The Countess of Wessex has spoken of the importance of supporting poor rural communities during a visit to a charity in South Africa. And Sophie, who is the patron of the Ubunye Foundation on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, had some helpers of her own on this trip – her husband and her two children.
The family of four arrived at the Foundation during their Easter break in South Africa and spent several hours meeting some of those who are helped by it. They were welcomed by the director of the Ubunye Foundation, Lucy O’Keeffe, who said that having a patron like Sophie helped spread the message about the importance of their development work to a far wider audience.
The Earl and Countess spoke to many of the people involved with the Ubunye Foundation. As Sophie cradled a young baby her seven-year-old son, Viscount Severn, sat with her and chatted with her about what was going on. Eleven year old Lady Louise Windsor was with her mother as a business owner explained how she had set up her company with the help of the organisation.
The Ubunye Foundation, established in 2002 helps poorer communities help themselves through projects that encourage self-reliance. It was set up by the owners of the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve and is currently helping ten communities. The Countess of Wessex became its patron last year. The Wessexes are believed to have been staying on the Game Reserve having arrived there in the days following Easter Sunday.
When she became the patron of Ubunye, which means ‘togetherness’ in isiXhosa, Sophie spoke of the personal pride she felt because of her association with the Foundation. ‘I commend their work in the rural Eastern Cape and their developmental approach,’ the Countess commented adding that it ‘empowers individuals and families to positively shape their own lives and communities.’
The Ubunye Foundation offers support in a wide range of areas including healthcare, education and business development. The Eastern Cape is on of the poorest provinces of South Africa, and around two-thirds of the seven million strong population live in rural areas where there are high levels of unemployment. Many families rely on state help for their income. The Ubunye Foundation works to help them out of this cycle of poverty.
The Countess of Wessex said that showing her children this side of their home from home was a priority. Sophie said that it was important to her that from the first time they visited South Africa, Lady Louise and James understood that the country isn’t just about ‘wonderful, beautiful animals and beautiful scenery.’ And she made sure they saw what things were like for those who call their holiday destination home by introducing them to adults and children at the Ubunye Foundation.
The Queen’s youngest grandchildren are no strangers to public engagements with Lady Louise regularly accompanying her parents to major royal events like Trooping the Colour. This latest visit shows that the Earl and Countess of Wessex are determined that their son and daughter’s experience of royal duties will be as far reaching as possible.
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