Exams, not visas, restricting Indian children's visit to Lahore
World's largest love letter will be unvelied at Gaddafi Stadium on April 3
Daily Times - 26 March 2006
by Noshad Ali
The ‘World's Largest Love Letter' from Indian children to Pakistani children will be unveiled at Gaddafi Stadium on April 3. Also, claims of Indian children being denied visas by Pakistan were dismissed by the organisers of the event, saying exams and not visa restrictions had stopped the Indian children from coming to Pakistan.
The 86,400-square foot letter has been prepared by dozens of Indian children under the auspices of Friends Without Borders (FWB), an Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation working for education and social development.
“Around 99 percent of the movement's members are children,” said Mark Jacobs, a FWB volunteer and organiser of the colossal love letter. “Even the few grown-ups working for the organisation let the children's voice be heard.”
The letter, made of tarpaulin, was designed by several people and painted by dozens of volunteer children. After its presentation in Lahore, the letter will be cut up into 551 equal parts of 12-by-12 square feet each, and delivered to the earthquake-affected areas to be used in the construction of shelters.
During its journey through India, children from various schools in each city penned their names along with messages of friendship to the Pakistani children. Apart from the colossal epistle, other letters from the Indian to the Pakistani children are being mailed to the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad where FWB is based.
Jacobs said that his team had started contacting schools in Lahore to send their students to participate in the letter's unveiling. “In India, we used to involve children of all backgrounds, whether rich or poor, in our campaigns. The strategy in Pakistan will be no different,” he said, adding that they had recruited 24 volunteers within a day, and the number was increasing by the hour.
Jacobs said that letters from more than 1,000 children volunteers from India will be presented along with the main missive.
Jacobs dismissed claims that Indian schoolchildren had been denied visas to attend the event here. “There is no such problem. In fact, the children there are busy taking examinations, which is why we don't want to call them and are involving children here,” he said. He said that several volunteers had also left to attend the World Social Forum in Karachi, which would be “an ideal platform in Pakistan to extend FWB's volunteer network”.
Jacob was of the view that volunteers of all ages could play a vital role in the success of this movement initiated by children, who have no biases or baggage of the past.