Art in SafeHands as charity raises cash for mothers

TENS of thousands of pounds have been raised at a big name art auction organised by a Hampstead charity. Work by leading contemporary artists, as well as guest contributions from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Alan Rickman, Maureen Lipman and

Ed Thomas

TENS of thousands of pounds have been raised at a big name art auction organised by a Hampstead charity.

Work by leading contemporary artists, as well as guest contributions from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Alan Rickman, Maureen Lipman and Kathy Lette, went under the hammer at Somerset House last week.

The Art For Life sale was in aid of SafeHands for Mothers, a Hampstead charity fighting for better childbirth conditions for women in developing countries.


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"The auction was a fantastic success. It went extremely well," said charity founder Nancy Durrell McKenna, from Fitzjohn's Avenue.

"More than 200 people turned up and an auctioneer from Christie's did a brilliant job. We also had a silent auction and a fixed-price sale. In total, more than £60,000 was raised."

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The money will help SafeHands for Mothers provide medical training in countries where childbirth poses an enormous risk for women.

Ms Durrell McKenna, a photographer and film maker, has also pioneered research into solar-powered DVD players so that healthcare videos can be screened in villages without electricity.

Clips from her latest work, filmed on the custom of child marriage in Ethiopia, were shown at the auction last Thursday night to help raise awareness.

"Under this harmful practice, children as young as 10 are married off by their parents," she said. "A lot of girls are having sexual relations before they start menstruating and this can lead to debilitating conditions which leave them ostracised by their community. So it is a human rights issue."

Ms Durrell McKenna also gave a short talk at the auction and told guests that £100 of their money could pay for five women to have life-saving Caesarian operations.

She also reminded people how, in the four hours that the auction took place, some 200 women would have lost their lives giving birth somewhere in the world.

"I am so glad we raised these vital funds to help prevent the unnecessary death and suffering of women during childbirth," she said.

"So much more needs to be done to reduce the number of fatalities. Despite being a small charity, we have had an extraordinary amount of support for what we are doing.

"I would just like to thank everyone involved in the auction who helped us raise the £60,000."

Novelist Kathy Lette, who lives in West Hampstead and donated a sketch for the auction, said: "The charity is really important. Childbirth is not just the time when a woman realises the gender of God (He's a bloke!) but that He is also very dangerous. Mortality rates are terrifyingly high. In the west we have access to drugs at least. But in the third world childbirth must be natural."

For more information or to make a contribution to SafeHands for Mothers, log onto www. safehands.org.

ed.thomas@hamhigh.co.uk

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