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We were honoured to be invited by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry to Buckingham Palace for the launch of The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme last month. And yes, we did turn up in our shorts and flip flops, as well as give the Princes a pair each but we’re social entrepreneurs, so we’ll explain why in a minute.
We think the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme is a brilliant way of reaching out to young people who are helping themselves and their communities across the Commonwealth. So many young people are doing great things out there but not getting the support they need, or any recognition. This Programme seeks to do both these things. In year one 60 young people from across the Commonwealth will receive a tailored package of training, mentoring and networking as well as a one-week residential programme during which they will receive their Award – all designed to help them continue improving their lives and the lives of others. But to be in with a chance you have to nominate yourself or someone else by 10th October 2014.
It’s an incredible feeling to be involved in something like this, playing a supportive role in the search for amazing young people from all across the Commonwealth and having the Princes recognise our own hard work. We lost our parents when we were 16 and 14 in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 when we were travelling in Sri Lanka. We were determined to turn our experience into something positive and were inspired to build children’s homes in developing countries funded by our Gandy’s flip flop business based here in London.
To be recognised as shining examples of young community leaders by Royalty was over-whelming and will continue to add to our drive to achieve and succeed within our business and mission; Orphans for Orphans.
Ten per cent of all our profits go to the Gandy Foundation which supports children in need of basic essentials such as shelter, nutrition, medication and education. This is called the ‘Orphans for Orphans’ mission which is funding children’s homes in India and Sri Lanka.
Our dream has always been to open our first kids’ campus, in memory of our parents Kevin and Sandra Forkan, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the tsunami. We managed to do this in 2014 and have further opened more kids’ campus’ all across the world. We opened our second campus in Malawi in 2016, and have nearly completed two more campus’ in Nepal and Brazil, which are due to open later on this year.
The Duke of Cambridge empathised with our loss and could relate to what we’d been through. He said although he lost his mum at 15 there was always a silver lining. His said he had his own family now and that was his ‘silver lining’. He also told us that people who lose parents at a young age have to dust themselves off and carry on and he urged us to continue with our good work.
The Duke said you should always believe in yourself and don’t give up on your quest and that’s the message we would pass on to other young people. We really enjoy supporting young people and are delighted to be involved with this initiative as the well-being of young people is an issue that’s close to our hearts.