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17:17 - 9 October 2006

Charity shop to shut after terrible Xmas

Closing: Joanna Harma
Closing: Joanna Harma

By Phil Coleman

A CARLISLE charity shop which has helped give 100 impoverished Indian girls a second chance in life is to close.

The Abbey Street shop has raised around £25,000 for the Freeschools India project, which has been operational for the last six months and raises money to provide full-time education for children in the country.

Joanna Harma, of Thursby, near Carlisle, launched the project two years ago.

Profits from the shop went to building a school in the village of Chakarsi in Uttar Pradesh, north east of Delhi.

Mrs Harma said although long-term funding for the project was in place through ongoing sponsorship, the shop itself was no longer worth keeping open because it barely breaks even.

“It was a disastrous Christmas, and there now seems to be very little point in continuing with the shop,” she said. “But it’s important to stress that the school is now up and running and the long-term funding is in place.

“It’s also important to remember that most of the sponsors we have found have been people who have come into the shop and found out about us that way.”

Mrs Harma, who has a masters degree in international human rights, opened the charity shop after visiting India and seeing children who were forced to work in factories for less than 20p a day.

She has worked on the project jointly with her Indian husband Guarav Siddhu.

The school, 80 miles north of Delhi, opened in July. It has six teachers and 100 pupils – all girls from poor families who would not otherwise had been given the chance of an education.

Mrs Harma said the shop is likely to close either this month or in February.

She thanked everybody who has supported the shop and the school project, saying: “The support we have had has been brilliant.”

Potential sponsors can contact her on Carlisle 550495, or by email at joanna@Free-school.org.

There is also a website about the project at www.free-school.org

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