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Out of the mouths of babes hast thou ordained strength – Psalm 8:2
You know the symptoms. Your heart is racing. Your blood pressure is rising and your pupils dilating. Dry mouth, shaking hands and there’s a maddening, giveaway tremor in your voice.
Just about anyone who has had to address a public audience will recognise the symptoms of speech anxiety – or glossophobia to give the condition its technical name.
Down the years I have faced some tough audiences – big industry conferences, in-house workshops, buyer forums. But they don’t come much tougher or more daunting than a group of five to ten year-olds at our local school.
The occasion was an address to Montpelier Primary School (which my two youngest children, Ali and Samira, attend) to talk about travel retail’s Hand in Hand for Haiti project. Samira (below), aged 8 and a feisty wee character, is on the School Counsel and was keen to forge a relationship between Montpelier and the project’s school in Haiti, which is due to open in January.
Move over The Trinity Forum, TFWA conferences et al. These kids really know how to ask probing questions.
“Why is Haiti so poor?”
“How can it stop being poor?”
“Will the children pay to go to school? How can they afford to?”
“What will they study at school?”
“Why was there slavery in Haiti?”
And so on. And so on. Out of the mouths of children…
I am delighted to say that the end result is that Montpelier will become the first sister school of the Haiti institution. And to kick off that relationship, each class is having a coin collection for Hand in Hand for Haiti, with a nice prize going to the class that raises the most.
As reported, Hand in Hand Steering Committee Members Ed Brennan (DFS Group) and Olivier Bottrie (The Estée Lauder Companies) recently put a stake in the ground (below) to mark the beginning of the school development in the chosen location of Saint Marc.
Given the well-documented problems in turning donations into meaningful aid in Haiti, Hand in Hand for Haiti is fast turning into a role model of how to conduct reconstruction projects. The plans have been endorsed by the Haitian Minister of Education, Joel Desrosiers Jean-Pierre, and fully supported by the French Ambassador, Didier le Bret, who called the project ‘the most important investment in the field of education outside of [capital city] Port-au-Prince in the past 30 years’.
How good it is that our industry, travel retail, can create such momentum, while maintaining absolute transparency and accountability for funds raised. Including all those coins from a little school, thousands of miles away, called Montpelier.
That bad case of glossophobia was worth it.