Tweeps of Melbourne, it’s time to get together to support a great cause. Twestival Melbourne 2011 is coming up next week Thursday 24 March with food, drink and entertainment for a mere $25 and this year’s charity is STREAT, a Melbourne-based social enterprise providing homeless youth with the opportunity for a long term career in the hospitality industry.

What is Twestival you ask? Find out in today’s HOT Chat with this year’s volunteer organiser, Bhakti Talreja. Thanks Bhakti!

Bhakti, Twestival is a funny name for an event – what exactly is it and how did it come about?

I have to agree the name is a bit strange but it kind of blends well with the twitter trend of people adding a TW before many words- Tweeps, Tweet-ups etc. Twestival is a short for Twitter Festival. This is a global festival that was born out an idea that if twitter people all over the globe got together for a cause, the impact could be spectacular!

Twestival uses social media for social good by connecting communities offline on a single day to highlight a great cause and have a fun event. Twestival is the largest global grassroots social media fundraising initiative to date. Since 2009, volunteers have raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits. All local events are organized 100% by volunteers and 100% of all ticket sales and donations go direct to projects.

Why should people get involved in Twestival?

For many reasons depending on the kind of person you are. This is a great chance to meet the people you have been tweeting with. You have the chance to raise funds for a great local charity and to interact with their management to understand what they do and how you can help. This event encourages Twitter users to harness their collective energy to give something back to the community.

This year’s event is being held next Thursday 24 March and is going to be a great evening with the best people from Twitter, lots of smiles and entertainment. The food is great and if you have a sweet tooth, expect to be thoroughly spoilt that night. Also, there will be a silent auction of great goodies. All this- the food, drinks, goodies, auction items and the entertainment have all come together because of the generous businesses and individuals who have come forward to support a great cause. I don’t want to reveal a lot so that you can look forward to many surprises when you join us next week!

Can you tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to head up this year’s organisingcommittee for Twestival in Melbourne?

With half a decade advocating ethical fashion (most of which was in Fashion PR and communication for ethical fashion brands in India), I moved to Melbourne in late 2009 with my husband who works for a software company here. Everything here was totally foreign to us and this drove me to Twitter. I realized that this was a great medium to meet the people here and to interact with locals.

Incidentally, the first event I attended in Melbourne was the Twestival Melbourne 2010 on 25th March, which was organized by @Vineetwtr who has now become a friend and great support for me. He is like my “social media guru” who guides me at every step with my work.

On this very day, the idea of So Ethic was conceived. On speaking with people that night, I realized that there was a lot of buzz and interest in ethical fashion but there was hardly any physical presence of ethical fashion here. I made phonecalls to all my friends (who are designers, writers, business people mostly dealing with ethical fashion) to discuss the idea and when I received a thumbs up from them all, So Ethic was born. It was winter time in Melbourne and I’m glad I had my Como No boots with me in time! We started the store on 18th July 2010. This launch was attended by my favourite Twitter people who made it such a success.

The time has come for me to bid farewell to Melbourne and it is a strange co-incidence that Twestival will be my last event in Melbourne! Vineet, who held the Twestival torch for Melbourne, is travelling all of this month and hence, he could not devote much time to organizing the event this year. When he approached me to organize it, I instantly agreed thinking that this was the best chance for me to thank twitter and all the lovely people I met in Melbourne because of it. So, the short story that started with Twitter will happily end with it on 24th March, this year. Whoever said that there are no happy endings clearly didn’t have a twitter handle :–)

How did you choose the Twestival charity this year?

The most important contribution is Lou Pardi’s (@LouPardi). Soon as I had confirmed news that I will be organizing Twestival in Melbourne this year, she was the first person I spoke to for her expert advice. She gave me a few options and STREAT was the first to impress me. For one, they are on Twitter too and then again I LOVE their work. I have had coffee at their cart in Melbourne Central and always thought they were doing a fabulous job.

However, my decision could not be final. I sent out tweets for volunteers and charity nominations. Thankfully, I had a great team happy to be a part of this cause almost instantly. Jane, Toula, PennySandi and Steve are extremely enterprising and working with them has been amazing! You will see it yourself at the Twestival.

We shortlisted the nominations we received on Twitter and within the team we collectively felt that by supporting STREAT we would all feel very proud and useful. It wasn’t a one-sided affair, even the team at STREAT were very happy to be a part of Twestival and welcomed the idea.

Finally, what are your tips for HOT places you like in Melbourne?

Kinfolk café (673 Bourke St, Melbourne) is by and large the best place for coffee! Not only is the coffee amazing but the values they stand for are the most inspiring.

Curry Vault (18 Bank Place, Melbourne +61 3 9600 0144) is my favorite Indian restaurant. Trust an Indian to tell you that they have the best parathas ever! I doubt if even the Indian restaurants back home in India can match their taste.

Dumpling Plus (269 Swanston Street Walk, Melbourne +61 3 9663 8181) Whenever I am in the city and feel like a quick bite (especially in winter time) I love the dumplings at Dumpling Plus. You must try their steamed dumplings in hot chili sauce. Om nom nom.

See you at the Twestival!