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May 18, 2018 06:14 PM

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited Wales on a winter’s day in January, it was not only part of their get-to-know-you tour of the country, but it seems they picked up the inspiration to ask for donations rather than gifts for their wedding.

Teamed with StreetGames — a nonprofit that works with girls in a small sports center in a disadvantaged area of Cardiff — Harry, 33, and Meghan, 36, showed their talent for helping youngsters. Now StreetGames is among the charities that the couple has nominated to receive donations for the wedding.

“It was a rotten day, but there were about 300 people who came to watch from the neighborhood to say hello when they arrived,” recalls Jane Ashworth, CEO of the charity. “Inside it was really clear that both had a natural affinity to talking with kids. It is unusual to find in prominent people like them.”

Prince Harry with StreetGames participants in Wales in January.
Geoff Pugh - WPA Pool/Getty

“They were relaxed, mucking about with the kids, crouching down having conversations and joining in,” says Ashworth. “In the first room where the girls were dancing, Harry encouraged Meghan to not just stand but to do what came naturally – which was to go and have a chat with the girls. She was very nice to a shy one. Meghan explained to her that she too had been quite shy when she was little.”

Geoff Pugh - WPA Pool/Getty

“It was one of their first outings. It would be scary for anybody. But it was very clear that they were encouraging each other to be relaxed and follow their instincts.”

StreetGames partners with 1,000 community groups to inspire kids to be more active. “We think it is important that we are building positive memories of childhood — positive memories of being enjoying being active with your pals,” says Ashworth.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, which is also among the groups picked, adds that the attention from the royal wedding has raised the profile for deserving causes: “The royal wedding is shining such a strong spotlight on what we do. It’s a huge royal high five to all of the volunteers we work with around the coastline.”

“We have had interest from all around the world. We have reached one billion people with our communications over the last month which seems incredible,” he adds of the interest that followed the announcement.

SAS has been working with its 50,000 volunteers around the U.K. coastline to rid the seas of plastics – something that Harry supports along with his conservationist father, Prince Charles. As a teen he would often vacation in Cornwall with friends, taking to the sea to surf and body board. And surfing is, of course, the unofficial state sport of California, where Meghan grew up.

“We know they have been exposed to other surfing projects, the production of sustainable surfboards and the use of surfing to help Street children in South Africa,” Tagholm adds. “Certainly as a Californian, surfing is a well-respected sport in the states and there’s no doubt there has been more exposure but we don’t have any direct insight on that.”

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Over at CHIVA, which Harry came in contact with through his work combating the stigma of HIV and AIDS, they are raising awareness of the challenges faced by children born with the condition or coping with the loss of parents.

When Harry met a group of young people who help inform the charity what issues are important for them, chairwoman Dr. Amanda Williams, says, “He was very easy and had a lot of understanding about the issues. He wants to help and try to tackle the stigma of HIV and particularly the stigma of young growing up with HIV.”

“The young people have issues about living with a chronic health condition, but the unique thing about living with HIV is the secrecy,” says Williams. “That then contributes sometimes to psychological difficulties about taking daily medication. He has an awareness of mental health issues. Many of the young people have lost a parent or been bereaved due to HIV, and those are issues that are close to Prince Harry’s heart as well.”

He and Meghan are united in this kind of world. “They have a passion for a number of charitable causes and we are delighted that this is one of the issues they are passionate about,” says Williams, “and using the wedding to highlight these issues and hopefully raise some money is a great way for all of us to enjoy the festivities. It’s a lovely idea.”

She says the donations “will help make sure that we can continue our work on helping support children and young people to live well with HIV wherever they live in the U.K.”

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