Lord Noon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I must say I’m enormously grateful to Rehana just now for saying everything that needs to be said. It doesn’t need me anymore. You can understand perhaps why I can try and jump up and down and talk about the Trust and what it tries to do but I promise you, as you’ve just heard, that it’s actually the people who have benefitted from what we try to do, with all the wonderful staff that I’m lucky enough to have, who are the real examples of just what a difference can be made in turning people’s lives around.
I thought it was incredibly courageous of Rehana to stand here and talk to all of you about the incredible challenges she’s faced in her life. To speak in such an incredibly articulate way is, I hope you will understand, just an example of what you can do by giving people self-esteem and self confidence. Suddenly all sorts of opportunities and possibilities open up and they can develop their own potential. So perhaps you can understand just how proud it makes me feel, with so many people like Rehana out there who’ve had all sorts of opportunities that they can now pursue.
One of the great joys for me now, as I’m getting older and older, is to bump into people who tell me that they were first started by the Trust. For instance, the other day I went to a performance of Shrek the musical. I met the man who played the part of Shrek, who was dressed in some incredible green sort of plastic suit. He muttered in my ear before he went on stage that we had started him off with my Prince’s Trust twenty years ago or whatever it was, and helped him to get to drama college. That made my whole week I can assure you. The other day when I was in Wales, I met a girl age 26 who told me (she’s an ambassador for my Trust) we’d started her off in business, which was marvellous. But what made my day was to discover that her mother had been started off in business by us twenty-five years before. Apart from making me feel unbelievably old it certainly raised my spirits and there are people all over the place now who are contributing an enormous amount as a result of the kind of support we can offer them. It’s all to do with self-esteem. So many people are unable to have it because of the conditions and circumstances that life unfortunately has thrown up for them.
So, as you can imagine, I am enormously grateful not only to all those remarkable people who work for my Trust, who of course are the people who manage to do this. They help motivate. They help get people over the huge complications they have in their lives and also all those who make it possible through their kindness and generosity. People like yourselves, people like Lord Noon who has been a wonderful supporter of my Trust for twenty years now. We rely on people like that who see the point of what we’re trying to do.
I remember ten years ago now I went to visit one of his factories, in fact I opened it. I’ve never forgotten going around and everywhere I looked there were vast packing cases of coriander and cumin and turmeric and garam masala and all sorts of things all being poured into enormous vats with people stirring these things and ending up as remarkable ready-made meals that are practically sold in every supermarket you can think of. All unbelievably hygienically prepared and done to a remarkable standard. Now of course it’s part of Kerry Foods and I’m enormously grateful to Kerry Foods for their extraordinary help in supporting this dinner this evening.
As you can imagine I’m hugely grateful to all these young ambassadors, all the people we’ve now recruited whose lives have been turned around, who come back and help other young people because they are absolutely crucial to all this.
So I started The Prince’s Trust back in 1976, can you believe it! It’s helped now over 650,000 young people to get their lives on track. We will help 50,000 young people this year alone and that again, I hope you will feel, is a remarkable example of what you can do partly through providing people for instance with loans with low rates of interest, just to start them off. That means that very often they can go on to do great things.
Interestingly, six per cent of the young people The Prince’s Trust works with are British Asian. I’m particularly conscious that young British Asians have some of the highest levels of disadvantage in the country and my Trust is constantly striving to change this. But, by contrast of your supporters, only four per cent of my Prince’s Trust individual patrons are actually British Asian. So it obviously would be tremendously helpful if there were more successful role models such as many of you here tonight, if you were able to find ways of supporting The Prince’s Trust and those members of the British Asian community who need that particular help.
Now I know many of you may be interested in the possibility of supporting the work of this Trust, which only operates here in the United Kingdom. Maybe there are some of you here who might possibly want to support charitable initiatives in South Asia. So I’m delighted to be able to tell you that you’re not off the hook quite yet because there is my British Asian Trust, which I started some years ago, which is there again to do similar kind of work in all sorts of different fields throughout Asia. So I founded the British Asian Trust in 2007 and to date we’ve been able to assist over 350,000 people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to improve their lives. The British Asian Trust invests donor funds from individuals and corporate institutions in high-impact charities in South Asia, helping them to scale-up in order to achieve more. I do know that many donors in the United Kingdom sometimes worry about funding projects overseas and I would just like to reassure you that the British Asian Trust puts funds into organisations after rigorous due diligence. This as you can imagine is of enormous importance. The British Asian Trust funds organisations that fulfil unmet needs in the areas of health, education and livelihoods. It’s currently the only organisation in the United Kingdom working specifically in this cross-border way and it’s led by members of the Diaspora.
One great example of the British Asian Trust’s work has been the support we’ve been able to give to a splendid project called Umeed, or ‘Hope’, run by an organisation called Saath in Gujarat, India. This programme addresses the critical issue of youth unemployment, an issue that has been of concern to me both in the United Kingdom and around the world for the last 35 years, and the programme was established to help residents of the slums improve their employment prospects by providing them with an opportunity to learn life skills, technical skills and basic English. Critically, after the students finish their courses, the programme also helps them gain access to sustainable sources of employment in high growth service centres. Most jobs are at entry level in the sectors of science and technology finance, marketing, health and homecare services, communication and hospitality services. Approximately forty per cent of the participants are girls and, in just six months, seven thousand young people have been trained with a placement rate of seventy-seven per cent. That is actually pretty remarkable when you think about it. So not only does this programme make a significant difference to the lives of the young people by helping them realise their full potential. It also helps transform the lives of those around them, which revitalises local communities.
So, our guiding principle is always to try to find the unmet needs, the areas that others are unable or unwilling to venture into. In Pakistan the developments in literacy that my Trust supports help to improve the state of education for disadvantaged girls in many of Pakistan’s mainly rural areas. At each of its schools the organisation focuses on infrastructure, teacher development, curriculum development, access to technology for students and the establishment of libraries. The great strength of the project seems to me, at any rate, the way in which it trains future trainers, developing skills and building capacity to the point where individual skills can be handed over to the community who then run the schools themselves.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve just given you a very small snapshot of what we tried to do with my British Asian Trust and I hope you realise that there is an enormous amount we can do in different areas throughout South-East Asia to help various people to develop their talents and their potential. I hope you will feel that this is something that could give you as much reward and as much pride as it does me. But thank you, all of you, for taking the trouble to be here this evening. Many of you come from a long way away and I could not be more grateful to you for taking such an interest and providing such support.