Distiguished Parishiners of St. Bridget’s Church and Friends,
It is my honour to be with you today to share a Youth –led iniative between the Monaco Boys Choir and young people in a small village named Maubara in Timor-Leste.
I am certain you have many questions. Where is Timor-Leste?
How did Monaco become involved in a country on the other side of the planet?
And , what is the linkage to St. Bridget’s very own Princess Grace Kelly? I will attempt to answer these questions through slide-show images that illustrate a country with many needs, yet with many successes,
because of a living legacy that began with Princess Grace, was renewed by H.S.H. Prince Albert II, and is being continued by the Monaco Boys Choir, thanks to Maestro Pierre Debat.
So Where is Timor-Leste?
Timor-Leste is in South East Asia, just north of Australia and east of Indonesia. It’s the 21st Century’s newest democratic nation, but it has a difficult history. Timor-Leste was colonized, decolonized, invaded, occupied, supressed and nearly destroyed . By the time the United Nations intervened in 1999, 1/3 of the population was killed and 80% of the nation’s infrastructure was demolished. Despite much suffering, the Timorese people are couragous and forgiving – perhaps due to 98% of the population being Catholic- the role of the Church is evidenced in daily life. Most Timorese earn less than 1 dollar per day and youth make up nearly 60% of the population. They are in dire need of youth centers to go to to engage in positive activity.
When I arrived in Timor-Leste in 2002, I was impressed that, despite so much visible destruction and poverty, the will and the hope of the people was unlike anything I had seen before…. inspiring me to create The Foundation for Post Conflict Development, (FPCD). Our mission is simple- through Education, Action, and Development we work to assist these post conflict countries, like Timor-Leste, on their road to recovery. And in order to do so, I sought the assistance of the only person who I thought could help – H.S.H. Prince Albert II.
And it worked! The attention of the Philanthropic Prince was turned to an often forgotten corner of South East Asia. The FPCD became the bridge between one of the richest countries in the north to one of the poorest countries in the south. Today, all Monaco-Timor projects tackle the root causes of poverty. For example, Monaco is the catalyst for changing the birthing culture of Timor-Leste. Through the creation of The Prince Rainier III Maternity Clinicwe have had over 1,000 healthy births - whereby the first boy is named after his kind
benefactor: “Albert”. And I am pleased to inform that not a single mother has perished in our Clinic. The Maternity Clinic was a pilot project, and because of its success - it is now the model used in Timor- Leste’s national development plan.
Prince Albert also directed His Government to support a 5 year Reforestation and Family Income Project that creates kitchen gardens and fish ponds, creating healthier lives for the nation’s youth.
Princess Grace of Monaco
In 2008, Prince Albert II made an historic visit to Timor- Leste. It was in the midst of our preparations for this visit that we discovered a divine fact: before Prince Albert ever became involved in Timor, his mother, Prince Grace, visited the Timorese refugee camps in Val de Jamor, Portugal in 1979. Surviving refugees recall that the visit of the Beloved Princess Grace served as a source of comfort and hope. With Her humanitarian touch, the Princess became a part of Timor-Leste’s international solidarity movement. On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Visit of Princess Grace to the Refugee Camps, a special commemorative Princess Grace Medal Programme was announced, to be awarded to ten individuals per year, to the Timorese or Internationals who best represent the spirit of Princess Grace. Appropriately, The Princess Grace Medals bare the profile of both the Beloved Princess and her husband Prince Rainier III.
Prince Albert II’s Visit to Timor-Leste
Appropriate because it was on the 18-19 of April, the wedding anniversary of His parents, that Prince Albert chose to make his visit to Timor- Leste. Prince Albert met former refugees of the Val de Jamor Refugee Camp and inaugurated the Prince Rainier III Maternity Clinic. In 2009 we announced a new project- the creation of a matching Princess Grace Maternity Clinic in Oecussi, whereby we will break ground in August of this year.
Monaco has come nearly full circle in Timor-Leste. The memories of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace will breathe new life into a healthy generation of Timorese children. And through the Monaco Boys Choir Youth –Led initiative, the circle becomes complete.
Evolving Legacy -Youth helping Youth Youth composed a major aspect of Prince Albert’s visit to Timor-Leste. It was the youth who lined the streets, proudly in their school uniforms, waving Monaco and Timor-Leste flags. During this visit, the Prince also inaugurated the Becora Youth Center whereby He planted a symbolic tree with the Center’s Youth Leader.
It is perhaps these images, first seen during our joint presentation in Singapore last July on the Occasion of the Anniversary of the Ascension to the Throne of H.S.H Prince Albert II that inspired Maestro Pierre Debat and the Monaco Boys Choir to embark on a new youth-led project. Since last August, Mr. Debat and I worked hard on a concept that would bridge cultural divides, educate, create responsible citizenship and build upon the little known history between Monaco and Timor-leste. This concert is the culmination of those efforts.
When it comes to youth in Monaco, Timor or Philadephia, the challenges that interlink our common humanity are the same. Each Peitts Chanteur and each member of the Keystone State Boys Choir are filled with dreams and the desire to “make a difference”. Tonight is their chance to make an imortant difference to a child in Timor.
Because at the end of the day, we all want our children to be healthy, safe, educated, and cared for. The Timorese children deserve to have this as well, but they need our help.
And that’s what the Maubara Youth Center is all about - A reminder that we are united through common threads of love, hope and respect and that YES we can make a difference, one community at a time.
Monaco’s combined efforts in Timor-Leste symbolize the evolution of a humanitarian legacy. The Monaco Boys Choir are following in the footsteps of their Beloved Prince. With this in mind, I would like to read to you a letter the Petits Chanteurs wrote earlier this year.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Pictured above: 19 April 2008, ( Left and Right) on the occasion of the official visit of Prince Albert II to Timor-Leste, Timorese Youth line the streets to catch a glimpse of the Prince.(Center) Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão watches as the Prince Rainier III Maternity Clinic is inaugurated by HSH Prince Albert II. Photo credits: Palace of Monaco.