Harry gets down with the kids Royal delights disabled children on visit to home

0
7

Clearly in his element, the fun-loving prince got down on his haunches to chat to orphaned and disadvantaged youngsters living at the Nightingale Children”s Village in Black Rock.

The 32-year-old royal got up close and personal with babies, toddlers and pre-teens as he was shown around two newly opened buildings on the complex, which houses more than 90 under-11s who are in care, including some with disabilities and special needs.

The royal tour of the Caribbean has been defining for Harry, who has shown that he is ready to move up a gear in his royal duties. 

Bowling up to the first group of youngsters, he tried to put them at ease, declaring: “Hi guys, I”m Harry!”

As some of the children squirmed shyly in his presence he tickled them and tried to play peekaboo as they hid behind their carers.

At one stage a little girl blew a raspberry so he blew one straight back, prompting giggles.

“Don”t just stand there and laugh at me!” he joked.

After asking some of the children their names and how long they had been in the village and what the food was like, he was invited to inspect the new games room.

Spotting table football, he asked staff: “We have to play! We need a ball, someone get a ball!”

As the children crowded around the handles, the prince – clearly a dab hand at the game – declared: “No spinning! Spinning”s cheating.”

There was a tender moment when nine-year-old Janiya Nicholls, who has special needs, sidled up to Harry to show him some shapes that had been cut out of coloured paper.

The prince held the little girl”s hand as they chatted quietly together.

Harry was then taken to the Violet Gittens Centre, built in 2012, where children with severe disabilities including cerebral palsy, spina bifida and severe autism are cared for.

Crouching down to speak to one profoundly disabled child in a wheelchair who could not speak, the prince started making a clicking sound, eliciting an excited response.

In a new building named Carole”s Cottage – named after Lady Bamford, a director of the Barbados Children”s Trust which set up the Village – Harry cooed over newborns and appeared so taken with the toddlers that he joked: “I could stay here all day.”

At one stage he had a joke tug of war with three-year-old Kalongi Washington when the little boy refused to let go of his octopus toy. “I”m not going to teach you bad habits, you can have it!”

Clearly concerned about what might happen to the children in the future, he asked: “I can”t understand why people would abandon these children – if it”s a financial problem then they need our help. How many of these children get adopted?”

He was told some children do get adopted but most spend a considerable amount of their childhood at the Village.

The complex was set up in 2011 by the Trust – established in 1997 by mainly British and Irish friends who have winter homes on the west coast of island near Sandy Lane, Barbados’s Millionaires’ Row.

Susan Magnier, the wife of Ireland”s leading thoroughbred stud owner John Magnier, is chairman of the non-profit organisation, whose trustees also include multimillionaire Irish businessman JP McManus.

Trustee Yvonne Brewer said there used to be 11 children”s homes scattered around Barbados, with some of the children never receiving any visits from family members.

She said: “We were aware that the family unit in Barbados was not as strong as it was. There were dozens of children who had been removed from their families for a variety of reasons including parental drug abuse, physical abuse, physical or mental disability or dysfunctional behaviour.

“The children were housed in a variety of locations across the island. It became clear that these homes were in a very poor state of repair and most of them were not safe or indeed suitable to house vulnerable children.

“We wanted to make a significant difference in their lives.”

Their vision was create a facility that could care for all the children in the same safe and caring community.

The original Nightingale Children”s home housed five to 11-year-olds but it soon outgrew its original purpose.

The state of the art Violet Gittens Centre was built in 2012 to accommodate 26 children with severe disabilities and special needs.

In August, the trust finally achieved its dream of housing all the under 12s together in two buildings- Carole”s Cottage for 26 babies and toddlers and The McManus and Ellen Horejsi House for upto 32 boys aged five to 11.

Before he left, Harry was given the honour of unveiling two plaques dedicated to the new buildings.