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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
India orphans get fashionable aid
Richard Bond
BBC Look East

Seema Isaiah
Seema Isaiah is using her skills to raise 80,000 for orphans
A church has found a novel way of helping to build an orphanage for slum children in India.

Capel St Mary Methodist Church, on the Suffolk/Essex border, has teamed up with Merchants of India, a charity which sells designer clothes in the West to raise funds.

So far they have helped to organise three fashion shows in Capel St Mary which have brought in 40 orders.

The woman behind Merchants of India is Seema Isaiah, an award-winning designer brought up in the southern India town of Hassan.

Appalled by the conditions in which orphans live in parts of Hassan, she struck on the idea of selling her ethnic clothes in the West and using the profits to build an orphanage, school and workshop.

"The children live in a very unhygienic environment, without proper shelter or even a sewage system," she said.

Capel St Mary Methodist Church
Three charity fashion shows have taken place through the church
"I want to bring self-esteem to these people. Instead of just asking for funds we want to make use of the skills we already possess."

The clothes - a blend of Asian and western styles - are made in workshops in Hassan run by Seema's mother.

The aim is to raise 80,000 by selling them through a website and at fashion shows.

Paul Finch, steward of Capel St Mary Methodists, said: "We were very impressed by Seema's integrity and vision. There's a whole church network which hasn't heard about Merchants of India yet. When it does, I'm sure the venture will take off."

India has 400m people living in absolute poverty. The Hassan orphanage will initially help only 50 children, but the plan is to expand it as the business expands.

The land on which the facilities will be built has already been bought.

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