Prince Harry“s first public engagement since returning from Afghanistan was a world away from his deployment in Helmand province.
Gone was his combat uniform, replaced by a brightly patterned apron he donned for a doughnut-making session with children at the Kannanel Centre for the Deaf, located in the southern African country of Lesotho.
The Prince jokingly rolled his eyes when presented with the apron, but giggled as he dressed for the part.
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The royal was visiting the Kannanel Centre as part of his three-day tour of the region for the charity Sentebale, which Harry founded in 2006 with Lesotho”s Prince Seeiso, who joined Harry at the centre.
Sentebale means “forget me not” in Sesotho, the local language. At Diana, Princess of Wales”s memorial concert in 2007, Harry said it was chosen “as a memorial to the charity work of our own mothers, as well as a reminder to us all not to forget Lesotho or its children”. The country has been badly affected by drought in recent years and is also trying to cope with the third highest HIV prevalence rates in the world; more than 270,000 people there are living with HIV and AIDS, and over 100,000 children have lost one or both parents to the disease, according to figures by World Vision.
This week, Princes Harry and Seeiso will see first hand how their charity has helped beneficiaries such as the Kannanel Centre – a facility that provides education and accommodation for deaf students, some as young as five.
On this first outing, they got to meet many of the centre”s young residents, some of whom were waiting to greet the royals with hand-written signs that read: “We love Prince Harry and Seeiso.”
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A select group of media documented the Princes” trip and Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford reported that Harry communicated with the children in sign language. Said Alex: “He interacts incredibly beautifully with young people, even those who are deaf and obviously communication is an issue.
“But he was learning and asking them through sign language experts what their favourite subjects were at school and they were all really straining to talk to him, obviously overwhelmed by him.”
Harry being Harry, there was also a spot of dancing in the schoolyard.
Later, the 28-year-old checked in on St Bernadette”s Resource Centre for the Blind – another project supported by Sentebale. He greeted the centre”s nuns with bear hugs as they waited to meet him at the entrance.
Principle Mary Patisi showed Harry the difference the charity has made to the community and its children. “We love him so much, he is our treasure. What he has done for us here can never be repaid. The children adore him,” she said.
After completing his tour of Lesotho, Princes Harry and Seeiso will fly to Johannesburg, South Africa to attend a fundraising gala for the charity.
On a 2010 visit to Lesotho Harry was accompanied by his brother Prince William. On that trip, the Princes visited Semongkong Children”s Centre, where they were given an equally warm welcome by youngsters, many of whom had lost their parents to HIV or Aids.
For both brothers, their late mother Diana is never far from their thoughts – especially when they”re involved with the causes she championed.
“She”d be very proud of what Harry”s done with Sentebale, bearing in mind that it”s actually his own charity that he started,” William has said. “Hopefully she”d be chuffed.”
Harry was inspired to found Sentebale after meeting a baby named Keke during his gap year in 2004. Then just 19, the Prince was stunned as he was informed of the abuse the 10-month-old had suffered.
He vowed to take care of her saying: “If I can, I”d like to try and support her in her growing up; education and everything.” As Harry has grown, so has his sense of responsibility and Sentebale means he can extend his help to more of Lesotho”s children.