Kick AIDS, South Africa.
For the last twenty years since being founded by Brian May, Roger Taylor and their manager Jim Beach in memory of Freddie Mercury, the Mercury Phoenix Trust has raised over 15 million dollars in his name and funded charities from all over the world, at mostly grassroots level, to help these organisations fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
At the start of this global pandemic, it was widely believed that there would be a great need for hospices and help for People Living With AIDS (PLWA) and the Mercury Phoenix Trust together with other funders donated large sums to this end (One million pounds to the Terrence Higgins Trust).
However the team at the MPT began to realise it was prevention not cure where the trust could be most effective with its limited funds and for the last fourteen years, the MPT has concentrated almost exclusively on HIV/AIDS education and awareness projects around the world. The AIDS conference in Mexico in 2008 recognized that prevention at grassroots level plays a major role in reducing new HIV infections and AIDS related deaths.
Despite all the progress made, this is still essential work and let us not forget that each year sees a new generation of sexually active kids risk contracting AIDS through ignorance. There has been widespread controversy over the manner in which to tackle the virus with various church bodies promoting abstinence, whilst others believed in the promotion of condoms. Stigma and ignorance are still rife and there is still limited access to even basic health care in many rural areas.
Mobile Surgical Unit, Malawi
Promoting positive living/attitudes, the promotion of safe sexual practices, sexual and reproductive health and rights, the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, encouraging voluntary counseling and testing, gender rights and improving the care and support to PLWAs, and especially the empowerment of poor and marginalised children.These are some of the goals yet to be achieved.
The Mercury Phoenix Trust has given to individual projects run and overseen by many of the big charities but is most proud of the funding given to the small grassroots organisations, often just a band of women who have got together, having lost their fathers, husbands or sons and whom none of the big agencies could help because they were too little. Some, like TESO in Uganda and TAPWAK in Kenya have subsequently grown into major AIDS organisations influencing their government's policies on AIDS and for the MPT it is a privilege to have been associated with them in their early days.
Viswasanthi Educational Society in the
Red LightDistrict of Chilakalurpet, India
Prerana awareness poster, Nepal
The Mercury Phoenix Trust has funded such culturally diverse peoples, organisations, and NGO
as the Bambuti Pygmies in the equitorial Itari Forest of Congo / Uganda, a troupe of mime actors in New Guinea (theatre being the only method to cross over the 200 different dialects).
Sex and transport workers in India, the prostitutes and transvestites of the Brazilian Amazon delta or the highly successful Kick AIDS project in Africa targeting the young using football as their medium and the Torkor women in Lake Victoria, who finding that none of the education and awareness projects came to them because no one would travel to their islands by boat for fear of drowning, set up their own programme. The effect education and thus knowledge can have was demonstrated in Malawi, when it was realised that an age old sexual initiation tradition was drastically spreading the AIDS virus.
The numerous peer group education programmes in primary and secondary schools and colleges that the MPT has supported have had the added bonus of spreading knowledge into the wider community, as the children tell their parents about what they have learnt. Due to lack of funds, the MPT has only been able to fund a small percentage of the thousands of applications received over the years. So much need, so much heartache.
The MPT, following the UNAIDS initiative 'Action Framework' which addresses the issue of women, girls, gender equality and HIV, believes concentrating future funding on specific empowerment of women's projects, will help to reduce the spread of AIDS caused by the abuse and violence perpetrated on women, still rife in many parts of the world especially Asia and Africa. Widespread discrimination, injustice and brutality against women and girls and the persistent gender inequality and human rights violations that puts women and girls at greater risk and vulnerability to HIV is threatening the gains that have been made in preventing HIV transmission and increasing access to anti-retroviral treatment. Cultural change and empowerment of women is the goal.
Ben Elton and Brian May present a MPT certificate to the Dominion Theatre, London
for raising over £200,000.
Roger and Sarina Taylor at the Zamuxolo orphanage, South Africa.
Stop AIDS and love life, Ghana.
Torkor Canoe Fisherman, Ghana.
The Mercury Phoenix Trust has various fundraising programmes. An annual street collection in London for which volunteers are always welcome, Schools Will Rock You, which licenses schools and colleges to put on the West End show "We Will Rock You" with production back up and Mercury Phoenix Trust fundraising kits.
2010 saw the launch of Freddie For A Day and the initiation of what is hoped will become a worldwide movement. Spend a day dressed up as Freddie Mercury and get sponsorship from friends and colleagues. It's a crazy idea, enormous fun and hopefully a great fundraiser.
In 2011, the Freddie For A Day initiative was extended to charities, enabling them to use Freddie's name and image to organise their own local Freddie For A Day fundraising events and keep 100% of the money raised.
Find out more about the Mercury Phoenix Trust, the projects it supports and its fundraising initiatives at www.mercuryphoenixtrust.com.