Today, Monday 9 March 2015, is Commonwealth Day – a day when the 53 member nations of the Commonwealth take part in national Commonwealth activities focused around the theme of ‘A Young Commonwealth’.
This year, history was made as more that 730 Commonwealth flags were raised in locations throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, UK Overseas Territories, and Commonwealth countries.
St Helena took part in the day’s celebrations with special Commonwealth assemblies in each Island school and activities planned around this year’s Commonwealth theme.
At Prince Andrew School a special ceremony was held in the School Hall attended by HE Governor Capes, Councillors, Members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) St Helena Branch and other distinguished guests.
In his welcome speech, Headteacher Paul Starkie, spoke of the 53 sovereign states of the Commonwealth working together in mutual support towards shared values and aspirations. He said:
“St Helena shares the same values and the same unity of purpose, the importance of tolerance, respect for human rights, equality of opportunity, freedom of expression, safeguarding the vulnerable and protecting the environment. We all aspire for the very best health care and education provision for our families.
“Half of the people of the Commonwealth of Nations are under 25 years old. You as students of Prince Andrew School represent the future of the Island and whether you remain here or move away, St Helena will always be your home and in your heart. As students at Prince Andrew School, we are very proud of you all. You all have special gifts and it is important you have the self-belief, determination and commitment to take advantage of every opportunity presented to you.
“Commonwealth Day is a good time to reflect how you as young people can get involved and make a difference. The future of the Island is very much in your hands.”
Mr Starkie also congratulated the four young people selected to take part in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa, later this year.
Student President, Lizemarie Robbertse and Student Vice-President, Chystabel Greentree then gave their perspectives on what the theme of a young Commonwealth means for young people on St Helena. Lizemarie mentioned young people as future leaders, encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. She also spoke of St Helena as being isolated but yet part of a global community as we represent our Island at events like the Commonwealth Youth Games.
The assembly continued with HE Governor Capes reading the Head of the Commonwealth, HM the Queen’s message (attached), followed by Councillor Nigel Dollery introducing this year’s Commonwealth essay competition, encouraging young people to take part and win some great prizes.
At 10am a special flag raising ceremony was held at the Francis Plain Pavilion as St Helena, along with 729 other states,
raised the Commonwealth flag in a shared celebration of the amazing family of nations that encompasses the globe. HE Governor Capes read a special message from HM the Queen:
“I am pleased to learn that so many people throughout the Commonwealth will be taking part in the ‘Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth’
initiative on Commonwealth Day this year, which I understand will see the raising of a record number of Commonwealth flags. I send my good wishes to all who are taking part.”
Hon Secretary of the CPA St Helena Branch, Gillian Francis, read the Commonwealth Affirmation:
“Joining together as members of one worldwide Commonwealth community, and valuing the personal dignity and worth of every citizen, we raise this flag as a symbol of the ties of kinship and affinity that we cherish.
“We draw inspiration from our diversity, and the opportunities for working together, as a rich source of wisdom and a powerful influence for good in the world. We affirm our commitment to upholding the values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, to serving one another in a spirit of respect and understanding, and to advancing development, democracy and cooperation locally, nationally, and internationally.”
The Commonwealth flag was raised by the Student President and Student Vice-President. It was a collective public expression of commitment to the Commonwealth, enabling participants to show appreciation for the values the Commonwealth upholds, and the opportunities offered for friendship and cooperation with fellow Commonwealth citizens around the world.
Four photos are attached to this release.
9 March 2015