Annual charity gala at Nikki Beach Marbella

IMG_1067On the 16th June, the annual Maiti Nepal charity gala was held at Nikki Beach in Marbella with over 200 guests. The night was a huge success and a total of 93,000€ was raised through the ticket sale, charity auction, sponsors and other donations.

After 6 months of hard work and preparations, I am so happy that the event turned out so fantastic. What especially warms my heart is to see that more and more local companies and small businesses are getting involved in the event and comapnies that are competitors on a daily basis, join hands against the 20th century slavery and stand up together against human trafficking and the sexual abuse these women and children indure. Another beatutiful thing was that we found sponsors for 14 children on the night. The cost to sponsor a child is 650€/year and it will take the child through school, pay for their daily living costs and basic medical support. Anyone who is interested to find out more about becoming a sponsor can contact me directly.

After having been to quite a few charity galas throughout the years it is important for me to create a memorable evening with beautiful entertainment but it is very important to take the time to remind the guests of the reason we are all there. The gala is an event in honor of the women and children we are helping and they need to be in everyone´s mind throughout the night. I think we created just the perfect ambiance this night! Thank you to our main sponsors: Coliz & Murphy, Vogt Law firm and Mandala World Vacation Group.

For those of you who didn´t attend the gala, see below some photos from this beautiful night and make sure you come next year!

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World Children’s Prize

img_6350.jpgA special invitation that meant so much to me. It is my second year working with Maiti Nepal against human trafficking and violation of human rights of the child. It has been the best, most meaningful time of my life so to get an invitation to attend the World Children’s Prize ceremony lead by HRH Queen Silvia of Sweden was something extraordinary. The prize is often mentioned as the Children’s Nobel peace prize. The ceremony is held in the beautiful Gripsholms Castle in Mariefred, Sweden followed by a banquet dinner at the Gripsholms värdshus.

Maiti Nepal themselves, won the award in 2002 and has since then been part of the child jury each year. Many children around the world take part in this global vote, and the biggest year ever 7.1 million children voted. It is not only in western and calm countries where the votes take place. During the ceremony this year, we were informed that close to 300.000 children in the instabil country of Sierra Leone had still managed to get to their voting station to make themselves heard. That is something.

The child jury is flown in for the official ceremony and this year Neeta from Maiti Nepal was there together with children from Philippines, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Congo, Israel, Mozambique and Pakistan. In total 12 children from 12 different countries and all of them specialists in the field of the human rights of the child due to their own experiences. The evening took us on an emotional roller coaster with beautiful music and dance performances by children from gang ridden high crime suburbs in Cape Town along with footage from this year global voting around the world. We were also presented with some horrific first hand stories. Of course the biggest issue is the sexual exploitation of girls but I want to tell a story that affected me a lot. The story of Dieu-Merci from Congo. “One day on his way to school the school bus got stopped and gerilla soldiers came on board. They took all the little boys out in the forest and forced them to become soldiers. Dieu-Merci was 7 years old when this happened. He spent 4 years in the jungle as a boy soldier. He told us that he tried to escape once but was captured and after that, he never dared to try again. One night they got captured in a fight with military soldiers. “All gerilla was told to get down on our knees, and they started executing us one by one”, he says and continues: “When I was next, I suddenly screamed: I am not a soldier, I am a boy and I was kidnapped.”

The military heard Dieu-Merci and he was spared and rescued. Now 5 years later he is working to help other boys going through what happened to him. This story is only one of the captivating stories we were told first hand from the children at the gala at Gripsholms Castle in Mariefred, Sweden.

I learned a lot during this evening from both the children and the nominated. This year’s nominated heroes have all 3 done amazing work to help exposed children. What an achievement in life. I salute them! Gabriel Mejía Montoya, Rachel Lloyd and Valeriu Nicolae.

I will leave you to read about their amazing work yourselves on World Children’s Prize Foundation.

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Radhika and Rohan

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It has been just over a month since I returned from Maiti Nepal and what turned out to be the best thing I have ever done. Adjusting to life in Europe after what I experienced on this journey has been hard. I have found it difficult to find words to my feelings and emotions and trying to write has been almost impossible. Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook, like so many posts we see every day. It was of a young Asian girl with an old  man walking hand in hand. The photo caught my attention. It had already created a storm of comments of all sorts. I was left feeling like most people here in our Western world really haven´t got a clue. Just because a girl has a smile on her face, we think she is happy.

So today I woke up with the urge to give you all a little recommendation on a book that you should read. It is called: Radhika´s story. Incredible book.

I met Radhika and her son Rohan during my visit in Nepal and I have also found a sponsor for little Rohan who is now 12 years old. They came to Maiti Nepal when Rohan was 4 years old and still when I met Rohan, he was speaking very quietly and is very timid but with a cheeky little smile. Radhika was trafficked as a young girl and gave birth to Rohan in the brothel where she was forced to work. Often it is the children of the trafficked girls that are used to force the mum´s to comply with the brothel owners orders. Little Rohan was subsequently torture as a baby to make his mum work with a smile on her face and not cause problems.

