News & Events
Andy Akinwolere of Blue Peter visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, on the evening of Saturday 27 January 2007 to launch BAPS’ charity drive for the Blue Peter ‘Shoebiz Appeal’. The appeal, in support of a worldwide UNICEF campaign, is aimed at helping needy children in Malawi orphaned through AIDS.
Mr. Akinwolere, the Nigerian-born TV presenter, was welcomed in the traditional Hindu manner by two children from The Swaminarayan School. He was greeted with a red chandlo (round mark of vermillion powder on the forehead), and a nada-chhadi (a friendship thread tied to his right wrist).
Gathered outside in the Mandir courtyard were hundreds of children and parents, eager to launch the BAPS drive with Andy. As BBC TV cameras watched on, a countdown and release of confetti marked the public inauguration of the charity campaign. Parents and children contributed to the launch with a strong show of support. Much to Andy’s delight, they brought onto the stage hundreds of pairs of shoes. The Children’s Forum has set a target of collecting 5000 pairs of shoes for the appeal.
The ‘Shoebiz Appeal’ is being promoted by Blue Peter, a long-running, popular BBC children’s television programme. With more than 4,000 episodes since it first started in 1958, Blue Peter is still screened three times a week on BBC1, Britain’s prime TV channel. The programme also runs an annual charity appeal which involves young viewers collecting items that can be recycled or sold to raise money for a worthy cause. Over the years, the programme has supported various charities, including Oxfam and Childline. This year’s campaign encourages children to collect shoes which will help raise funds for AIDS orphans in Malawi.
After the official launch outside, Mr. Akinwolere was escorted around the temple complex inside. Genuinely impressed with the “unbelievable intricate architecture of the temple”, he was also shown a photographic exhibition of the international social and welfare activities of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
Finally, Andy was escorted into the Haveli Prayer Hall. There, he was introduced to the gathered devotees and welcomed with a garland by Yogvivek Swami, head sadhu of the mandir.
In his address to the assembly, Andy spoke of the overwhelming experience of his visit and the warm welcome he had received from the children. He offered his gratitude to BAPS for its support of the ‘Shoebiz Appeal’ and shared his hopes for the future. “Together,” he said, “we can make a difference to the lives of children orphaned by HIV and AIDS.” Andy was presented with a special memento before he departed.
Clips of the launch were broadcast on Blue Peter (BBC1) on Tuesday 6 February 2007.