Ladies and Gentlemen,
I just wanted to say wanted an enormous pleasure it is to welcome you here this afternoon and to say how much I’ve enjoyed meeting, I hope, nearly everybody. I am so sorry to interrupt your conversations but, if I may, I did just want to say a few words about AMREF, whose quite remarkable achievements have brought us all together today.
I think many of you are long-term supporters of AMREF. Others maybe a little bit newer. Others may have stood still for long enough to find themselves being recruited by AMREF! For my own part, I first came into contact with the organization in, I have a ghastly feeling, something like 1971, when I was visiting Kenya with my sister. It’s probably one of the oldest charities that I have. I keep saying to AMREF, do they really want me to continue? I’m probably past my sell-by date!
Having been involved for 30 years or more I am enormously proud, if I may say so, of all that AMREF has achieved. During the time I have been involved I’ve watched AMREF grow in size, scope and impact, evolving from the Flying Doctors of East Africa into Africa's largest health development organization.
You will know better than me, Ladies and Gentlemen, that it is so often that one anecdote, that one personal testimony which can tell a much wider story about what an organization stands for and, crucially, the results it actually delivers. Back in 2007, my wife and I were attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda and while we were there I was able to visit a suburb of the capital, Kampala. The suburb was called Kawempe. I cannot describe to you the scale of need in that community. But inevitably I was particularly keen before I went out to Uganda for a number of my charities to work together to address some of the urgent and utterly compelling needs of that particular slum, in a more integrated and holistic way.
Three charities of whom I am Patron - AMREF, ActionAid and WaterAid - rose magnificently to the challenge. The AMREF part of the whole, if I can put it that way, was a project to help commercial sex workers break free from the poverty trap in which they were caught.
One of the beneficiaries I met was a splendid 25-year-old woman called Hamidah, who was forced into sex work when her parents tragically died. She first came to AMREF's attention when was seeking medical treatment after being physically abused by a client. AMREF supported her in basic and advanced tailoring training. Hamidah has set up her own business which designs and makes clothes and, can you believe it, is now herself training forty young women.
Quite apart from giving Hamidah skills and an income, AMREF has given her hope and restored her dignity. What is particularly marvellous about this project, if I may say so, is the way in which it integrates vocational training with healthcare and education.
And, in a community where good news is at something of a premium, I am delighted to say that the good news does not end there. From what I’m told, it seems that my visit was, in some small way, able to help draw public attention to these particular issues in Kawempe; perhaps even to begin the process of de-stigmatizing them so that they can be brought into the open, discussed and, crucially, acted upon rather than shut away in a box marked “too difficult” and simply ignored. I understand that the number of patients now visiting AMREF's clinic has tripled since my visit, as has the demand for training. And, in that short time, some 235 women have graduated, seventy per cent of whom have gained employment or initiated their own businesses.
I could, as you can imagine, go on about so many other projects all over Africa in which AMREF is involved. But you hardly need me to say that, in these difficult economic times, AMREF needs support more than ever before. It is through the marvellous generosity of people like yourselves that AMREF’s remarkable work can continue. For that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I really cannot thank you enough for your kindness, generosity and support.
Thank you very much.