Princess DI­ANA’S Legacy of kind­ness

Two decades af­ter her un­timely death, Princess Di­ana’s sons carry on her pas­sion for giv­ing.

Los Angeles Times - - PICKS - By Roisin Kelly

I’d like to be a queen of peo­ple’s hearts.”

And she was. Dubbed “the peo­ple’s princess” by Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, Di­ana, Princess of Wales, was fa­mous for her beauty, her sta­tus as a fash­ion icon and her very pub­lic tran­si­tion from a naive 20-year-old who mar­ried the 32-year-old Prince of Wales to a savvy, de­ter­mined woman set on do­ing things her own way.

But it’s Di­ana’s rep­u­ta­tion for work­ing tire­lessly on be­half of char­i­ta­ble causes that has kept her in the hearts of peo­ple around the world since her death in a Paris car ac­ci­dent on Aug. 31, 1997.

Di­ana’s pas­sion for giv­ing was born not out of the royal fam­ily’s tra­di­tion of phil­an­thropic work but of her sin­cere de­sire to help. In 1995, she ex­plained to BBC jour­nal­ist Mar­tin Bashir that she was in a unique po­si­tion to help—not just be­cause of her sta­tus and fame, but be­cause she felt an “affin­ity” with those who were suf­fer­ing, as she had suf­fered with bu­limia and anx­i­ety in the years af­ter she mar­ried Charles.

“I think the big­gest dis­ease this world suf­fers from in this day and age is the dis­ease of peo­ple feel­ing unloved,” she said in that in­ter­view. “I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month—I’m very happy to do that and I want to do that.”

Reach­ing Out to Out­casts

Di­ana’s fear­less­ness and com­pas­sion led her to work on be­half of those she de­scribed as re­jected by so­ci­ety: vic­tims of HIV, AIDS, lep­rosy. In 1987, she was the first mem­ber of the royal fam­ily to touch a per­son suf­fer­ing with HIV or AIDS with­out gloves. She held the hand of a dy­ing AIDS pa­tient.

John O’Reilly, a nurse at the United King­dom’s first unit ded­i­cated to HIV and AIDS—which Di­ana her­self opened—spoke of the as­ton­ish­ing ges­ture’s im­pact at a time when many peo­ple be­lieved the dis­ease could be trans­mit­ted via touch: “There was a lot of AIDS pho­bia, a lot of ho­mo­pho­bia. Princess Di­ana demon­strated that she cared be­cause she took ev­ery­body’s hand.”

The ges­ture was more than a shared mo­ment be­tween princess and pa­tient. It was a global gamechanger. Di­ana wanted the pub­lic to feel the com­pas­sion that she felt and elim­i­nate the fear sur­round­ing vic­tims of the dis­ease.

“HIV does not make peo­ple danger­ous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug,” she said. “Heaven knows they need it.”

Her char­ity work ex­panded to in­clude the Lep­rosy Mis­sion in Great Bri­tain, of which she be­came pa­tron. An­other of the causes she was most fa­mously in­volved with was that of land mine re­moval, and she was pho­tographed walk­ing through an An­golan mine­field wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear.

The Halo Trust, the world’s largest hu­man­i­tar­ian mine clear­ance or­ga­ni­za­tion, says that Di­ana’s work was cru­cial in “draw­ing the world’s at­ten­tion to the hor­rific legacy of land mines” and rais­ing aware­ness of the char­ity’s clear­ance of 1.4 mil­lion land mines from war-torn coun­tries since 1988.

The Legacy Lives On

In her life­time, Di­ana was pa­tron of more than 100 char­i­ties, and the im­pact of her char­ity work was felt across the globe. To­day, her char­i­ta­ble legacy lives on, in­clud­ing through the work of her sons, Princes Harry and Wil­liam, and Wil­liam’s wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cam­bridge.

Prince Harry is cur­rently a pa­tron of the Halo Trust and re­cently helped det­o­nate sev­eral mines with a Halo team in Mozam­bique.

Prince Wil­liam is pa­tron of Cen­tre­point, a home­less hos­tel to which Di­ana brought her sons for vis­its when they were young.

