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L-Istrina raises Lm500,000

Around Lm500,000 was collected yesterday during L-Istrina, the 12-hour national televised charity marathon that raised funds for 16 beneficiaries this year.

Last year, the amount raised was Lm1,292,849, including the Lm590,000 netted from the auction sale of 59 BMWs that were used during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting a month earlier. But this year's team had not set a target. Donations got off to a slow start compared with previous years, but as the day wore on they flowed in waves, with "explosions" during the course of the event, said one of the organisers, Gordon Pace.

There was no doubt about the effect of the prizes, which boosted the number of calls "whether you like it or not", he said, adding that this raised the moral issue as to why the public was actually calling in. L-Istrina kicked off at noon and carried on until midnight, with a variety show, the presentation of donations and phone-ins, punctuated by footage featuring the various beneficiaries.

The 11th edition had a number of novel touches - primarily the venue, the Malta Fairs and Convention Centre at Ta' Qali, which has catered for a variety of activities since it was set up.

Reuben Caruana, responsible for business development at the MFCC, said only a third of the tent was used for L-Istrina but this was still double the size of that of previous editions held in the PBS car park in Guardamangia.

The programme, transmitted live on TVM, had a list of around 60 presenters for the first time ever, with the backbone being four female TV personalities. Its entire organisation involved almost 400 volunteers - who also worked on the piggy bank campaign, distributing them in schools and shops in the run-up to the event - and 158 on the day.

Mr Pace and Robert Farrugia, representatives of Ir-Razzett tal-Hbiberija and Eden Foundation respectively, joined forces as the new organisers of the event when "rumour had it" that no one was interested in the call for tenders that PBS had issued.

Both Eden Foundation and Ir-Razzett tal-Hbiberija are among the 16 beneficiaries of L-Istrina, while half the funds raised are always destined for the Malta Community Chest Fund.

"We were not awarded the tender, but were approached to unite and we did so," he said, praising the team that was formed and chaired by Andrew Psaila.

The national charity event was organised in record time - eight weeks - Mr Pace said. The venue and the collaboration of the volunteers, who dropped everything, took time off work and sacrificed their holidays, were instrumental in allowing it to materialise.

Being able to house the whole set in one area, including the 90 people taking the calls who were changed at intervals and in the thick of the action, allowed for a warm and lively atmosphere, he said, as well as better control and facilities. No time and energy was wasted setting up the venue from scratch in the open air.

The Malta Fairs and Convention Centre also proved to be "comfortable", allowing for the display of nine cars, rather than just two at a time, as well as the National Orchestra and the Voices choir.

The enthusiastic audience was bumped up to 250 from 200, changing every two hours. And the action and excitement behind the scenes was equally intense, with performers waiting in the wings to take their cue.

Mr Caruana said the tent was proving to be versatile and had just tendered for the Eurovision Song Contest. Meanwhile, behind the L-Istrina set, the venue for tonight's MTV party in collaboration with G7, which is being screened on MTV, including 500 spots on Malta, was already set up and ready for the event.

The Bank of Valletta L-Istrina campaign 2006, which has seen the participation of over 65,000 students, has raised Lm20,000. Charles Borg, executive head at the CEO's Office at Bank of Valletta, presented the funds during L-Istrina yesterday.

Mr Borg was accompanied by a group of bank employees who were volunteers in the piggy bank campaign: 7,000 piggy banks were distributed and collected from over 2,800 classrooms in all schools in Malta and Gozo this month.

Mr Borg announced that the school-children had this year raised Lm8,400 through the piggy banks. "We have decided not only to match the amount donated by the children but also to add more funds making a donation of Lm11,600 so that the total amount we are presenting for the BOV L-Istrina Campaign 2006 is Lm20,000."

Mr Borg said that a large team of bank employees were this year involved in the administration of the BoV L-Istrina campaign, working closely with other L-Istrina volunteers under the direction of the L-Istrina team.

"We estimate that our employees have performed around 200 hours of voluntary work distributing and collecting piggy banks," Mr Borg said, adding that the BoV L-Istrina campaign was a very important feature of the social pillar of BOV's Community Programme.

Mr Borg then presented another cheque for Lm5,000, collected from piggy banks placed at a number of shops. The bank also topped up these donations: shoppers' donations of small change added up to Lm3,932, which the bank rounded up to Lm5,000.

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