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Interview

Monaco Aide et Présence: 45 years helping people in distress

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© MAP

The charity was supported by Princess Grace from the outset. Prince Albert II quickly took up the baton, and took part in several humanitarian missions.

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Since its creation, the Monaco Aide et Présence (MAP) charity has built up a global network of support and assistance across the continents. With projects in Asia, Africa, America and Europe, MAP embodies Monaco’s humanitarian commitment on a global scale. In its 45-year lifetime, the charity has implemented 1103 projects in 28 countries, representing a budget of 27 million euros to help populations in distress.

A small group of determined volunteers starting out

MAP was founded 45 years ago by a group of volunteers led by Anna-Marie Ledu and her husband, the former headmaster of Saint-Maur (now Saint-François d’Assises – Nicolas Barré) school. Together with Dr Richard and a number of pupils’ mothers, the group undertook a mission to Cambodia during Pol Pot’s bloody civil war, which claimed between 1 and 1.5 million lives. A powerful experience that inspired them to continue their commitment.

Upon their return, they were welcomed and supported by Princess Grace, and founded Monaco Aide et Présence. The following year, the charity benefited from the high patronage of Prince Albert II, who personally took part in several missions, including the one in Madagascar in 2017 to inaugurate the extension of the Albert II middle school. The school complex, comprising the Rainier II primary school, the Prince Albert II middle school and Grimaldi high school, is attended by 19,000 pupils in all.

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Prince Albert II on a mission to Madagascar, surrounded by Albert II middle school students © MAP

The charity is willing to help everyone, without distinction: “MAP’s articles of association mention helping people in distress. It’s not specifically for children or a particular group,” says Donatella Campioni, the current MAP president. Having joined as a volunteer 17 years ago, she first became a sponsor of children from orphanages in Sri Lanka and India before being encouraged to become a full member of the charity by the then president, Josiane Lahore. She became involved in some of the actions, especially in Madagascar, before taking over the presidency of the charity.

Supporting local stakeholders

Since its creation, MAP has provided aid to 28 countries around the world. The charity has a number of different missions, but two fundamental principles guide each action: let the local populations take part, then let them take over.

“You have to be able to pass on the torch, you can’t be everywhere,”  says Donatella Campioni. A striking example of this philosophy is a project in Sri Lanka, where MAP entrusted the management of an entire complex to the local diocese. Dioceses or congregations, rarely governments, take over the projects at the end, with the exception of Benin.

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Despite their best intentions, Westerners can make mistakes by imposing their models. That’s why MAP believes working with local partners who are rooted in the reality on the ground is essential.

“We are part of another reality and we have no clue about theirs,” says Donatella Campioni. “The secret is to have reliable people on the ground. If you don’t have that, it’s impossible to do a good job.” To ensure the effectiveness of its operations, MAP signs agreements with local NGOs, enabling action that is appropriate and respectful of specific contexts.

Women and children: a major challenge

One of MAP’s main thrusts concerns “the condition of women, which is really very difficult in Africa and even in India,”  says Donatella Campioni explains. For ten years, the charity has been supporting 140 young girls in Ethiopia, providing them with shelter, food and access to education to protect them from forced marriages with elderly men and early pregnancies that are a danger to their health. Thanks to this initiative, several of the beneficiaries have gone on to study at university, and some have become doctors.

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© MAP

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Some of the young girls attending school for greater independence © MAP

“People would rather die than seek treatment”

Donatella Campioni, MAP President

MAP works in 96 different villages with 150 HIV-affected families in the Dindigul district of southern India. Although AIDS is not as widespread in India as it is in Africa, people with AIDS suffer considerable social stigma. For fear of rejection, “people would rather die than seek treatment,”  says the charity’s president. MAP provides quality food to people infected with the virus but above all, it raises awareness in local communities to improve the way people are perceived and treated.

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Donatella Campioni during a mission in India 

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© MAP

International but also local aid

MAP is not only active abroad. In France, the charity supports organisations who are helping underprivileged families in Nice, develops social grocery stores and responds to natural disasters such as Storm Alex in Breil-sur-Roya.

The Archet and Lenval hospitals also benefit from its support. In the near future, a new project is due to be launched with the Lenval Children’s Hospital and the CHPG in light of the upsurge in teenage suicide attempts.

A small but efficient team

Monaco Aide et Présence is managed by a structure comprising nine administrators, fifty members and thirty volunteers. Their mission is clear: to respond quickly and efficiently to appeals for help. The administrators meet monthly to analyse applications, assess emergency situations and allocate the necessary resources.

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© MAP

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To offset the charity’s administrative expenses, the Prince allocates a sovereign grant each year, which covers the costs of the charity’s premises and the salary of its one employee, who is responsible for coordinating the many projects.

This financial model ensures that all donations are used specifically to help people in need, without any deductions for operating costs. In addition, the directors cover their own travel and accommodation expenses, ensuring optimal allocation of funds.

Building for the future

Despite its successes, Monaco Aide et Présence must look to the future. Although the current team is very active today, it is looking to identify the next generation. New directors are needed to bring new ideas and develop new projects to ensure the long-term future of the charity, which helps thousands of people every year.

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