Duchess of York hopes to work with Saudi Ara­bia on health care for chil­dren ▶ Sarah Fer­gu­son at­tended the Misk Global Fo­rum in the Saudi cap­i­tal yes­ter­day

The National - News - - NEWS | EMIRATES - LIZ COOKMAN Riyadh

The Duchess of York, Sarah Fer­gu­son, wants to col­lab­o­rate with Saudi Ara­bia to set up pri­mary-care health cen­tres for chil­dren in the king­dom.

The duchess told the Misk Global Fo­rum in Riyadh yes­ter­day that she was set­ting up talks with min­is­ters to help sup­port care for young peo­ple in the hard­est-to-reach ar­eas of the coun­try.

A keen horse rider, Ms Fer­gu­son said that she hopes to take to the road to find out what care peo­ple most need.

“I love this vis­ual of rid­ing into a small town on a horse, sort of Buffalo Bill comes to town, and then I get off my horse, as a hum­ble way of trans­port, and say, ‘how can I help?’” she said.

“I don’t know if you re­mem­ber Mary Pop­pins; she says ‘we mustn’t make piecrust prom­ises – eas­ily made and eas­ily bro­ken’. I can’t make a com­ment if I can’t back it up,” she said.

Ms Fer­gu­son chose to help the coun­try be­cause 70 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is un­der 35, and the “joy, en­thu­si­asm, self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and hu­mour” of young peo­ple is im­por­tant to her.

“I don’t like grown-ups ... they don’t un­der­stand me,” she said. “They don’t want to lis­ten to un­der­stand me. So I don’t want to be with them then be­cause they want to make me some­thing I’m not.”

Saudi Ara­bia launched a se­ries of health cam­paigns this year aimed at cut­ting di­a­betes and high blood pres­sure rates.

Ms Fer­gu­son, who was re­ferred to as “Sarah of Ara­bia” on Tues­day dur­ing a talk about her phil­an­thropic work, spent 10 years work­ing as a spokes­woman for weight-loss brand

Weight Watch­ers in the US, championin­g the im­por­tance of ex­er­cise and a good diet.

She is plan­ning to work with a healthcare company in the UAE to con­tinue her work with obe­sity and di­a­betes, and hopes to bring knowl­edge gained from the ex­pe­ri­ence to Saudi Ara­bia.

“I was a com­fort eater – that’s why I worked for Weight Watch­ers,” she said. “We haven’t got time not to get th­ese pri­mary care units up.”

The an­nual Misk Global Fo­rum is run by the Misk Foun­da­tion, a youth de­vel­op­ment fund set up by Saudi Ara­bia’s Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

Its fo­cus this year is on fu­ture skills, AI and so­cial in­tel­li­gence.

Ms Fer­gu­son thanked the crown prince and the fo­rum for ask­ing her to take part.

The duchess spoke at the event about the con­cept of the “phi­lantro­preneur”, an idea that she ap­plies to her work with Sarah’s Trust and that refers to the use of philanthro­py to em­power peo­ple to­wards en­trepreneur­ship.

The Key to Free­dom ini­tia­tive, set up by the duchess and her daugh­ter, Princess Eu­ge­nie, helps vul­ner­a­ble women from In­dia who have suf­fered sex traf­fick­ing or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence to pro­duce eth­i­cal fashion that is sold in high-street out­lets such as Top­shop.

The women pro­duce silkprinte­d scarves and bags that sell for about £30 (Dh141).

I love this vis­ual of rid­ing into a small town on a horse ... and then I get off my horse and say, ‘how can I help?’ SARAH FER­GU­SON Duchess of York

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