She had promised to bring gifts, and the Duchess of Sussex did not disappoint on her visit to a charity supporting mothers with HIV. Meghan, 38, brought a large black holdall full of baby clothing outgrown by her son Archie and the children of friends, to hand over to clients of mothers2mothers in Cape Town. They included two tiny white vests, one bearing the words The Future and another with the Invictus Games logo.
WATCH: Meghan visits mothers2mothers charity
"Here's a few little things that I thought would be helpful," she said, holding them up one by one. "The Future. And he's outgrown his Invictus one," she laughed.
After accepting a gift of a framed photograph of women helped by the organisation, she told her hosts: "I just thought that, in the spirit of community, what’s so nice is to be able to share some of the things that we have at home as well. And so we can obviously make sure everything you need is provided for you, but we’ve brought some of the things that my friends and I used for our kids and Archie, that don't fit anymore."
Meghan donated some of Archie's clothes he's outgrown
Gesturing to the bag, she added: "There's all sorts of things there. It's so important to be able to share with other families…you're all in this together and with each other and so we just wanted to share something from our home to each of yours."
Then, pointing to a 15-month-old girl called Asivile, who was rolling around on the floor in front of the group, the Duchess laughed: "Look at who’s having the best time, living her best life!"
Meghan also seemed smitten by six-week old Sumeya, who was asleep on her mother, Nothabo Qaga, 31. Told she had watched the royal wedding on TV, the Duchess replied: "Oh thank you, that’s so sweet." And she giggled when Nothabo suggested that little Sumeya might one day marry Archie.
"I was so excited, I can’t believe it even now," said the mother-of-two from Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township. "It’s like a dream to see her, especially because I watched her wedding on TV. I told her that maybe Archie and Sumeya are a match made in heaven. I was disappointed that she didn’t bring him too."
Meghan was particularly taken with one baby girl
Meghan was visiting mothers2mothers' international headquarters in Cape Town to hear how the charity is training and employing women living with HIV as health workers in their communities across eight African nations. The peer-support model helps prevent mother-to-baby transmission of the virus through these "Mother mentors", who become role models in their communities, showing how women with HIV can live healthy, productive lives. Since its launch in 2001, m2m has created more than 10,000 jobs and reached more than 11 million women and children under the age of two.
Meghan was welcomed to the centre by Frank Beadle De Palomo, President and CEO of mothers2mothers and two of its spokeswomen, Limpho Nteko, 29, from Lesotho, and Nobuntu Ma-awu, 32, from Khayelitsha. Inside, she sat in a circle of chairs with m2m staff and clients who had brought their young children to the session. But the Duchess quickly suggested they move to the floor, where a selection of playthings were laid out for the youngsters.
"We can all sit down here, I just think if it was Archie and we had all these toys in the middle but I made him sit in the chair it would be so unfair!" When her hosts hesitated, she urged them on, laughing, "I can't be the only one sitting down here."
Meghan encouraged the mothers and their children to play on the floor
Meghan sat cross-legged on the carpet and held out a finger to one baby girl next to her as Limpho shared her story. Hearing that she had a daughter aged five months, "almost the same age as baby Archie", Meghan gasped, "Oh my goodness!" Limpho said she was 19, pregnant and married to a man seven years older than her when she was diagnosed with HIV.
"Did you feel scared?" asked the Duchess. "Scared, ashamed and it was just terrifying," she replied. "One of those moments when you just want to disappear." With the support of mothers2mothers, Limpho said she realised she could continue to live a healthy life and she managed to deliver an HIV-free baby. Tragically, she told the royal visitor, her baby died three weeks later. "I’m so sorry," Meghan replied, looking visibly moved.
Limpho has since given birth to two healthy children. She became a Mother Mentor herself and is helping to train others. When she explained how they move around the community with door-to-door visits Meghan replied: "That’s so important and I think that so much of the key work that’s being done is you have your own community. Mother mentors, someone who looks like you. It’s a safe place for you to have that conversation with someone you trust. Because we can do whatever we want from the outside looking in, but when you have a role model with a shared experience it creates a much faster connection and it’s great that you’re able to do that."
Meghan learned how the charity are supporting women with HIV and their families
Mother Mentors are able to bring financial security for their families and become role models as healthy, HIV positive women, helping to reduce stigma and discrimination around the virus. They work in communities and at understaffed health facilities to ensure that women and their families get the health advice, treatment and medication they need. As a result, m2m has achieved virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV for enrolled clients for the past five years in a row.
As well as its headquarters in Cape Town, the organisation has affiliated outlets including m2m International in New York and Los Angeles and m2m United Kingdom based in London.The charity's celebrity patrons include the singer Annie Lennox, who appeared with the Duchess in panel discussion on International Women's Day and Hollywood star Salma Hayek, who appeared in the September issue of Vogue guest-edited by the Duchess. South African supermodel Candice Swanepoel, actress Samantha Bond and TV and radio host Rochelle Humes are also patrons.
Baby Archie made his tour debut on Wednesday as Harry and Meghan met Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Earlier on Wednesday, Meghan visited female entrepreneurs at the Woodstock Exchange in Cape Town, where she said she found juggling being a royal and looking after baby Archie "a lot" but added "it’s all so exciting." The former actress met several women who have set up their own businesses in industries such as technology, conservation and fashion and praised them for "empowering the next generation" of creative minds.
Speaking to mum-of-two Lara Rosmarin, CEO of Cape Innovation and Technology, Meghan said: "It must be a lot to juggle. We're only five months in right now. Being a working mum and travelling as well with a baby, my goodness it's a lot, but it's all so exciting. There are days when it’s a lot to juggle but then you meet someone and you have an impact on them and you say 'ah-ha', and it's so rewarding."
Lara said: “I think the Duchess really understood to pressures on working women which was so appreciated. She is a working mother herself and mixing that in with all the travelling and projects she has, it's inspiring for other women and young people to see that she is making such a success out of her life and helping others with her charitably endeavours."
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