen once she became widowed.
Cherie Blair QC CBE – President of the Loomba Foundation, gave a rousing speech, wishing a happy birthday to The Loomba Foundation and praising the extraordinary determination of Lord Loomba over the past twenty-five years in campaigning for widows to have a voice. She said: “Huge congratulations to Lord Loomba for the amazing achievements of The Loomba Foundation as it turns 25 years old. The hard work paid off in 2010 when International Widows Day was finally recognised by the United Nations. It has been a huge privilege to work by his side and to see our community of global supporters grow. While we have come far, there is still a long way to go. We will not rest until the many grave injustices faced by widows are eliminated for good, aiming for the day when every widow has the help she deserves to rebuild her life and secure a bright future for her children.”
Lord Raj Loomba CBE, Founder and Chairman Trustee of the Loomba Foundation, said: “It was a pleasure to see so many distinguished guests come together to commemorate the Foundation’s 25th anniversary. I extend my special thanks to Tony and Cherie for their dedication, commitment and support over many years, and I’m confident that without it we would not be where we are today. I was extremely touched by the generosity of our supporters in aid of women and their dependents fleeing Ukraine and am calling on anyone in a position to do so to give what they can as we work with Barnardo’s to provide urgent help for families settling in the UK.”
Michelle Lee-Izu, Executive Director Development and Innovation at Barnardo’s, commented: “Barnardo’s has a proud history of supporting children and families seeking sanctuary in the UK, and in recent months we have stepped in to help those arriving from Ukraine. We are delighted to be working with The Loomba Foundation to provide vouchers to refugee families so they can buy the very basics – such as clothes, toys and bedding. We know that many women and children will have lost fathers and husbands, and all will have suffered the trauma of fleeing their home and moving to a new country. This new scheme will help them take the first vital steps towards settling in the UK and working towards a positive future.”
Other illustrious speakers and attendees at the event included Lord Karan Billimoria CBE DL – President, Confederation of British Industry and Chairman of the Advisory Council, The Loomba Foundation, and Harjiv Singh – Founder & CEO, Gutenberg and Trustee, The Loomba Foundation, whose contributions to the mission of The Loomba Foundation were also recognised. Lord Jeffrey Archer – author and former politician, called on guests to stand up and give generously, successfully generating tens of thousands in donations within minutes.
Special guest Bollywood producer Firoz Nadiadwala rounded up the night with the exclusive announcement that he will be producing a feature film to raise awareness of the plight of widows around the world as well as funds to help them.