In a rare moment of emotion, Prince Harry was moved to tears as he listened to the stories of young Brazilian children who had lost their parents as a result of drugs, murder and prison and spoke about his own experience with the tragic death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
During his visit to the Brazilian charity Association for Support of Children at Risk (ACER) in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, the fourth in line to the throne met with two young sisters, aged 8 and 9 years old, who had been raised by their grandmother after their mother was murdered and their father was sent to jail for dealing drugs. He also spoke with the girls’ grandmother, 41 year-old Cristina da Cruz Nascimento, who, in addition to her two granddaughters, also looks after her great-niece. Cristina recently got a job as a housekeeper, and supports the three girls and herself on a salary of 600 Reals (approximately £160)a month.
Later on Prince Harry spoke to members of the press, comparing the girls’ loss to the loss of his mother when he was 12. “I was completely overwhelmed and shocked,” the Prince said. “I’ve never blubbed in public as far as I can remember but I was pretty damn close. It was amazing to hear those stories.”
“There are two little girls – I’m quite emotional – just looking at them I wanted to talk about my own experiences. But there is no point because it is just so far removed. The bravery of them looking at me, smiling at me … I wanted to use my own experiences in a very small way to try to give them a bit of understanding about the fact that I see what you’re going through. But you hear the stories and think that’s nothing to what they have been through”.
ACER was founded by Jonathan Hannay in 1993 and is based in Diadema, Sao Paulo. The charity helps orphaned children by reuniting them with members of their extended family who are able to provide and care for them. Mr Hannay came up with the concept while studying in New York, where he worked with children and young people during a crack epidemic. He chose Diadema as the area to base his charity in as it has the highest murder rate in Sao Paulo and the second highest in all of Brazil.
Later on that evening, after Harry’s visit to ACER, the 29 year-old royal attended a reception in Sao Paulo to mark Her Majesty’s official birthday. In his speech, he spoke about his visit to the charity, saying that: “Some of the children’s stories in Diadema have reduced me to tears, but the smiles on their faces show the positive impact their community is having on them and the success of ACER”.
Prince Harry will visit Chile later this week as a part of his seven-day tour in South America.