US$1m raised for HIV/Aids children as charities join forces

The partnership between the Al Jalila Foundation and Sentebale, a charity set up by the prince and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, is the first internationally for the foundation.

Britain’s Prince Harry gives a speech at the Sentebale 'Forget Me Not' dinner in Dubai. Chris Jackson / Getty Images
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DUBAI // More than US$1 million has been raised at a gala dinner to help build a centre for children dealing with HIV and Aids in Lesotho.

Britain’s Prince Harry gave a speech at the fundraiser on Monday night that also announced a partnership between the Al Jalila Foundation and Sentebale, a charity set up by the prince and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho.

It is the first international partnership for Al Jalila Foundation, which is a global philanthropic organisation established in November last year by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and it aims to support the most vulnerable children in the southern African country.

The purpose-built Mamohato Children’s Centre of Excellence will enable Sentebale to reach four times as many HIV-positive children each year through the Mamohato Network Clubs and Camps Programme.

The programme addresses the gap in HIV/Aids education and provides emotional and psychological support for affected children in Lesotho.

Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso, along with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum attended the dinner, at the JW Marriott Marquis in Downtown Dubai, which offered guests a three-course dinner followed by an auction and performance from English soul singer Joss Stone.

“Sentebale means ‘don’t forget me’ in the Lesotho language,” said Philip Green, the charity’s chairman.

“Prince Harry went there on his gap year after university several years ago and just felt convinced that he had to do something to help the disadvantaged young people. And he met Prince Seeiso, who is the brother of the king, who had also lost his mother.

“The primary focus of Sentebale is providing psycho-social support for children who are on ARVs [anti-retroviral drugs] who have HIV/Aids. We run camps to help them cope with the situation they find themselves in.

“Last night was about raising money and awareness, of a project to build the first permanent camp in the world to provide this psycho-social support.

“We raised in excess of US$1 million [Dh3.7m] but, more important than the money, was launching our relationship with Al Jalila.”

Raja Easa Al Gurg, the chairwoman of the board of trustees at Al Jalila Foundation, said the partnership now puts the foundation in the international spotlight.

“Al Jalila depends on three pillars: education, medical treatment and research and development in medicine,” she said.

“When Sentebale approached us to build a partnership with it, we felt that we were in the same boat and we were working towards the same target.

“Monday night was the first step for Al Jalila to really bind with an international, well-known foundation like Sentebale. Hopefully, from here, we will be studying and visiting the country and seeing what programmes are there in the very near future and deciding how we are going to go about it.”

Ms Al Gurg said the fundraiser generated a good response from the foundation’s board of trustees and guests, both Emirati and expatriate, at the dinner.

The project to build the children’s centre had already collected £1.2m (Dh7.1m) of the £2.2m needed before the gala dinner.

Building work will begin in February next year. It is hoped it will be completed by early 2015.

Cathy Ferrier, chief executive at Sentebale, said: “The camp will accommodate 96 children per week and will do 15 weeks of camp, so that’s about 1,500 children that we will help per year.

“We also have network clubs in the clinics all around the country that is, at the moment, reaching 1,500 children but we hope to expand that to reach 5,000 to 6,000 children.”

Sentebale then plans to expand to other African countries in five years, once a successful model has been established in Lesotho.

The country, which is landlocked and completely surrounded by South Africa, has almost 500,000 orphaned children in a population of about 1.8 million, said Ms Ferrier. These figures are a result of HIV/Aids.

“There are a lot of synergies between the two foundations,” said Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, chief executive of Al Jalila Foundation. “They are working at improving the lives of children with HIV and we, at Al Jalila, have our mission that we transform the lives of patients. So it make lots of sense to partner with them.”