Andy Akinwolere of Blue Peter visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden on the evening of Saturday 27 January 2007 to help promote the Blue Peter ‘Shoebiz Appeal,’ for children in Malawi orphaned through AIDS. Mr. Akinwolere 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-chadi (a friendship thread tied to his right wrist).

Andy spoke to the crowd, who had gathered for the launch outside in the Mandir courtyard area. He expressed his delight at coming to the Mandir and seeing hundreds of children who had gathered with shoes for the appeal. The inauguration was marked with a countdown and release of confetti before hundreds of pairs of shoes were brought onto the stage for the appeal, much to Andy’s delight. The Children’s Forum has set a target of 5000 pairs of shoes for the appeal. Parents and children contributed to the launch in a strong message of support.

Mr. Akinwolere was escorted around the temple complex and was impressed with the “unbelievable intricate architecture of the mandir”. He was shown a photographic exhibition of the social and welfare activities of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and then joined volunteers for a meal.

Andy was introduced to devotees who had gathered in the Haveli Prayer Hall. Yogvivek Swami, head sadhu, welcomed him with a garland. In his public address, Andy spoke of the overwhelming experience of his visit and the warm welcome he had received on arrival. He offered his gratitude for the support of the Shoebiz campaign and encouraged continued support throughout the duration of the project, “Together, we can make a difference to the lives of children orphaned by HIV and AIDS.” Andy thanked everyone for the delicious meal that he had eaten and was presented with a memento by Yogvivek Swami before he departed.

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