Your Excellencies, Secretaries of State, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I cannot quite believe it is almost two years to the day that my both my "Mehabooba" and myself were able to be with all of you to celebrate the work of the British Asian Trust. Since then, across the globe, there has been terrible loss of life from this dreadful pandemic and we have especially seen the devastating impact throughout South Asia. In these most challenging times, the British Asian Trust has run four significant fundraising appeals which have so far raised almost
£20 million. A truly remarkable achievement in such a difficult environment.
Indeed, it is fair, I think, to say that it has been when truly tested that the Trust has shown its most outstanding qualities of resilience and commitment to helping people across South Asia. When the pandemic first hit us, the Trust launched an Emergency Appeal to support migrant workers and those most in need across the region. I was delighted to be able to give my own support, together with so many in the diaspora, to help over 150,000 people.
I believe the Trust came into its own during a particularly dark moment for India with the oxygen crisis one year ago. In just six weeks the Trust was able to deploy close to 5,000 oxygen concentrators across the country. At the same time as the Oxygen Appeal, the Trust, in partnership with the U.K. Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ran a U.K. Aid Match Appeal supporting women in Pakistan to secure sustainable livelihoods, raising £2.6 million from the U.K. public with a further £2 million of match funding from the F.C.D.O.
I must say, though, that one of the Trusts great strengths is its creativity. Last year, Manoj even managed to persuade me to clamber unsteadily onto a bicycle, for the first time in years- without wearing Lycra I may say - , to start a sponsored event which raised an astonishing £600,000 for the work of the Trust. And who can ever forget the remarkable elephants that appeared all over London last Summer?! The CoExistence Campaign, modelled on elephants from the Nilgiri Hills in Southern India, were brought to London to raise awareness of the real challenges facing us as we deal with human/wildlife conflict in the world in which we live. I am most grateful to Ruth and her husband, Ganesh, for bringing together the Elephant Family and the British Asian Trust and raising close to £4 million for this work.
Alongside this incredible work, I am also very pleased to announce that B.T. have renewed their partnership with the British Asian Trust with a commitment of £3 million which will look to impact 200,000 adolescent girls in India with outcomes around education and employment. And, in Pakistan, the British Asian Trust has appointed Mian Mohammad Mansha to be the new Chair of the British Asian Trust’s Pakistan Advisory Council. I really am immensely grateful to him for making the time to join us here this evening…
I am also immensely proud of the fact that the British Asian Trust continues to be a genuine leader in social finance and development impact bonds – a marvellously imaginative innovation which I have done my best to support and encourage for the past ten years. This year, the Trust has launched the largest Impact Bond for skilling in India. This 14.4-million-dollar fund will benefit more than 50,000 young people by making them employment ready. I am particularly proud of the leadership shown by the Trust and, especially, Abha Thorat-Shah who has led the way in this area.
Amongst such wonderful progress, sadly, this year sees two of the real drivers of this organization hang up their boots as Trustees – Chris Mathias and the Chairman, Manoj Badale. Who is already regretting throwing his boots in I suspect. Chris has my deep gratitude for being such a guiding light in ensuring that the programmes on the ground in South Asia have been delivered with impact. And I cannot begin to express adequate enough thanks to Manoj, without whom, quite simply, the British Asian Trust would have remained a fairly interesting idea and we would not be here today celebrating its success. Manoj has been the essential force behind the Trust, helping to set it up following the infamous flooded cricket match in Glasgow between India and Pakistan and developing it to the extent that it has raised £22 million in the last year alone! I am truly grateful for his herculean efforts, and it was reallywonderful to hear his daughter performing just before we walked in…
I am also very pleased, ladies and gentleman, to announce that the new Chair of Trustees for the organization is none other than Lord Jitesh Gadhia. Jitesh – you have very, very large shoes to fill and I am greatly looking forward to working with you. I would also like to acknowledge the British Asian Trust team which labours tirelessly to do all the necessary work and I am immensely grateful for the leadership provided by Richard Hawkes and Hitan Mehta.
And finally, ladies and gentleman. The future of South Asia truly depends on the children and young people of the region. I am really so proud that there are so many of us with numerous intimate and family connections to South Asia who want to support them as they rebuild their lives in the face of this ghastly pandemic. Everything that the British Asian Trust does, and all that you are doing this evening, is designed to help those in need in the region. I owe a very great deal to the Trustees, Fellows, Advisors, Founders Circle members and so many of you for making not only an evening like this possible, but also for continuing to support the Trust and its work at this most challenging of times.