The excitement had been building all week as preparations were made for the visit to Mildmay by HRH Prince Henry of Wales. Barriers were erected, police made a security sweep of the area, sniffer dogs were employed ( and very cute they were too!) and people began to gather, including children from Virginia Water, the local primary school.
The Royal car swept up Austin Street and stopped just at the top of Tabernacle Gardens. As soon as Prince Harry stepped out of the car the cheers rang out as the crowds waved their flags in welcome. The Prince made the short walk to the hospital, pausing to spend a few moments to chat with the waiting crowds.
Prince Harry was greeted byThe Vice Lord Lieutenant, who then introduced him to The deputy Speaker of Tower Hamlets and then to Kerry Reeves-Kneip-Mildmay’s Director of Fundraising. Kerry was to be Princes Harry’s guide during the visit.
During his tour the Prince met staff, trustees, volunteers and patients. He toured the Day Service wing where he visited our Occupational Therapy assessment centre and gym and and saw some of our therapies in action. Our music therapy group treated the Prince to a rousing preview of the song they sang just a few days later at our annual Christmas Carol Service.
Prince Harry then visited our art group, taking time to sit for a quick portrait sketch by one of our patients. Then he moved on to our recently developed computer suite where patients are able to re-learn computer skills to support their independence and build skills. Here brain or cognitive training is a important part of patients rehabilitation. This is also a hugely popular area and patients benefit so much from the facilities and training provided.
He then met with two ex-patients, a particularly moving moment as they shared their stories of how their lives have been turned around by the care, treatment and emotional support provided by the whole team at Mildmay.
Prince Harry was then taken on a tour of both wards- William Ward and Catherine ward-named after our founders. There he met patients, nurses and therapists.
As he made a tour of the hospital he signed the visitor’s book in the Diana, Princess of Wales room, where a signed photograph of his mother hangs in pride of place.
Mildmay marks their 150th anniversary in 2016 and before leaving Prince Harry cut the Mildmay 150 cake saying: “We don’t usually get to cut cakes we usually plant trees, this is something new!”
Mildmay presented Prince Harry with a framed photograph and also a Christmas card signed by all the staff, trustees, patients and volunteers that he met on his visit.
Kerry Reeves-Kneip said: “This was such an important day for Mildmay; to have Prince Harry open our new hospital was so incredibly special. The excitement about the visit has been building and to finally meet the Prince was such an enormous privilege. He put everyone at ease and showed great sensitivity and compassion when meeting patients. He was genuinely interested in our work and in each and every person he met. Our patients were bowled over and we know they will be talking about this for some time to come…we all will!”
There has been some incredible media coverage around the visit with it featuring on all the main news channels. As well as press coverage across the UK, we even popped up in the US, Canada and Australia. What the press coverage doesn’t and cannot show, is the incredibly positive impact this visit had on our patients. Prince Harry met each person with genuine warmth. We all felt that the visit to Mildmay was not just important to us, but to the Prince as well.
We hope that this special visit will help to promote HIV awareness, help to fight stigma and increase knowledge of Mildmay’s work in the UK and east Africa.
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