Written by Craig Owen, WCVA International Programme Manager / Wales Africa Community Links
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate and figurehead of the anti-apartheid movement, made a historic visit to Wales on 24th and 25th October to recognise the achievements and meet volunteers and organisations from across the Wales for Africa movement.
After a fundraising dinner in Cardiff’s City Hall for ‘Undeb Africa’, Desmond Tutu - accompanied by First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones AM - spent the day visiting a school linked with Lesotho, a hospital linked with Uganda, and a community linked with his home of Cape Town in South Africa. Following a celebration event in the Rhondda, Tutu finished his tour with addresses to the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and to the Welsh Government - whose ‘Wales for Africa’ scheme has been supporting these outward-looking civil society initiatives.
Inspiration became his trademark as Tutu thrilled young people, community groups and volunteers from all over Wales - and shared the inspiring spirit of ‘Ubuntu,’ the African philosophy that underpinned Tutu’s peace and reconciliation process in post-apartheid South Africa. Resonating strongly with ‘Wales for Africa’, which has a focus on mutual benefit, Ubuntu encourages people to work together across divides and focus on their common humanity. The Tutu Foundation and Life for African Mothers led a ‘Conversation for Change’ workshop at Cardiff’s Temple of Peace, encouraging 25 participants to become Wales’ very own Ubuntu ‘change makers’.
Following his visit to Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr in North Cardiff, who are linked with Moshoeshie II High School in Lesotho through Welsh charity Dolen Cymru, pupil Angharad Butler-Rees said – “He came into the school hall and made the most brilliant speech. He told us we should go out there, we have the ability as young people to inspire in the next century - and to Make Poverty History.” Fellow student Sian Owen added – “It inspired me a lot to be a better person. His visit will make our bonds with Lesotho a lot stronger.”
The Archbishop thanked people for forging exchanges with the developing world, and met teenagers from the Rhondda charity Valley’s Kids, who are travelling out to their partner community in South Africa at the end of October. Supported through WCVA’s Wales Africa Community Links programme, Penygraig and Langa attained a UN Gold Star Award in July 2012 in recognition of how their link has contributed to the development of youth and equality within each others’ communities.
One young participant said, “It’s changed my life, I’ve met so many people through the project. To have somebody of his calibre come to our little valley in South Wales and then watch us perform, it’s just fantastic.” Margaret Jervis, founder of Valley’s Kids was equally enthusiastic: “He’s so small, but such a huge person! To have him here is the dream of a lifetime. It’s wonderful... really amazing.”
Desmond Tutu and Carwyn Jones addressed over 100 volunteers from across the Wales for Africa movement at a special celebration event in Penygraig, where Tutu spoke of his deep admiration. “It is amazing that a small part of the world such as Wales should have this Wales for Africa programme, where they are doing outstanding work in Uganda, in Lesotho, in South Africa... all across Africa.”
Education Minister and AM for the Rhondda, Leighton Andrews said, “It is a real honour for Wales to host Archbishop Tutu. His visit to Wales and the strong positive messages he brings with him will, I hope, be hugely motivational to our young people, encouraging them to work together to create an equitable and environmentally sustainable Wales and extend that influence around the world.”
Visiting the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Desmond Tutu met NHS Wales for Africa Health Links, and rode on a motorbike ambulance destined for Pontypridd’s partner community of Mbale in Uganda through the WCVA-supported PONT-Mbale Community Link. His visit coincided with the announcement of a successful £250k grant to a consortium of 4 Welsh charities (PONT, Care for Uganda, Vale for Africa and the Gulu Mission Initiative) to develop integrated community-based primary care in 3 regions of Uganda, funded by DfID the UK Dept for International Development's Health Partnerships Scheme.
Desmond Tutu said, “I think your Wales for Africa programme is fantastic, and it’s helping those parts of the world try and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (for poverty reduction). Whether you achieve all of these, what’s important is the child who’s alive in Uganda, who almost certainly would not be if your motorbike ambulance wasn’t around to help.”
"I want to urge you - go on dreaming. Go on dreaming this fantastic kind of world that God has sought to have. A world where war isn't normal. We spend billions when a very, very small fraction of the budgets that we spend on what we call defence - just a minute fraction - could ensure that children everywhere could have clean water to drink and a decent home and adequate healthcare, and good education.”
Introducing the Archbishop, First Minister Carwyn Jones referred to Martin Luther King's famous 1963 speech ‘I Have A Dream’ – and how it had taken another 30 years for the message to reach South Africa.
"In Wales we have a proud record of opposing Apartheid. I remember in the 1980s when I was a student taking part in the protests all over Wales in the anti-Apartheid movements. But for all that we did, we didn't have to confront Apartheid on a daily basis. We didn't have to run the risk of imprisonment or worse, because of opposition to such an inhuman system."
In his address at City Hall – a fundraiser for Undeb Africa, 3 Wales Africa Link charities Positive Women, New Direction for Congo and African Mothers Foundation International, attended by over 300 people - Desmond Tutu particularly thanked Wales for helping to free South Africa from Apartheid.
“Wales played a very, very important part in the Anti-Apartheid movement. And I want to especially convey a little something for that... Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
"Like Martin Luther King, I too have a dream. God says that one day my children will wake up and realise that they are members of one family. The human family. That they will know that these others are in fact my brothers and sisters.”
He added: “But don’t stop! Remember, we’ve been free for only 18 years. We have a long way to go... but we will fulfil our potential.”
Asked why he felt the Wales for Africa programme to be so powerful, Desmond Tutu responded:
“People in Wales have big hearts. They belong in a small country but, oh man, they really have the kick of a mule! One is just thrilled.”
In his characteristic sparkling humour, he added, “You know, We have a hotline to heaven... and I’ve just received a call from headquarters to say you don’t know how thrilled He is with you... you have put a smile on God’s face!”