Millennium Post

Kolkata-born Miss England helps raise funds for city's children in UK

London: Indian-origin Miss England 2019 Bhasha Mukherjee helped raise funds for a UK charity working with street-connected and slum children in Kolkata as part of her beauty with a purpose mission.

Mukherjee, a doctor by profession who spent her childhood in Kolkata, took time out from preparations for the Miss World contest next month to join the Hope Foundation's annual fundraiser in London on Friday night.

The evening raised over 20,000 pounds for the charity through ticket and auction sales and also received several pledges to sponsor children in India.

"I think it's destiny that brings people together. I am from Kolkata, so Hope Foundation is very special to me," said the 23-year-old, who moved to UK as a nine-year-old and is currently employed as a junior doctor in Lincolnshire, eastern England.

"Hope isn't just about the children of Kolkata, it's about children all over the world as well. And, my beauty with a purpose project is health education, which I am very passionate about as a doctor. I want to take this platform of Miss England and empower people to take control of their own health and stay well in the community," she said.

The Hope Foundation was founded in 1999 by Irish humanitarian Maureen Forrest to provide protection and safety to 14 young girls in Kolkata who were forced to survive on the streets. It has since grown from just one protection home to 12 homes and also operates a range of other outreach work, which has impacted the lives of millions who reside in Kolkata's slums and on the city's streets.

"I suppose it was my dream, and is my dream, to live in a world where it would never hurt to be a child. Our legacy will not be the buildings we have left there (Kolkata), but the thousands of children that we have introduced to education these children are in turn breaking the cycle of poverty," said Forrest, honorary director of the foundation.

The fundraiser, which was backed by historic India-connected tea brand Britannia and UK fitness retailer DW Sports, raised nearly 9,000 pounds through an auction of lots including a holiday to India and signed sports memorabilia. The rest of the profits raised are also intended to go towards implementing the work of the foundation, which has offices in the UK, Ireland, US as well as India.

"This evening is not just about celebrating the great part that Hope (Foundation) plays in the lives of these street-connected children. It's also about the inspiration that these children provide us so that we can endeavour to make changes to their lives, said Reza Beyad, London-based entrepreneur and the foundation's UK ambassador.

"Hope offers, through its various programmes, opportunities for these kids to step out of the social bubble created for them by injustices in society," he said.

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