In 2004, Prince Harry embarked upon a life changing journey that inspired him to set up a charity to provide much needed care to children who had lost one, or both, parents to the harrowing disease AIDS or had been born with the HIV virus themselves.
In partnership with Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso, Harry opened the Mamohato Children’s Centre just last week, and spoke openly about how his own experience of loss had prompted his initial connection to the children of Africa.
“Although our situations couldn’t have been more different, I felt an overwhelming connection to many of the children I met. They were far younger than me, and of course, their situation was a great deal more challenging than my own.” Harry said in a statement released by the Palace.
He continued: “Nonetheless, we shared a similar feeling of loss, having a loved one, in my case a parent, snatched away so suddenly. I, like them, knew there would always be a gaping hole that could never be filled.”
Harry understood that their loss was compounded by the environment of extreme poverty they now faced, usually alone, and knew that this charity was an important step in providing these children with hope for the future.
He added that from that moment “it wasn’t a question of when but how quickly could we put something in place which could help these children, robbed of the carefree childhood many across the world enjoy..”
Fundraising began in February 2013 and was completed in August this year, coming in just under its £2 million budget.
The centre was founded to provide specialist care, support, therapy and education to children in need.
“Research showed us that children living with HIV received little support to help them deal with the social and psychological challenges of their condition. As a result they felt isolated and afraid to face up to their illness.
“The theory of our Mamohato camp is simple – if children have the chance to share with each other how HIV affects them and how they cope with it in a safe and accepting environment, they will lead healthier, more well-adjusted lives.
“Through these camps, children learn about their condition and can then share this knowledge with their peers once they return home.”
During his visit to Africa, Harry was also reunited with Mutsu Potsane, an orphan who Harry had worked with in 2004 during his gap year. The little boy was said to have inspired Harry’s passion for helping the children of Africa.
While addressing media, Harry spoke about the need to maintain urgency and stay on-top-of ongoing care for children with HIV/AIDS.
“There is no room for complacency; the scale of the challenge remains significant. Lesotho still has the second highest rate of HIV in the world and UNAIDS estimates that only 30% of adolescents believed to be living with HIV in this country are accessing medication.
“The Momahato Children’s Centre will enable us to reach many more of these children than has previously been possible. We will increase the number of those attending camps from 400 to 1500 per year – which represents 29% of our target adolescent group.”
He stressed that HIV remains the number one cause of death for adolescents in Africa and without international aid, we cannot eradicate this issue.
“We hope the Momahato Children’s Centre will become a centre of excellence for the region; allowing us to share this valuable local knowledge and experience with partners in other countries.”