Pulling the Royal Weight for the Right Reasons

Sonal Sachdev Patel, CEO, GMSP Foundation

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to India has caught everyone’s imagination with most people obsessing over what Kate Middleton is wearing and if Prince William can wield the cricket bat as well as Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. Beyond such headlines and social media frenzy the royal couple’s visit to India has been about more.

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I met the Duke and Duchess in advance of their trip when they took the time to meet young British Asians that are working on development in India. Being naturally rather cynical, I was pleasantly surprised at their genuine interest in understanding the systemic issues and their desire to engage at the grassroots level. With women investing 90% of their income back into their communities I spoke to them about the reasons for investing in women and girls.

Whilst I cannot claim to have not taken notice of the Duchess’s stunning Saloni Lodha dress at our meeting, I came away feeling refreshed that the Royal trip would have a real impact on the lives of vulnerable groups in India.

Indeed the Royal couple’s visit has been more than just a tour of the country to soak up the culture and the vibrancy of Incredible India. They have taken the time to understand a vulnerable community, in this case children, and also to raise funds for their cause. Prince William and Kate’s Mumbai itinerary featured a cricket match with a children’s team from poverty-stricken slums at the famous Oval Maidan, a public ground of choice for cricket enthusiasts of all backgrounds and age. The cricket match set the stage for highlighting the work of three charities – Door Step School, Childline and Magic Bus – working to protect and improve the lives of children living in Mumbai’s slums.

These slums are home to over seven million children under the age of 14 who are growing up in abject poverty. Poverty leads majority of these children, who could be as young as seven, to enter the work force mainly as rubbish scavengers, earning less than £3 a day. Further, lack of sanitation and nutrition bears a negative impact on the health of these children. Malnutrition often robs them from leading a normal life. According to India’s Rapid Survey on Children (RSoC) data collected by the ministry of women and child development in collaboration with UNICEF, almost 30% of children (aged less than three years) are underweight, and almost 40% of them were stunted (low in height for age).

To add to these challenges, most of the slum dwelling children do not receive any formal education. Childline is one of the charities that will benefit from the fundraising backed by the Duke and Duchess. Childline is a vital service that has a widespread reach to children across India. Childline receive 40,000 calls a day and operates in 366 cities/districts through its network of over 700 partner organisations across India.

The Royal Couple were well guided in their philanthropic efforts in India by our partners British Asian Trust. The Trust was founded in 2007 by HRH The Prince of Wales, who wanted to do something about the widespread poverty and hardship that he saw in South Asia. GMSP Foundation is proud to be supporting Childline through the British Asian Trust.