Carte blanche: This staple of the international community is keeping pace with the times, says Marie-Hélène Ehrke-Harf.
The International Bazaar of Luxembourg is an independent, secular and voluntary organisation which traces its origins back to a series of small church bazaars in the early 1960s. Gradually stands representing nations (initially Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, UK and US) came together to cooperate in common humanitarian causes. After becoming an autonomous non-profit organisation in 1967 the IB was placed under the high patronage of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and this tradition continues today under the high patronage of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa.
It was during the long presidency of Huguette Rischard that the IB saw a period of expansion: more stands, more charities supported and the added prestige of the diplomatic community on the honorary committee. In 1974 the IB moved to the Foire Internationale (renamed Luxexpo in 2004) where the bazaar is now a tradition.
Of course these developments improved “profits”. Fifty-five years ago the IB raised 10,000 Luxembourg francs (about €250) and back then no one imagined that last year €600,000 would be distributed to its selected charities worldwide.
At the same time, the development of the IB has largely mirrored the events in the Grand Duchy. As the international community in Luxembourg continued growing at a fast pace, the 1,000 or so volunteers helped spread awareness and recognition of the IB, not only as a charitable organisation but also as a multi-cultural phenomenon unique to the Grand Duchy. I was elected president of the IB in 2009, the first Luxembourg national to hold the post. In September I announced that I would step down. I look back on this period of labour intensive but most fulfilling seven years with the satisfaction of having achieved some progress for the IB.
I feel especially proud of the success achieved by the celebration of the 50th anniversary in 2010. This was our very first high profile event which helped put the IB firmly on the map of seriously recognised organisations in Luxembourg. It was also the launch of the “Fonds d’aide humanitaire d’urgence du BI” available to victims of wars, emergencies and natural disasters around the world.
These days the selection of charities continues to be a challenge as there is a growing demand due to the severe problems incurred by the migration of refugees. There is also a certain need for rejuvenation amongst the stands and the committee, i.e., more new volunteers. A generational shift is called for. In addition the IB could attract more funds from private and corporate donors if it obtained tax deductibility status.
I look forward to the election of the new president and am confident that the IB will continue to thrive as it has done and deserves to do in the future.
Please join us on 28-29 November for the 55th International Bazaar and help support charities worldwide!