“As I grew up in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, my late father was very conscious that my brother and I should, as much as possible, experience life in Lesotho just as our contemporaries did. Most children in Lesotho live in small villages or rural areas. My father did not want us to believe that we were any different from those children. Almost every school holiday he sent us out of town to Matsieng, our ancestral home.
In the hills I would go on horseback to my father’s cattle-post, tending his cattle, sheep, goats and horses. Sometimes I would live and work alongside the Basotho young men whose job it was to look after herds for weeks on end. Nevertheless it was not an entirely typical experience. The conditions at our cattle-posts are far better than many, and my father was very sensitive not to employ under-aged persons.
About a third of Lesotho’s young men are sent away by their parents every year to be herd boys – but often they are not young men at all, but boys as young as 10 years old.
It is the harsh socio-economic reality of life in Lesotho that forces families to send their sons away to work like this. They are sent to the remotest hill country where they endure extremely bleak conditions, living in primitive huts on their own. Unlike me, they aren’t able to go to school.
The herd boy tradition denies them any opportunity to enjoy their youth and curtails their prospects of overcoming the cycle of poverty they are trapped in.
I took Prince Harry to stay overnight in the mountains at one of our cattle-posts. From this mountain cattle-post the dream of Sentebale was born: to give the less privileged and often forgotten vulnerable children a chance of some schooling – and thus a ray of hope for a better future.
I know this will not be easy, nor will it happen overnight. We are committed for the very long term.
Lesotho is a small, impoverished country. Its problems have been made infinitely worse since I grew up because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It has been said that we, as a nation, are facing annihilation.
With this real possibility facing us I want to establish Sentebale as a vehicle that takes on the plight of the many marginalized vulnerable children of Lesotho. This must include not only children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS, but also the disabled, the traumatized and the abused. And especially the herd boys.
I hope this endeavour is, in some non-presumptuous way, honouring the efforts of my late Mother, and saying not only to Basotho people, but to all humanity, that we should not let ourselves forget who she was, what she did and achieved amongst her people. The mission is still to embark on that journey and continue the good fight.”