[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
Urdu
Hindi
Bengali
Pashto
Nepali
Tamil
Sinhala
Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
India's life-saving child singer
Palak with her dolls
Palak has a doll for every life she has saved
An 11-year-old girl who has become a singing sensation in India is using the money she makes from her performances to help children who are desperately ill.

Palak Munjal, from Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh, has already helped more than 100 children who are in need of life-saving heart surgery - and has a waiting list of many others.

In India one in three deaths are due to heart disease, and Munjal's music concerts have literally been lifesavers.

"When I sang for the first time on stage I was wondering whether people would enjoy my music, whether it would help the ailing child," Munjal told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"But there was a very positive response. A lot of money was collected, I felt very happy.

"It was then I thought I could help those children with my music."

History of help

Munjal sings at least 15 songs in each concert. Some have been written especially for her, others are popular Bollywood themes.

Shop
Munjal began her fundraising by singing in shops
A young celebrity in her own town, Munjal is regarded as a living deity by the families of the young boys and girls who have benefited from her generosity.

"She is like a goddess to us. She has saved the life of our child," one father said.

"We pray that she succeeds in whatever she wants to do."

Munjal has a collection of dolls - 106 - each one representing a life she has saved.

But Munjal does not only help ill children.

Her charity work dates back to 1999, when she was only seven years old.

That summer she sang in shopping centres, collecting money for Indian soldiers serving in war-torn Kashmir.

"During the conflict, my mother used to read me stories from newspapers about how a lot of people around the country were helping our soldiers," Munjal said.

"I thought maybe I too could help them.

"I went from shop to shop singing patriotic songs. I told the shopkeepers, 'I will sing a song for you, and you can give me any amount you want to contribute for our soldiers.'

"Over a week I collected around 25,000 rupees."

Media star

Later that year she was again using her music for charity - this time to help victims of the killer cyclone that devastated the country's east coast.

Children queue
Munjal has also raised money for the victims of India's killer cyclone
And it was following the huge media coverage that her efforts received in India that she began to put her talents towards helping children, having been contacted by the family of a child, Loquatia, who was in urgent need of a heart operation.

Loquatia's parents had seen a report about Munjal's work on television - Loquatia's father earned 50 pounds a month and was in no position to raise the 1,000 needed for essential surgery.

"I told my mother that this was one show that I must do," Munjal said.

"We raised 55,000 rupees from the show.

"But a hospital in Bangalore offered to perform Loquatia's surgery free of cost."

With the money lying unused, Munjal's family advertised in a local newspaper if there was any poor child who needed medical help whose family could get in touch with them.

"The next day seven children arrived at our doorstep, all with cardiac problems," Munjal said.

"Since then, I have been performing these musical shows."


SEE ALSO:
Healing hearts by remote control
14 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Heart op girl leaves hospital
31 Jul 03  |  South Asia
India losing population battle
03 Dec 02  |  South Asia



PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific