The movers and shakers at the Abbey School in Faversham had gathered at the request of a Baptist minister’s teenage daughter to help street children in Kolkata.
Nineteen-year-old Emily Cook, whose father Geoff pastors Faversham Baptist Church, was so moved by the lives of the children she met during a BMS World Mission-organised visit to India in 2011, she set up the Khushi Feet charity on her return.
Khushi Feet raises money and awareness for schools for street children in Kolkata. Khushi is the Bengali word for happy. 'The children at the street school have very few clothes and run around barefoot,' she Emily explained. 'At the same time they are some of the happiest children you could ever meet!'
Saturday was the charity’s second major fund raising event, and it had been inspired by the first. During last year’s weekend of Indian themed activities Emily was struck by how popular the Bollywood dance section had been.
‘It was so exciting, and I just knew it could be bigger. So we thought we could base this year’s fund-raiser on Bollywood.’
Emily was able to attract Ash Mukherjee, who has choreographed for the BBC, and Alif Sankey, an associate producer for Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour, to give a dance workshop. She toured schools and gave Bollywood demonstrations, while the event, called Khushi does Bollywood, had excellent local media coverage. There was even an article in The Times of India.
Initially the plan was to break the World Record for the largest Bollywood choreographed dance, which had stood at 1,300.But shortly after the Faversham attempt was arranged that record was smashed in Mumbai, with 4,400 taking part.
Nevertheless people turned up in their droves on Saturday to perform Chaiyya chaiyya from the 1998 movie Dil Se, and raise more than £6,000.
‘We had a mix of ages,’ said Emily. ‘Clearly a lot of children had responded, and came with parents and grandparents.
‘Everybody loved it. Some were a bit reluctant at first, but joined in. It was a really exciting day. We didn’t break the world record, but it didn’t matter.’
Ash was similarly enthused. 'Had such a great day! The best in 2013 by a long mile. Thanks to all who came and the simply lovely folks at Khushi Feet!'
Emily is currently studying English Language and Linguistics and eventually she would like to be a teacher.
She explained that the motivation for setting up the charity lay in both helping the children, and opening the eyes of her own community to different situations around the world.
‘In Kolkata we worked with the Good News Children’s Education Mission,’ she said, ‘and it just struck me how they were run. These teachers want to provide an education for the children, but they are all volunteers. They have the most basic equipment.
‘I thought we could do something. Not only to help raise money, but to do something in my own community to raise awareness of what the situation is like there.
'So many children here complain about going to school, but the street children in Kolkata are so happy with the most basic education.
‘We are very clear that this is a charity from Faversham Baptist Church. So many different people from the community have responded and are getting involved.’
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