NRI social activist Raj Loomba devotes more time to his personal commitment than his family business. As the Founder and Chairman of The Pushpa Wati Loomba Trust, Raj Loomba works wholeheartedly for the welfare of poor widows in India. With his wife Veena, Raj Loomba established the Trust in 1997. The Trust helped Loomba convert his personal mission to help the poor widows in India into an organised system of supporting and promoting the welfare of poor widows and educating their children. The initiative has been faithful to its goals since its inception, and after ten years, it is continuing to light up lives of numerous children of poor widows.
Raj Loomba migrated to UK in the early 1960s and after years of struggle he established his business. Once his business flourished and children settled as his son joined his business, Loomba decided to move on and share his deepest desire to work for the welfare of poor widows in India and other countries. The motivation of the Trust is his mother, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, who was widowed at the age of 37 and single-handedly raised her seven children in a small village in Punjab. While many widows work to merely fulfil basic food and shelter requirements of her family, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba worked hard to educate her children and keep her husband’s dream alive. She, the sole inspiration for the Trust, shines today in the eyes of the widows supported by the Loomba trust.
Widowhood is still a stigma in developing nations as a result of which the widows have to face innumerable hardships. With not many employment opportunities and low level of education, the widows are unable to meet the basic needs of the family let alone invest in their children’s education.
By establishing a trust which empowers and supports widows in India, Raj Loomba has not only created hope for them and their children but has also shown them a path to success and prosperity. This is also an important step toward reducing global poverty.
Started in 1997 with a goal to educate at least 100 children in every state of India, The LoombaTrust now supports the education of 3,610 children in 29 states of India and the number is ever increasing. Apart from this, the Trust also funds the education of almost 500 children, orphaned in the 2004 Tsunami disaster in Nagapattinum, Tamil Nadu. Beneficiaries are selected without regard to gender, religion or class, and scholarships are guaranteed for an initial period of five years.
23rd June, the day Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba became a widow, is now recognized as the International Widows Day. It was launched by President of the Trust, Cherie Booth QC, in 2005 in UK and was followed by the launch in India by Delhi Chief Minister, Ms. Sheila Dixit. On the 21st October 2005, while celebrating the 60th anniversary of UN, the Loomba Trust and International Widows Day were launched in the US by Cherie Booth QC, in the presence of the then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow, among other celebrities.
The Trust organised an International Widows Day Conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on 23rdJune 2006 to create international awareness and provide a platform for various NGOs and other supporters to address the serious issues affecting widows. The speakers included Don McKinnon, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth; Renuka Chowdhury, India’s Minister for Women and Child Development, India and many other dignitaries and supporters of the Trust. Video messages from Senator Hillary Clinton and Sir Richard Branson were also screened in support of the cause.
Loomba believes that this day is important for all to understand and improve the plight of widows and their children around the world who are suffering from poverty, illness, armed conflict, legal discrimination, social injustice and diseases such as HIV/Aids,
To integrate the support of various organizations and individuals, the Trust launched ‘The Loomba Trust Partnership Initiative’ in 2004. Through this programme, individuals and organizations can pick any state in India and sponsor the education of 100 children in that state at theloombatrust.org. Continuing to extend a hand to the poverty-stricken widows, the Trust launched ‘The Loomba Entrepreneur Project’ in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Kenya early this year followed by training and support to organisations working with the Trust.
Fundraising events highlighting these issues are organised every year. One such event is the annual London Diwali Dinner, the ninth such event was held at Mansion House in London on 17th October 2007. The purpose of the event is to create further awareness about the cause supported by the Trust and to raise funds for the same. The dinner was attended by many dignitaries from India and Britain. Bollywood living legend, Dev Anand was also present amongst others and used the occasion to launch his book ‘Romancing with life’.
The Trust appealed to the guests to educate at least one child of a poor widow in India for one year. The evening raised 250,000euros out of which 225,000euros will educate 3,600 children of poor widows being supported by the raj Loomba Trust in India while 25,000euros was donated to the Safer London Foundation. For thousands of struggling widows and their deprived children, Raj Loomba has lit the flame of hope.