In part two of our interview with Tessy Antony, Princess of Luxembourg, we hear about her foundation Professors Without Borders, other charity work and plans for the rest of the year. Part one of our interview can be read here.
Tessy co-founded the organisation Professors Without Borders (PWB) alongside Dr Caroline Varin and Majeks Walker with the mantra of “Educate, Inspire, Empower.” We spoke in-depth on the organisation including the inspiration, future plans, her role and how you can help.
About PWB’s creation and the inspiration behind it, she stated, “Just like any entrepreneur, looking back on what has been achieved since we first sat down and decided to make this work, I cannot help but be impressed and a little bit in shock. Professors Without Borders started off with three people, Caroline, Majeks and myself who decided that we wanted to make the great educational opportunities we received available to all.
“There is never a ‘right’ time to begin a start-up, but we all picked up a chunk of the work and built on it, at night, in the early morning, between two tasks at work and home. We all have little (and big) children and full-time jobs, so this was a work of love and hope more than a career move. And yet…
“In two years, we have operated five summer schools, two in Sierra Leone in 2016, one in 2017 also in Sierra Leone, followed by our first project in Asia in Bangkok and another one in Uganda at the first women’s university in Africa. We have touched so many lives already, inspired students and worked with lecturers locally to address the needs of the community. I am amazed at all the people who have volunteered their time, Colin, Ena, Richard, Charlotte and all our talented lecturers and interns. Our idea has taken flight and received such an enthusiastic welcome from so many!”
The Luxembourg Princess went on, “We have worked in challenging conditions, facing storms and floods, flat tires, logistical mountains with administrators and bureaucrats, questions about our purpose and sometimes doubts from our friends and family. To see what we have achieved, the invitations we are receiving to start our programme in new places, the students who have taken our instruction and applied it in their careers and education makes it all worthwhile.
“And now, we just launched our thinktank to make our experience in education available to all. We are creating new partnerships to further our research, develop new schools and teaching practices, make information readily available to students and academics alike. The sky is the limit, and we have so many more ideas for which Professors Without Borders is the perfect vehicle. We couldn’t do this without the support of our existing partners and donors who have enabled our dreams to become reality.”
As there is a focus with PWB in the countries of Sierre Leon, Uganda and Thailand, Tessy said that there are plans to expand it to other countries, adding, “We need to be invited and have allocated funds for new regions. Again, we are always open to new adventures if we have the funds available that we need.”
The importance of being on the ground and involved in these countries cannot be overstated for Tessy. “I think it is super important to experience the different summer schools myself. Only by travelling and meeting the main people on the ground involved in this specific summer school I will be able to understand the need and how we can best accommodate this need. If I am unable to travel, one of my two co-founders will visit the region for me,” she said.
So, if you wish to help out with PWB, Tessy explained, “There are several ways to get involved. We hire volunteers to help us with the admin, logistical side. We do work with teachers and researchers, too. For them, they need to formally apply through the website. We do have a waiting list for this at the moment. Last but definitely not least, we need sponsors. People who believe in our vision and are able to support us financially. Look at our website to find out more: www.prowibo.com.”
Aside from PWB, Tessy is also involved with other charitable organisations. These include UNAIDS and UNA-UK. We also discussed her roles there. Tessy is a UNAIDS Global Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls, and she discussed why she decided to devote time as an advocate. She said, “I got involved with UN Aids due to my studies at SOAS. I was always very engaged with big institutions, and this appointment was an organic consequence of my studies and the work I was already doing before my marriage and during.”
She continued explaining about her responsibilities saying they “vary from one year to the other. We have specific strategies, and the agenda varies depending on government policies and political events of the specific year.”
Moreover, the Luxembourger is the patron of UNA-UK. We touched on how vital these type of organisations are in defending human rights, education and equality for all, as well as what piqued her interest in the United Nations.
Tessy remarked, “UN was always an organisation that triggered my attention. No other institution brings together so many countries under one mandate. As such, I do believe in the power of the UN and am committed to supporting its reform as much as my EMEA department officially does. I am well aware of its internal issues and know that it has been highly criticised especially the UN Peacekeeping programme. That is why, as a former peacekeeper, I accepted the nomination to become the patron of UNA-UK and help them raise awareness of the work the UN does in the domain of peacekeeping.”
When she is looking to become a patron of an organisation or just to become involved, she explained, “First and foremost, it needs to make sense for me and for the work I am already involved in. Hence, as you are probably aware if you follow me on my social media, all my involvements/engagements are to some extent linked to each other.
“Then, once I am nominated, I assess how much I can actually contribute. If it is only to have me on the books because of a title, I refuse the nomination. I am not impressed with names and words. For me, since a young age, actions speak louder than words. Not meaning any disrespect, of course, I do acknowledge that a title can open doors. However, if the expertise is lacking, the door closes as fast as it has opened.
“Last but not least, if all these criteria’s are matched, I make sure I commit only as much as I physically (No one wants to over commit and then disappoint) can due to my other work, etc and set targets for the year to come.”
Tessy has won several awards for her hard, dedicated work in the charitable sector. These include the “Woman of the Decade Creating A Better World For All” just last year at the Women’s Economic Forum. She said she is humbled by receiving such awards but is quick to credit those around her who also put in work alongside her. “I am always very humbled to receive recognition for my work. It is beautiful to see that the little work I can contribute is actually making a difference. What is important to know is that I don’t work on my own. All my ‘hard work’ as you call it is produced with the support and guidance of my incredibly engaged and smart friends and family around me. I always ask for advice, show my work, speeches, and projects to my close group of friends and even my two sons (they’ve started to get involved in my work, too). Therefore, every award I receive is an award to all of us for the work we do and not just for me. I am only a small grain on the beach of humanity. As such, my life won’t matter to the world. However, my work and my projects might change whole families and inspire other girls and women to get involved, as well. That’s what I am inspired by and nothing more,” remarked Tessy.
So, what is next for the Princess in her work this year?
“I have exciting projects coming up. At VICE Impact we will be launching officially my EMEA department in June which is super exciting! For Professors Without Borders, we just launched our think tank and have submitted our charity status application. We hope to keep growing organically as we already did and keep inspiring young people to join our mission. For the UN and UNA-UK, the mandates will be fixed soon for the second tier of this year. I am sure they will be beautiful and inspiring. Last but not least, for my other projects, the launch of my consulting firm, etc…. I just go with the flow and chip in where and how I can,” she replied.
With exciting plans ahead, Tessy is sure to continue to make a positive impact on those around her and around the globe.