Diamonds billionaire Graff opens Leadership Centre in Lesotho ‘to give something back’
Laurence Graff, society jeweller and one of Britain's richest men, is returning some of his wealth to one of the diamond supplying countries that helped create his fortune by establishing a Leadership Centre in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
“We would like to give something back to the continent which gives us our remarkable diamonds,” says Graff, who grew up in the East End of London, before setting up two jewellery retail shops in Hatton Garden and founding Graff Diamonds. “There is such appalling poverty and hunger in Southern Africa, yet with more help from donations the situation will begin to improve. I hope that through the first Graff Leadership Centre we shall give Lesotho’s children opportunities to learn and acquire skills which they would use to improve their situation and the future of this beautiful Kingdom,” he adds.
The Centre was opened in March at a ceremony attended by His Majesty King Letsie III and Graff. It provides a library and training facilities for children and adults and runs a variety of programmes, including pre-employment skills and a leadership programme for girls.
There are literacy and reading sessions for pre-school children and after-school classes for primary school children. The Centre also runs programmes specifically aimed at grandmothers, many of whom have not only have seen their children die from HIV/Aids, but are now faced with bringing up as many as ten orphans.
The Canadian based Help Lesotho charity, which has much experience of working in Lesotho, is providing practical support to the Centre which is located just outside Hlotse, a market town on the Hlotse River near the South African border.
Graff’s charity the For Africa’s Children Every Time Foundation (FACET) set up the Centre and works as a ‘fund of funds’ to raise money for the education, health and wellbeing of the children of Africa. Graff launched the FACET Foundation with a $1m (£650,000) donation and continues to provide financial support.
Graff has organised fundraising events like an art auction at Christie’s in October last year. That featured donated work from the likes of Damien Hirst, Raqib Shaw and Marc Quinn, and raised over £760,000.
The tiny mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, completely landlocked inside South Africa, has the world’s third highest incidence of HIV/AIDS. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, 63% of its population is aged under 24 and life expectancy is just 37 years. In parts of Lesotho, up to 40% of children are orphaned.