It’s going to be a milestone year for Prince Harry, who’s turning the big 3-0 on Monday.
That’s why we’re celebrating the royal birthday boy – and his commitment to making a difference.
Harry’s been keeping busy with the Invictus Games, which has recognized injured and wounded servicemen and women.
The Games was Harry’s idea, and he has been its driving force since watching the Warrior Games in the U.S. last year. It was a happy Harry who welcomed the 13 teams, including about 100 members from the U.S., at an American ambassador-hosted event on Tuesday.
There, he met an old friend: Ivan Castro was blinded in combat and still serves in the special forces. The two talked about possible upcoming expeditions.
“He has a huge heart,” Castro says of the royal. “But he is very busy and has to focus on his royal duties, too.”
And uncle duties. But even as Harry gears up for the royal family’s new addition, he’s continuing his work with a charity he set up in Africa in memory of his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
Prince Harry has bonded with the young, often orphaned people who Sentebale – which means “forget me not” – aims to help in the African kingdom of Lesotho.
Malineo Motsephe, known as Me ‘Ma, was among the group of locals who introduced Harry to the country 10 years ago.
“Harry is a maternal orphan himself, therefore [he] understands what a loss of a parent means. During his visit, he used to say, ‘I wonder what my mum would say today if she would see the enormous suffering inflicted on these children and youth by the scourge of HIV/AIDS,'” she tells PEOPLE.
Working with Harry, says Motsephe, “He dressed like any other young person – very simple dress code. Nothing looked royal about him, unless one would have been told.”
Adds Motsephe: “He mingled so well children, and this made it difficult for him to leave any place he visited. He took his time to play any sport children could play. He bought balls, candy and crayons for children. He has all the attributes of a good teacher.”
And these sentiments were echoed from organizers at WellChild, a charity (of which he is a patron) that helps severely sick kids. Later this month, Harry will attend the annual WellChild awards.
“Most of our work centers around the family,” says Colin Dyer, chief executive of the charity. “The most important thing he gives to us is that time spent listening and understanding that situation the families find themselves in. That is not always easy for people to do when faced with a sick child.”
Before the awards, Dyer adds, “We take all the winners and the families into a private room to meet with Prince Harry for an hour or so. We always overrun, and that’s because rather than simply get through, Prince Harry has a clear interest in the situation they find themselves in – and what Wellchild is doing to help and also finding out what people need to help them. That’s not something you can fake.”
The praise for Prince Harry continued at Tuesday’s Invictus Games party, where servicemen and women listened to his speech on the lawns of the ambassador’s house. One attendee interrupted him with a hearty “thank you sir” after Harry praised them for “showcasing the power of sport in recovery.”
Added Laura Root, 35, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who suffers from muscular dystrophy: “We were telling him we really appreciate what he has done for all this.”