Royal Asscher is launching a Sierra Leone focused charity project called, “Star of Africa,” which aims to improve infrastructure in Sierra Leone by creating funding for education and self sufficiency programs.
The project is named after the largest diamond ever found the 3105-ct. Star of Africa (Cullinan) diamond, cut by the Asscher family in 1908. However, this Star of Africa aims to highlight the fact that the true Star of Africa, it’s most precious resource, is its people, Royal Asscher said in a statement.
“The movie Blood Diamond highlighted to the public, conflict diamond trading by rebel factions during Sierra Leone’s civil war,” said Lita Asscher, sixth generation diamantaire. “Although Sierra Leone is now experiencing a period of peace time, the civilian population bears physical and emotional scars because of the atrocities committed during the war—which was partly funded by the illegal trade of diamonds for weapons. Though the war is now over, devastation still exists and the civilian population needs support in order to heal and break the poverty cycle.
“Royal Asscher stands squarely behind the Kimberly Process … However, this does not mean we should ignore the social and humanitarian crisis in Sierra Leone. We invite other ethical companies and consumers to stand beside us and offer support, be it financial or skill based, to these projects.”
The project’s launch event was held Thursday at Zereoue, a French African restaurant in New York City owned by former NFL pro Amos Zereoue.
“I am incredibly proud that Zereoue has been chosen to host this event,” said Zereoue, who was born in Ivory Coast. “Africa is a cause which is very close to my heart, I love my homeland and we are working hard to ensure that the launch is a success and a celebration of Africa’s people and future. Though diamonds are a symbol of wealth, they do have some negative connotations; I think that they could also be seen as a symbol of hope, which is exactly what the project is looking to show.”
After spending time assessing needs in Sierra Leone, Lita Asscher said she concluded that the project should ultimately focus on providing people with the cornerstones of society: health, education, economic stability, and societal relationships.
Initially the Star of Africa project is looking to help children who are working in the mines to end their labor and begin attending school or vocational training. The Star of Africa project will endorse child sponsorship, so a child can eat well, attend school, and receive healthcare.
Another project aim is to provide micro grants to vulnerable families who now depend on their children’s income from the mines, so that they can establish an economic base and even greater self sufficiency, for example a family will be given a micro-grant to buy livestock to breed, which also offers them milk.
The project also will seek to support discussion between community leaders and stakeholders (including chiefs, mine officials, child welfare committee members, and community-based workers) to better communicate on important social issues by working with experienced non-governmental organizations.
Though the initial outreach for help and support will be one child at a time, Lita Asscher will continue efforts to raise funds to help the people of Sierra Leone.