By Prasun Sonwalkar
Leeds : Using the power of Indian cinema to remove poverty and suffering around the world, Oxfam, a leading charity organization, has emerged as one of the key partners of the ongoing International India Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend.
Oxfam has a long association with India – it first responded to the famine in Bihar in 1951 and has now enlisted the support of the Indian legend Amitabh Bachchan to achieve its objective of finding lasting solutions to poverty and suffering across the world.
Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam, told IANS: "IIFA provides a sense of hope. In the UK, Oxfam is seen to belong to all Asian communities. Over 100 of our shops have acquired a Bollywood theme, and we have appealed for donations from South Asian communities."
"Taking part in the IIFA and the lead-up to the long weekend has been incredibly exciting and a fantastic opportunity for Oxfam".
Bachchan visited an Oxfam shop in London during the build-up to the IIFA Weekend and said he was impressed with the organisation's work. He said: "Many people in India have benefited from Oxfam's projects."
"As the ambassador of the IIFA, which are key to boosting the profile of Indian cinema around the world, I am delighted that we have been able to support Oxfam in the lead-up to our awards weekend in Yorkshire," said Bachchan.
Stocking said that Oxfam had enlisted the support of several leading film personalities in India, including Bachchan, Rahul Bose, Nandita Das and Konkona Sen Sharma. One of its major associates is popular British actor Colin Firth, whose parents were born and raised in India. Firth presents the 'best supporting actress' award on Saturday.
"To represent Oxfam by presenting this IIFA award was a huge honour. It is great to take part and I hope through Oxfam's involvement in the IIFAs more people from around the world will be encouraged to support its life-saving and campaigning work," Firth said.
Stocking added: "Through the partnership (with IIFA) we have been able to show case Oxfam's work -particularly in south Asia – and appeal to new volunteers by showing how the support of different ethnic communities in the UK is vital in helping us deliver programmes that help fight poverty and suffering in more than 70 countries in the world".
She said Oxfam ran 4 million pounds worth of programmes in India and maintained a staff of about 70 personnel in India. Its project areas included emergency work, disaster preparedness, rural livelihoods, and working with the cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh to get enough of their produce in the market.
Oxfam mounted large-scale responses to the earthquakes that hit Gujarat in January 2001, and the Jammu and Kashmir region in India and the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in October 2005. It was also active in relief work during the December 2004 tsunami.
As a charity partner of the IIFA, Oxfam has been showcasing its projects in south Asia to the public -particularly in India – and hopes to raise an extra 100,000 pounds a year through donations of South Asian clothing.
Oxfam screened a short film about its work at the IIFA Awards ceremony, which included footage of actress Scarlett Johansson's visit to its programmes in India and Sri Lanka.