Countess of Wessex gives touching speech to Queen as they celebrate Diamond Jubilee Trust

In celebration of the work performed by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, The Queen and The Countess of Wessex attended a reception at Buckingham Palace together yesterday evening.

Established in 2012, the Trust’s main objectives were to help decrease the number of avoidable blindness cases and to empower a new generation of leaders through The Queen’s Young Leaders programme.

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From its conception, the Trust was formed as a time-limited charitable foundation by Commonwealth Heads of Government and as such, will close in 2020. It is hoped that the next generation will carry on its purpose of enriching the lives of people all across the Commonwealth and to continue changing the lives of others with what they have been taught through the Trust.

To date, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust has helped to provide over 22 million individuals in Africa and the Pacific with the crucial antibiotics that are needed to combat the disease trachoma. Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection that causes blindness as well as being the leading preventable cause of blindness throughout the world.  Access to clean water and a sanitary environment are crucial components towards preventing this disease. If diagnosed in the early stages, antibiotics are the first course of treatment while later stages will require surgery.

Over 104,000 people afflicted with trachoma have been provided sight-saving surgery thanks to the Queen’s Trust and around 19,200 people have received treatment to combat loss of sight attributed to diabetes. With support from the Trust, Malawi and Vanuatu have overcome many obstacles and are now on track to to receiving certification from the World Health Organisation for eliminating trachoma in their countries.

In her capacity as Vice Patron of this worthwhile organisation, The Countess of Wessex visited India in April to witness firsthand the monumental strides that have been made due to the foundation’s programmes. Services in India have been established to provide screening and help treat premature babies who are at risk of developing Retinopathy of Prematurity. This disease causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina and can lead to loss of sight if left untreated.

Initially, there are no signs or symptoms, only an ophthalmologist exam can diagnose the condition and surgery is then needed.

The Countess of Wessex meets premature babies in Hyderabad. UK in India/GMB Akash/Panos Pictures

For over 20 years, Sophie has been leading the fight to curb blindness around the world. Vision is a cause dear to her heart as her daughter Lady Louise has suffered from an eye condition that caused her to have some difficulties with her sight while growing up.

Subsequently, Louise underwent two eye operations to correct her squint. This led to Her Majesty to ask Sophie personally to help lead the trust’s work-set up to commemorate The Queen’s 60 years as head of the Commonwealth.

To a crowd of over 200 assembled eye health professionals, front-line ophthalmologists, supporters, partners and staff, The Countess of Wessex shared some extremely heartfelt sentiments. In her speech, where she lovingly referred to Her Majesty as her dear mama, Sophie expressed: “I feel in a way that I have been your eyes, having travelled to Malawi, Bangladesh and India to see the work of the Trust first-hand, witnessing ambitious initiatives being carried out in Your Majesty’s name, and ensuring that the intended legacy would be real and long lasting.

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“I am very happy to say that Your Majesty’s honour has been more than upheld. The Trust has concentrated on tackling curable eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity and a particularly widespread and painful eye issue, blinding trachoma. This disease, which even warrants a mention in the Bible, has been one of the most prevalent and out of control eye conditions the world has known and now, across the Commonwealth and beyond it is on the run.”

Additionally, Sophie shared: “Mama, when I have returned from my travels, I have been so proud to share with you the work I have witnessed being carried out under the umbrella of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and the care of so many people working so hard to save and cure sight.

“Each time you have listened with interest and been eager to hear of how the work is going, and each time I have been stunned as you have shared with me your deep knowledge of each of these countries, not top level observations, but personal experience, demonstrating to me time and again the real affection that you have for all people of the Commonwealth and why that affection is so abundantly returned by them to you.”

The Countess of Wessex made a moving speech to ‘Mama’ – The Queen (Royal Family)

“On your 21st Birthday, while on a tour to South Africa, you made a promise to dedicate your life to the service of the Commonwealth. You have carried out this promise in so many ways ever since, but your Diamond Jubilee Trust has, I believe, allowed Your Majesty to demonstrate your dedication in a tangible and practical way, which has and is enriching the lives of people across the Commonwealth and will be felt by generations to come.”

Go here to watch the Countess’ full speech, which begins at 10.25. She speaks of her ‘mama’ around 18.25.

While chatting with guests at the reception, The Queen expressed that she found the achievements of the Trust to be amazing.

Her Majesty said: “When John (Sir John Major) talked to me about setting up the trust, I hadn’t realised how bad it (the issue of preventable blindness) was. And if anything it seems to be spreading. What it (the trust) has achieved is remarkable.”

Each year, 60 exceptional young people (one for every year the Queen had served as Head of the Commonwealth at the time of her Diamond Jubilee) are chosen to receive The Queen’s Young Leaders Award. So far, 240 recipients have been recognised for their tremendous work in helping to improve the lives of others.  It is hoped that they will put to good use the tools and knowledge that they were given and continue on with the extraordinary work initiated by the Trust, long after it ends.

The Diamond Jubilee Trust is due to wind down next year, having created an amazing and long-lasting legacy to celebrate The Queen and her jubilee.

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Alexandra Romanov Rodrigues Cuco Wed 30 October, 2019 - 9:57 pm



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