The evening of Friday 25th September was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust‘s flagship event, the Harambee Gala Dinner – a truly wonderful event and a night I will never forget. This blog post will probably never do the evening justice, but I hope to at least capture some of the magic of the night for documentation and memories sake!
After many months of waiting since receiving our invitation, the night had finally arrived. Mum and I put our ‘glad rags’ on and headed to The Landmark London. The hotel was a perfect location to encapsulate the grandeur of the event and to also highlight the special reason why we were all there – to raise as much money for the precious orphaned elephants in the charity’s care and celebrate all that has been achieved for Kenya’s wildlife.
The champagne reception was held in the beautifully opulent Drawing Room, giving guests a chance to mingle and of course talk about our love for elephants! My Mum and I met some great people, including jewellery designer Kathy Kamei and her daughter, Dame Daphne’s lovely grandson Taru Carr-Hartley, and John and Lauren – a charming American couple, now living in London. During this time Mum and I also had the great honour to speak with Dame Daphne Sheldrick – the first person to successfully raise an orphaned elephant, leader in the conservation of wildlife and founder of DSWT. Her remarkable work and life-long dedication to wildlife is inspiring. It was a true privilege to speak with her about elephants, conservation and the work of the Trust.
At 7:30pm we were called to dinner in the beautiful Ballroom. We had a fantastic and super fun table consisting of Charlie Ross (Auctioneer), Poulomee Basu (wildlife photographer and whose photographs were used for the Harambee Dinner programme), Howard, Tom, Debbie, Ian and Tess (avid DSWT supporters all involved in wildlife and conservation companies). The tables were decorated beautifully with a true African feel. Our place-sets came complete with honey harvested from the DSWT beehives, as well as a sweet elephant keepsake made from banana leaves!
The second part of the evening was kickstarted with passionate and heartfelt speeches by Rob Brandford (Executive Director of the DSWT UK), Nicky Campbell OBE and Prince Michael of Kent. Nicky’s fantastic speech especially highlighted just how important awareness is around the ivory poaching crisis; as he became a supporter having read an article about the horrific slaughter of elephants for ivory, in a newspaper on the tube. Since then he has been a committed supporter of DSWT and wildlife conservation.
Dinner was stunning! A fabulous 3-courses complete with fantastic company. It was wonderful to speak to so many people who are wildlife advocates too, whilst sharing stories of safari experiences and the beauty of Africa and elephants. Interspersed in the merry conversations, Jimmy Sheridan, a brilliant illusionist, came over to entertain and amaze us all at the table.
The final speeches of the evening were given by actresses Alisen Down and Kristin Davis (patron of the Trust). Both their speeches were especially moving, especially with the emotion and ardor behind their voices. The passion of both these ladies for this important cause is brilliant to see. To continue along the theme of touching hearts, J. Crew clothing supported the creation of a special animation #RememberMe, of a baby elephant watching his mother killed and mourning the loss, followed by being rescued and cared for by the DSWT. There was not a dry eye in the room – a deeply moving experience. You can watch the video below:
Shortly after, the live auction commenced! Charlie, of course, took to the floor leading a hilarious and energetic auction for key items such as beautiful watercolour paintings, lavish safari holidays and the footprint of orphaned baby Ndotto, to name just a few. His charismatic charm had everyone entertained as he ran around the room vying for higher bids on a selection of amazing items, with all proceeds going towards the fantastic Trust. Throughout the course of the evening there was also a silent auction, which had everyone excited too.
The main part of the night came to a close with a raffle and live music by African musician Mamadou N’diaye Cissoko and The Swing Band, performing mellow jazz, rounding off a magnificent evening. Mum and I had a chance to speak with the lovely Sheldrick family about their fantastic work, with Mum speaking to Angela about Nairobi and life in Kenya – it is safe to say they had a lot in common! I also introduced Mum to sweet Kristin Davis who I met earlier in the year at the ‘Gardeners of Eden‘ premiere in London.
It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many passionate and fantastic people. Many had travelled from around the world to attend this event, in order to support and raise vital funds for the DSWT.
The evening had to end at some point and unfortunately it was all over far too soon! As carriages arrived we were given gorgeous little goody bags, full of beautiful little African sentiments (which of course made Mum very nostalgic!).
The volunteers and organisers of the Gala Dinner did a phenomenal job, to organise such an incredible event. The total raised was an astonishing £100,000! A fantastic amount of money which will result in incredible developments for Kenya’s wildlife and the DSWT’s life-saving projects to continue.
DSWT we honour your work and salute you!
If you would like to find out more about the event please follow the link: http://thedswt.org.uk/gala2015/
In addition if you would like to have a look at what items were on offer at auction; click here for the main auction page, and here for the items!