loss of my mother is ‘nothing’ compared to orphans suffering
Prince Harry admitted to being “overwhelmed” at meeting children orphaned by drugs and murder, saying the loss of his own mother was “nothing” compared to their suffering.
On a visit to a social project in a poor area of São Paulo, the Prince said he was close to “blubbing” after meeting the Brazilian children and their carers.
Among them was a woman bringing up her two granddaughters because their father is in jail and their mother was murdered.
"I was completely overwhelmed and shocked," he told members of the press. "I’ve never blubbed in public as far as I can remember but I was pretty damn close. It was amazing to hear those stories.
"It seems ridiculous for me to say to these kids how lucky and fortunate they are considering their situation. Obviously they are far from that. But I am only too aware by listening to their stories how many other kids there are like this that aren’t as fortunate as them.
"They have been able to be reunited with other members of their families. What this place is doing is reuniting children as young as eight years old.
"One of these kids here was five days old – born at eight months – when he was left on the street by his mother because she was on crack."
He met Cristina da Cruz Nascimento, who is bringing up her granddaughters Karina, 8, and Carolina, 9, because their drug dealer father is in prison and their mother was murdered last year aged 24.
She is also bringing up her great niece Kettelyn, 3, because her mother is a drug addict in São Paulo’s infamous Cracolandia – “Crackland”.
Aged 41, she only got a job two months ago as a housekeeper, earning 600 Reals (£160) a month. “It’s really hard with 600 Reals to take care of three children,” she said.
Looking over at Karina and Carolina the Prince said their experiences made him think of the death of his own mother when he was 12 – something he rarely talks about in public.
"There are two little girls – I’m quite emotional – just looking at them I wanted to talk about my own experiences," he said. "But there is no point because it is just so far removed. The bravery of them looking at me, smiling at me … I wanted to use my own experiences in a very small way to try to give them a bit of understanding about the fact that I see what you’re going through. But you hear the stories and think that’s nothing to what they have been through."
The prince was visiting Acer, a project run by a Briton, Jonathan Hannay, to help underprivileged children in Diadema, São Paulo.
One of its projects is to help children with no parents by reuniting them with members of their extended family.
Mr Hannay, son of the diplomat Sir David Hannay, said he founded Acer in 1993 after first working with children while a student at Columbia University in New York in 1990. “That was the height of the crack epidemic in New York. It was very rough and tumble. That was where I discovered what I should be doing with the rest of my life, which is working with children and young people.”
He said that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the area where Acer is based “had the highest murder rate in the state of São Paulo, and the second highest murder rate in Brazil.”