Prince Harry has invited a choir from Lesotho in Africa to perform alongside supergroup Coldplay at his Sentebale charity concert at Kensington Palace on Tuesday 28 June.
Last week six boys and six girls aged 7-19 arrived from southern Africa in London. They flew from a country with a population of just 2 million to join a bill headlined by a band whose twitter followers top 7 million. It is the furthest any have ever travelled from home. Their flights were supported by Avios travel rewards which is also arranging a sight-seeing tour of the UK capital.
Among the 12-strong Basotho Youth Choir is 16-year-old Relebohile ‘Mutsu’ Potsane. He was just four when Prince Harry first met him during his 2004 gap year visit to the country where one in three children are orphans, only one in five have access to primary school education and more than half the population lives in poverty. Prince Harry founded Sentebale – ‘forget me not’ – in 2006 with Prince Seeiso, who will also be at the concert, to help young people affected by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
The choir members have all been supported by Sentebale’s Secondary School Bursaries programme – which covers the cost of school fees, uniform and books for some of Lesotho’s most disadvantaged children without the family structures to care for them – and Care for Vulnerable Children Programme which enables families and communities to provide care, health and education for those most in need.
Music and singing is at the heart of Basotho culture and before arriving in London the choir has spent time rehearsing at Sentebale’s ‘Mamohato Children’s Centre. Its opening in November 2015 was the last time Prince Harry saw Mutsu before they were reunited today in Croydon. The choir was busy rehearsing with Grammy and BRIT Award singer Joss Stone, who visited Lesotho in her role as Sentebale ambassador in 2014, when Prince Harry made a surprise appearance.
Sentebale today revealed that Stone and Sentebale’s first appointed Ambassador, Argentine high-goal polo player, Nacho Figueras have been added to the concert line-up, and that British journalist and novelist Tom Bradby will MC. They join British soul singer songwriter Laura Mvula, African-Norwegian duo Nico and Vinz and BRIT Award-nominated spoken word artist and Sentebale ambassador George Mpanga, aka George the Poet, who visited Lesotho in 2015 for the opening of the Mamohato Children’s Centre. In addition, up-and-coming classical-crossover soprano Alicia Lowes will provide pre-concert entertainment as guests arrive.
Despite progress to reduce the number of new HIV infections globally over the past 20 years and ensure those living with HIV access treatment, HIV is still the number one cause of death in 10-19 year olds in Africa. Lesotho has the world’s second highest HIV infection rate and of 21,000 young people aged 10-19 living with HIV just 30 per cent access treatment. Stigma is the biggest barrier to youth care and Sentebale hopes its charity concert – the first open-air pop concert on the East Lawn – will raise vital funds and awareness. The 3,000 tickets sold-out in less than an hour in May.
Cathy Ferrier, CEO of Sentebale, said: “The world has committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 but ignorance and misunderstanding continues to undermine those efforts. Stigma, discrimination and lack of education about HIV/AIDS means young people in Africa are increasingly dying when AIDS-related deaths are in decline for all other age groups. Together we have an opportunity to end an epidemic that has defined public health for a generation but it won’t go away unless we act now. The Sentebale concert is all about bringing people together to make a difference.”
Sentebale carries out HIV testing and counselling to ensure the other 70 per cent of 10-19 year olds in Lesotho living with HIV access treatment. The charity also provides care and education to orphans, children with disabilities and young shepherds or ‘herd boys’, and last year delivered over 60,000 hours of psychosocial support. Its concert is sponsored and supported by The Handa Foundation, Quintessentially Foundation, Huntswood, Avios, Getty Images, The&Partnership and The BRIT School.
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