Ladies and Gentlemen, I must say it is a real pleasure to welcome you all here to Windsor Castle. I just wanted to say before anything else that some of you have been slightly surprised by the jacket that I am wearing this evening. Some of you seem to think that it is something to do with Valentine's Day! I promise you it is absolutely nothing to do with Valentine's Day. It is actually called the Windsor Coat, can you believe it, and it goes back to the days of my Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather King George III, who pinched the idea off Frederick The Great of Prussia, who used to dress his staff in this particular combination. My ancestor thought it was such a good idea that he adopted it, so it became known as the Windsor Coat and it is only worn here at Windsor. So I just wanted to clear up any suspicions that you may have in your mind!
The wonderful thing about this evening is that apart from the joy of welcoming so many of you who I think have been before to a British Asian Trust event, and for which I am enormously grateful, is that it does provide an opportunity to celebrate the incredible diversity of talent which makes up Britain’s Asian community and also, if I may say so, to thank everyone present for the many different ways in which you are supporting the work of my British Asian Trust.
Some of you may remember that the last time we all gathered here in the Waterloo Chamber was in 2007, to launch the British Asian Trust which I had then only just established. I think that I explained at the time that after years of travelling on Official Visits overseas to parts of the world like South Asia – a region which I have always thought incredibly special and important – I felt it was not enough just to see the difficult circumstances in which many people were living. I wanted to try in a small way, if possible, to offer some practical assistance. That was why I turned to a splendid group of people, ably led by the equally splendid Manoj Badale, to help identify the needs that there were and bring them together with people who were prepared to help.
I can only think that the way in which the whole idea has taken off – to my delight – reflects not only the marvellous generosity of so many of you, but also the deep historic links between the people of this country and of South Asia. Almost from the first contact, the relationship has flowed very much in both directions bringing, I have always thought, some remarkable benefits for all in areas as diverse as government and civil society, food, film and music and, of course, sport. You gave us curry; we gave you cricket. Fat lot of use that was at the end of the day! You gave us Ravi Bopara; we gave you railways. You gave us Bollywood, and we gave you bureaucracy. (In fact, it has been said that it may have been the British who gave India bureaucracy but it was India which perfected it!) Incidentally, on the subject of railways, I was fascinated to learn recently that the Indian national railway is one of only three institutions in the world that employs more people than the British National Health Service – the other two being Wal-Mart and the People’s Liberation Army of China!
What has been incredibly heartening, if I may say so, is the way that communities in this country have come together to support the work of my British Asian Trust. The concept of philanthropy is central to all the world’s great Faiths and cultures. The generous support of everyone in this room – and the wider communities you represent – is making a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged communities right across South Asia. For instance, we have already been able to help more than 350,000 people in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In all cases, what we are trying to give is the proverbial “hand up” rather than a “hand out”… The Trust tends to concentrate on helping to fulfil unmet needs or demonstrating scalable models in the areas of education, health and enterprise – and the feedback from all those involved is that we really need to concentrate on finding models that help people into work or empower people to stand on their own feet. In time, they can then act as “multipliers” by passing their skills and expertise on to others.
My British Asian Trust’s first decision was a big one – not to launch yet another charity but rather a grant-making Trust to accelerate the impact of existing local grass roots charities, in order to avoid at least some of the pitfalls which see more than ninety per cent of charities in South Asia disappearing in their first three years. I felt we could make the biggest difference by acting as an effective channel to existing organizations – as a guarantor of excellence, if you like. So our model is to find local grass roots organizations that already work and to supplement them with the financial and human resources to scale their impact by working with a company or a foundation. Our work with H.S.B.C. to scale up the Mann Deshi business school for rural women in India provides just one good example. Also in India, the Mumbai Mobile Crèches are a moving example of how we can make a very practical difference to the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The idea is simple but effective: instead of very young children being taken up onto scaffolding by parents with no access to childcare, these crèches sit at the foot of building sites, providing not only a safe environment for young children but one in which they can receive basic education. So the virtuous circle is completed by the employment which is created for pre-school teachers and carers.
In Pakistan, the Developments in Literacy programme is providing vital education to over 15,000 children, mostly girls. In Bangladesh, the Youth Enterprise Advice and Help Centre is working hand-in-hand with another of my Charities, Youth Business International, to nurture 150 potential young entrepreneurs in establishing their own businesses. Here again, the model is one which will be familiar to those who know something perhaps of my work through the Prince’s Trust over more than thirty-five years, bringing bright young people with innovative and entrepreneurial ideas together with some seed funding and – crucially – the services of an experienced business mentor who can hand-hold them through the first difficult start-up years.
In Sri Lanka we are involved in grass roots projects such as helping fishermen to purchase their boats to enable them to support themselves: it is a literal example of that old adage “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for life.” To help make all this possible, I was thrilled to learn that Lyca mobile – a U.K.-based mobile phone provider – has committed £1 million through their Foundation to be dispersed by my Trust to aid education and the building of livelihoods, and for that I am enormously grateful.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen I will end by saying that my British Asian Trust has not overlooked the needs of young people in this country either. A consortium of my Charities, including the British Asian Trust, has been working in Burnley. Hence, some of you asked this evening whether I support a British Football Club and I said “Yes – Burnley!”, and people have responded “Burnley?” Oh yes, because Burnley has been through some very challenging times and I’m trying to find ways of helping to regenerate and raise aspirations and self-esteem in that part of the world. My Charities have been working there together to demonstrate that an integrated approach can produce the best dividends.
So Ladies and Gentlemen thank you more than I can say for all of the interest you have shown, and the support that you provide, for my British Asian Trust. It is above all, and I think that this is important to remember, an investment in the future.