“I want them to have an un­der­stand­ing of peo­ple’s emo­tions, peo­ple’s in­se­cu­ri­ties, peo­ple’s dis­tress and peo­ple’s hopes and dreams,” she said of her sons.

That un­der­stand­ing is ev­i­dent in all of the princes’ char­i­ta­ble pur­suits. In fact, when it comes to giv­ing back, both of Di­ana’s sons have em­braced a trans­parency never be­fore seen from the royal fam­ily.

In July 2016, Prince Harry was tested for HIV in a live video broad­cast on the royal fam­ily’s Face­book page. He ex­plained that his aim was to help des­tig­ma­tize the dis­ease and make ev­ery­one feel “re­laxed about tak­ing HIV tests.” The Ter­rence Hig­gins Trust, an HIV char­ity, later de­scribed the video as “a ground­break­ing mo­ment.”

Not long af­ter the hor­rific mas­sacre at Pulse night­club in Or­lando, Fla., Prince Wil­liam be­came the first mem­ber of the royal fam­ily to ap­pear on the cover of a gay pub­li­ca­tion. In the July 2016 is­sue of At­ti­tude magazine, he was quoted as say­ing, “No one should be bul­lied for their sex­u­al­ity or any other rea­son. You should be proud of the per­son you are, and you have noth­ing to be ashamed of.”

Break­ing the Code

Dur­ing her 1995 in­ter­view with the BBC, Di­ana opened up about her strug­gle with post­par­tum de­pres­sion and the ef­fects it had on her. Di­ana’s ad­mis­sion that she was the first per­son in the royal fam­ily to be “openly tear­ful” would later give her sons the courage to be sim­i­larly open about their own men­tal health.

This year, in clas­sic Di­ana style, Harry broke with the royal fam­ily’s code of si­lence sur­round­ing their per­sonal lives when he said that he came close to a “com­plete break­down” af­ter his mother’s death, and that for 20 years he dealt with the tragedy by “re­fus­ing to think about my mom.”

Heads To­gether—a char­ity spear­headed by Wil­liam, Harry and Kate—is very much about open­ing up the con­ver­sa­tion about men­tal health, pro­mot­ing the hash­tag #ok­tosay in or­der to do so. Kate also is pa­tron of many other char­i­ties that sup­port men­tal health, in­clud­ing Place2Be, which pro­vides sup­port to chil­dren in schools.

“I know that I was lucky,” Kate has said. “My par­ents and teach­ers pro­vided

‘Carry out a ran­dom act of kind­ness with no ex­pec­ta­tion of re­ward, safe in the knowl­edge that one day some­one might do the same for you.’ —Princess Di­ana

me with a won­der­ful and se­cure child­hood where I al­ways knew I was loved, val­ued and lis­tened to. But, of course, many chil­dren are not so lucky.”

Stand­ing Like a Stone

In 2012, the Royal Foun­da­tion of the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge and Prince Harry ab­sorbed the Di­ana, Princess of Wales Me­mo­rial Fund. Es­tab­lished in 1997, the fund was meant to fur­ther Di­ana’s mis­sion of help­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple and raise aware­ness of what were once seen as “un­fash­ion­able” causes.

Forty-seven thou­sand peo­ple around the world have re­ceived the Di­ana Award, pre­sented to young peo­ple aim­ing to im­prove the lives of oth­ers. The stag­ger­ing num­ber of re­cip­i­ents proves—as ex­plained in a state­ment from the award com­mit­tee—“a whole new gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple are car­ry­ing on her work to change the world for the bet­ter, shar­ing the same char­ac­ter­is­tics Di­ana was known for in her life: com­pas­sion and kind­ness.”

Di­ana once said, “Carry out a ran­dom act of kind­ness with no ex­pec­ta­tion of re­ward, safe in the knowl­edge that one day some­one might do the same for you.” She could never have pre­dicted how her sons and their loved ones would come to em­body this sen­ti­ment as pas­sion­ately as she did.

“Two things stand like a stone,” she said. “Kind­ness in an­other’s trou­ble, and courage in your own.” Two decades af­ter her pass­ing, Di­ana’s own legacy of kind­ness is a third.

Harry, Kate and Wil­liam

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