Speech: Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography

Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)
Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)

“I first met the Prince in 1994 [in relation to] Earth Focus Magazine, … from then, I was always amazed at his [Prince Sadruddin’s] great respect for the young, he said, “we must empower young people and help them to be heard”, he supported our activities with Earth Focus and was always enthusiastic.

 

… Perhaps the world could be a different place, for all of us now if only he had been listened to and allowed to act, take over the United Nations for example, he predicted where humanity is now and was not heard, the truth hurts and too many people have replaced responsible actions with greed and egoism. Let us hope that this book will give food -for-thought to many, especially young people worldwide and each of us can do an action that when brought together will make a true difference.”

 

– Nicola Spafford Furey

Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation

 

Ismailimail is grateful to Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation for providing us permission to share the video of her remarks.

Thursday 20 April 2017, Palais des Nations Library

Your Excellencies, Mr High Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen:

When Princess Catherine Aga Khan gave me a copy of a children’s book – “The Three Little Fox Cubs”, written, in three languages by Diana Miserez with her daughter, Claudia, who did the illustrations, and dedicated to the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. I immediately ordered from her, eight copies of the book for my family and grandchildren.  Diana delivered them to the prince’s town offices.   She told me of her experiences, during her remarkable career, that involved working with Prince Sadruddin and how she had spoken with him about a biography when he was alive, he had told her that he did not want a biography before he was seventy years old.

Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)
Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)

I became involved with the Bellerive Foundation as a volunteer with the Earth Focus publication.  I was, at that time, very involved with the country of Belize and visiting schools in and around Geneva to raise awareness to the Rainforest and the Programme for Belize, to save half a million acres of rainforest in that small and beautiful country.  I often had the opportunity of speaking in schools and after arranging a visit to Belize for the teacher David Batten and his family I was invited to a role-playing debate with his class of twelve year olds, on the rainforest, they were dressed up for the event as indigenous people, environmentalists, miners and dam builders and the young man in a suit and tie with a big briefcase who took out a paper and said, “I’m from the World Bank and I have the cheque”.  Well, after much discussion, the decision was made – no thank you we keep our rainforest pristine.  The other guests were Barry Gilbert-Miguet from the Bellerive Fondation, Mr. David Pitt with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and several parents.   The students then wanted a newspaper, Barry approached the Prince and David got behind his computer and off it went – Earth Focus Magazine written ‘by young people for young people of all ages’ .  It became a glossy magazine and, thanks to the understanding and support of the Prince was published in 36 issues, shared worldwide.

I had the honour of meeting the Prince because of Earth Focus, as a child I had seen his Father at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and at Windsor Great Park when he came to the polo match with the Queen after the races at Ascot, he was an impressive figure you do not forget.  I first met the Prince in1994 when I introduced, Mr. Martin Gordon who became the publisher for the Earth Focus Magazine, from then on I was always amazed at his great respect for the young, he said, “we must empower young people and help them to be heard”, he supported our activities with Earth Focus and was always enthusiastic.  I remember an event in Geneva, the Prince was there as the students were arriving, on seeing five young Africans arrive he immediately went up to them, shaking their hands and making them feel at ease, then as he spoke he discovered there were several young Ismailis in the group and the conversation turned to how difficult it was to be an Ismaili, how many responsibilities there were to fulfil, all the students were fascinated.  He had such an art of making people feel at ease and valued. The Prince looked at the world holistically, in our specialised society, sadly, too many people do not have this gift.  When I shared with him the project of building a Buddhist centre in Geneva he said I must keep him informed, sadly he departed before the Centre was finished.   He was the person who invited the Dalai Lama to Geneva when so many people enjoyed the gathering behind the Perle du Lac and the inter-faith ceremony in the Cathedral.

The Policing the Global Economy Conference was another remarkable feat when we all experienced the visionary and humanitarian qualities of the Chairman and his chosen panel that included many true activists.

As the Earth Focus Magazine developed I realised, as I visited schools, how little the students knew of what happened in their international City, if it is not in the curriculum it is not taught.  So, with the Earth Focus team and the help of the lovely Susanna Trachea, who was bravely running Alp Action, we arranged some more role-playing debates, on mountains, water, human rights, rights for the environment, the students were wonderful and delighted to play the roles of government officials, one debate even finished with a coup d’état when the Prime Minister told the President that he was going to take over the government because he, the President, did not know what he was doing!  Thanks to the Prince these young people had memorable experiences and I know some who have continued their careers in humanitarian or environmental actions.

I was working at the Foundation when the Prince left us and so I offered to organise and archive the cupboards and under-eave spaces that were full of the long and amazing history from the time of the Bellerive Group and before.

Following the activities and achievements of Prince Sadruddin, sorting the photographs, following the projects, reading the correspondence, the speeches and thus understanding the great loss that our World, in so much need of help, had just suffered, made me want to see this knowledge shared and respected.  I was glad when all was packed into boxes and taken off to be stored by the Aga Khan Foundation but knew that I was not capable to see how this amazing man’s humanitarian and visionary feelings and actions could be shared.

An album of photographs of Prince Sadruddin’s whole and very varied life. including quotations and anecdotes from his or others’ speeches was put together, with which I was quite involved, but that could not explain to the World the comprehension, vision and feeling of such a wise man. So when Diana spoke of her ardent wish that a biography be written, but made it clear that she felt quite unequal to the task of attempting it herself, I believed – and I told her – that her experience, knowledge and writing ability would surely suffice to report and explain the whole incredible history of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan.   She needed a lot of convincing! But I didn’t give up, and here we have this book, in both French and English, that will bring amazement and admiration to many and I hope encourage actions that should have been taken when first put on the table and shared.

Perhaps the world could be a different place, for all of us now if only he had been listened to and allowed to act, take over the United Nations for example, he predicted where humanity is now and was not heard, the truth hurts and too many people have replaced responsible actions with greed and egoism. Let us hope that this book will give food -for-thought to many, especially young people worldwide and each of us can do an action that when brought together will make a true difference.

The Earth Focus Foundation is working hard to continue bringing knowledge, sharing, experience and tools for action to ‘young people of all ages’, thus building on the history and respect that Prince Sadruddin deserves.

Thank you.

 

About Nicola Spafford Furey

Vice-President of the Earth Focus Foundation

Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice-President of the Earth Focus Foundation (Image credit: Nicola Spafford Furey)
Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice-President of the Earth Focus Foundation (Image credit: Nicola Spafford Furey)

With a leading Canadian forester for her Grandfather, the person who was the first to introduce re-afforestation in Quebec, Nicola has always been motivated, active and close to Nature.  Born in Oxford and lived in the countryside nearby.

She promoted the Programme for Belize in the schools in Geneva and, half a million acres of rainforest have been protected in perpetuity for the Belizean people.

With diplomatic and business experience in Geneva she has been involved with Earth Focus since its conception in 1992.  Her great admiration for the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who used to say “we must empower young people and help them to be heard” has been a guiding factor in her dedication to the Earth Focus Foundation, raising awareness to sustainable development and all it involves for “young people of all ages”, as a Mother of four and now with four grandchildren these feelings become more and more strong.  The Earth Focus magazine was printed in thirty-six copies, articles written by students and professionals, many role-playing debates and conferences have encouraged many young people to dedicate their lives to the subjects discussed and we all continue believing that raising awareness to sustainability with learning and action is vital for now, the future and for all.

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Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali


 

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