Charity with a smile

The Indian High Commission in South African celebrated the launch of a platform for Indian women and women of Indian origin living in South Africa to find solutions to some of the problems facing the country, in Pretoria on Saturday.

Muskaan is an initiative of the Indian Women’s Association in South Africa (IWASA). Muskaan, meaning smile in Hindi, was founded in September 2011 by the High Commissioner of India in South Africa’s wife, Veena Gupta, who is the president of the non-profit organisation.

The organisation represents a wide cross section of Indian women and women of Indian origin living in South Africa and serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas among members as well as to discuss solutions to common issues facing South Africans.

Virendra Gupta, the High Commissioner of India in South Africa, said during the closing speech for the evening: “It is important to create a platform for the two extreme communities in South Africa, the expatriate community and the Indian origin people, and I would like to encourage Muskaan to continue with providing this forum and platform and to make a strong contribution to the social economic development in South Africa.”

The dinner, for about 200 people, was the first major charity event for the organisation. The evening consisted of various cultural performances representing the different regions of India. The musicians, from the Indian Cultural Centre in Johannesburg, played traditional Indian music throughout the evening, while the dancers of the Ghungroo Dance Academy displayed their skill in various Indian dance forms.

The famous Raj restaurant served exquisite North Indian cuisine, including spicy chicken, lamb and fish curry as well as rice and naan (Indian flatbread).

All proceeds from the event will be donated to charities dealing with children, aged and destitute.

“With support from the High Commission of India in Pretoria, we are trying to build a firm base for ourselves to function as an organisation that strives to support underprivileged women and children and serve as a filament of bonding for the Indian diaspora here in South Africa,” said Veena Gupta in a press release.

One of the major aims of the organisation is to raise funds and assist existing charities In South Africa that are striving to help the poor and needy. “Our organisation is not meant to take the place other charities or organisations but only to supplement their efforts,” said Gupta during her speech for the evening.

Since its inception, Muskaan have worked with a pre-school called Bokomaso, based in Pretoria, and have helped improve its infrastructure including toilets, play areas, and classrooms. The organisation also provides further education to teachers to assist in improving the quality of education, and provides food and clothing for children from impoverished backgrounds.

Future projects of Muskaan include a partnership with the Curriculum Development Project for arts and culture education and training (CDP) Trust, which offers creative opportunities to vulnerable individuals in society.

The committee have planned many fundraising activities in the coming months. “These are going to be activities that will not take away the smiles of our sponsors when they part with their money,” said Gupta to laughter.

She added that the aim was to bring together many people and organisations. “There are many beauty pageants in this country celebrating womanhood and we would like to involve the participants of such pageants in our present venture,” said Gupta.

To contact Muskaan email here or call 012 460 6144

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