We need to see further than what our eyes see and then we all know that no young girl would want to become a prostitute. Don´t fool yourselves please.

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Journey to Maiti Nepal

File 25-11-2017, 19 13 56I have been meaning to write for weeks but it became very hectic before the trip. We packed 8 suitcases full of donated clothes and soft toys to bring to Maiti Nepal. I want to thank everyone that has helped me with this collection. I can tell you that the children were so happy with everything we brought them.

They had prepared a beautiful dance performance show in our honor and the welcome speech held by one of the girls brought up at Maiti Nepal as baby and now 18 years old and working there, made me cry. (find parts of their performance on my instagram @mariannesteneholm) Our first two days we have spent with the children at the Teresa Academy (Maiti Nepal’s school) and with the smaller children residing at the shelters. We had brought face paint to play with the pre-schoolers but our visit was so special for the children that the elder classes also wanted to join us. In the end the whole court yard was full of hundreds of children with big smiles on their faces, hugging us and asking us questions.

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File 25-11-2017, 19 33 13File 25-11-2017, 19 35 13I have so many impressions and emotions going through my mind that I don’t know where to start and where to end.

For the next coming days, we will have some more serious meetings about urgent needs at Maiti Nepal shelters and which of those could be supported by the funds we have raised. I will be updating my blog with more information and photos from the trip again soon, I promise xxx

Getting ready to travel to Nepal

MAITI 2Our flights are now booked and I am so excited! We will fly out from London-Heathrow on the 21st November and be away for 2 full weeks. The flight goes via Muscat, Oman to Kathmandu with Oman Air . So far we are 4 people travelling. My sister is coming along. To share this special moment with her is just the best feeling. (Once again, I want to emphasize that all expenses for our trip is paid with our personal money, not from raised funds)

Vaccinations, hmm… I have just had them all prescribed from the Sanidad Exterior in Malaga and it is literally everything. Re-boost of Hepatitis A and B along with a Tetanus boost. Then cholera, tyfoid fever and dengue fever. Malaria is not necessary all over Nepal, only in certain areas, so for this I bring some tablets that you take only when/if travelling to the red zones.

I have so far raised close to 45,000€, and I am determined to make it past my goal of 50k before the trip in November! Stay tuned for more upcoming events where you can support Maiti Nepal and help me achieve my goal or simply make your donation HERE

xxx Lots of love

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Maiti Nepal Charity Gala at Nikki Beach Marbella

Charity-Nikki Beach-181Just a week after my biggest charity event so far and I am just starting to get back to normal again. The organization of this event took nearly 4 months and I never imagined it would be so much to keep on top of.  The day of the event my nerves were on “red alert” but now a week after I am so proud of what we achieved!

187 paying guests attended the gala, including myself and my team, as we also paid our ticket like everybody else. We raised over 36.000€ on the night from ticket sales, auction and wish tree gifts. The Ronaldo shirt was sold for 4000€, Chelsea “Diego Costa” shirt and “Dele Alli” Tottenham shirt went for 1000€/each and the EastEnders sign with the entire cast autographs went for 900€.  More items auctioned were car and race track days, facelifts and a luxury holiday in Thailand, along with art from one of Belgium´s most famous artists, Hannes D´Haese and underwear supply with your own underwear line in your name from Boux Avenue.

The support and response has been overwhelming and it feels so amazing to be able to stand up and fight for such an important cause. This is bigger than anything I have ever done before!  I cant wait to go to Nepal in November and see the smiles we have been able to give and the lives we have been able to save.

“Take every child as your own daughter, and soon you will feel her sorrow, and then you will feel the strength that comes out of you to protect them”

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Success! Charity event at La Sala!

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This past week was been full of happenings and Friday, we hosted our first big charity event at La Sala Banus . It was a big fashion show lunch with the latest collection from Gunnel´s Fashion and Caroline Azzi jewellery. The response was fantastic and already 3 days beforehand we were fully booked with a waiting list! We had a big list of sponsors that donated some lovely prizes to our charity raffle. One prize many had their eyes on was the private golf lesson with golf pro Michael Campbell.

We raised over 3000€ for Maiti Nepal at the event and both myself and Claudia were both over the moon. The aftermaths of the event has been equally great with so many thank you e-mails and phone calls along with a huge spread on social media from happy guests. It feels amazing to have such support here in Marbella. Check out our new hash tag: #maitinepalmarbella for info on upcoming events and photos from past events!

Below is an article published this week in SUR in English and a link to a TV interview with myself and Claudia on Estepona TV: Café y Thé interview

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