The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went from rubbing shoulders with street children, to having lunch with the Indian Prime Minister Modi today, as they continue their #RoyalVisitIndia
William and Catherine began at a centre for street children in New Delhi, run by the Salaam Baalak Trust, an organisation supporting some of the youngsters who arrive in Delhi each day, in search of a better life. They heard how the trust helps these children, who become a target for prostitution, people trafficking or sexual and physical abuse.
Some youngsters have their eyes gouged out and hands hacked off to make them more ‘attractive’ as professional beggars, to earn more money.
The Duke and Duchess crouched down and played a round of carrom, a traditional table game, with some of the children at the centre.
Prince William, 33, asked one of the boys: “What’s the game you’re playing? Ah, carrom board. Can you show us how to play?” Flicking the draught, he laughed as it went too far and invited his wife to have a go.
The charity’s director, Sanjoy Roy, told the couple about the charity’s work. “The boys come here for four hours of lessons and some food every day. When they’re not here, they’re at the railway station.”
When Prince William asked whether it was dangerous, Mr Roy replied: “Yes, so they try to stick together. We look after around 7,000 kids a year but every day around 40 to 50 new children arrive at the station.”
The charity has six homes, 21 contact centres and three Childline centres near stations, bus stands and railway stations across Delhi.
“The primary reasons they run away from home are misunderstanding with step-parents, physical and mental abuse, incredible poverty or a life event such as forced marriage,” Roy continued,
William then asked if he could help their situation, to which Mr Roy replied: “Spread the word. People think of them as street kids, beggars, thieves but they are just children. They deserve an education, future and a life. They have a right to a childhood.”
Mental health is a cause the Royal couple is passionate about, particularly for children, so they were interested to see that mental health is given importance at the trust’s centres.
Salam Baalak have their own city walk guides, given by children who used to live and work on the streets, and William and Catherine spoke with a few of these. The tours help raise funds for the trust to continue its work, but also gives the youngsters the chance to tell their story, whilst improving English and communication skills.
The couple visited a home for boys, where the Duchess sat down cross-legged on the floor to draw with the children.
“Did you do this? It’s beautiful, well done,” she said. “Shall I do a drawing for you?”
Shansad, 12, helped Kate colour in her picture of a house. He explained via a translator he had left home as his family were poor, to search for his married older brother; he arrived in Delhi to find his brother had moved house and Childline stepped in to help him.
William and Catherine then moved to for lunch with Indian Prime Minister Modi. Currently in the UK, Tata (an Indian company) is pulling out of its steel investments, putting thousands of jobs at risk. It is hoped the Duke and Duchess discussed the British steel industry, though this could be seen as a political move, with Royals generally avoid.
The Royals then flew to Kaziranga National Park in Assam. They are there to support conservation causes, but their visit happened to coincide with the Assamese New Year.
William and Kate got a ceremonial welcome as they arrived at Tezpur Airport, with performers in brightly coloured outfits.
After a quick change from their more formal clothes, they then congregated around a campfire for some performances, including a number of youngsters.