Prince Harry balances army with charity

July 12, 2008 7:27:59 PM PDT
Prince Harry would like to spend more time helping children in Africa. Britain's royal soldier-humanitarian is in the impoverished African kingdom of Lesotho this week to work with Sentebale - the charity he and Lesotho's Prince Seeiso founded in the memory of Harry's late mother, Princess Diana.

The 23-year-old lieutenant spoke with reporters recently about balancing his army life with his charity work.

"I wish I could be out here more often," he said while visiting a newly opened center for abused children. "I do the most I can to come out here and see the kids."

Harry first came to Lesotho in 2004, spending two months volunteering on local welfare projects. Landlocked Lesotho, surrounded by South Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the region.

Since then, the prince has upped his work with the army, and earlier this year was deployed in Afghanistan.

Sentebale - which means "forget me not" in Sesotho - was founded to help orphans and vulnerable children in a nation of 1.8 million people where about 300,000 children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Many children are forced to leave school to look after younger siblings, and are open to abuse or exploitation.

The brightly colored Lesotho Child Counseling Unit is just one of a number of projects in which Sentebale is involved. Others include efforts to treat and educate about HIV/AIDS and help children with mental or physical disabilities.

The unit - set on a hilltop outside the capital, Maseru - provides a temporary haven for up to 40 children who have been sexually or physically abused. It was started in 2002 by a local child counselor who housed children in a shipping container at her home, but had to turn many away for lack of space and money.

Sentebale stepped in and built the new thatched-roof complex for about $190,000, with help from Standard Lesotho Bank. Sentebale is partly funded through fundraising projects and donations.

Children stay for an average of three months, as the center seeks help from qualified counselors to enable them to return to their lives and, where possible, their families.

Most are girls aged from 18 months to early teens, said the charity's director in Lesotho, Harper Brown.

Since the new center opened on July 4, the children have been sleeping in dormitories, playing with a large collection of toys and running around the shelter's spacious property which includes a merry-go-round that also acts as a water pump.

The red-haired royal, dressed in khaki fatigues and a warm sweater, entertained a group of children living at the center. He pushed one delighted toddler around on a tricycle and joked with another on the steps of the courtyard.

"The vulnerable children of Lesotho will always be welcome here," Harry said.


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