Prince William’s ‘little secret’: Caring Duke finally admits to incredibly touching work

Prince William’s ‘little secret’: Caring Duke finally admits to incredibly touching work

William is one of more than 2,000 volunteers who have trained to help people using the UK’s first round-the-clock text messaging service, Shout85258. Kensington Palace, which had previously refused to confirm whether the second in line to the throne had followed up on his pledge to train to work on the platform, released video footage on Friday night of him telling a group of Shout volunteers last month that he had been joining them on duty.

“I’m going to share a little secret with you guys but I’m actually on the platform volunteering,” he said.

He and the Duchess of Cambridge along with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex helped to launch the crisis line in May last year, investing £3 million in the service through their Royal Foundation.

Since then its volunteers have had more than 300,000 text conversations with people needing mental health support. Around 65 per cent of conversations were with people aged under 25.

It is understood that palace officials had previously been reluctant to say whether William was volunteering for the service because they feared it might get overloaded by people hoping to discuss their troubles with the future King. 

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Prince William let slip his volunteering work in a call today

Prince William let slip his volunteering work in a call today (Image: GETTY)

But, although they still decline to say how often and for how long he does it, they disclosed his volunteering last night after checking that Shout was geared up to handle an expected increase in demand for the service.

William and Kate also marked Volunteers’ Week by making video calls earlier this week to two organisations to discuss the work they have been doing using volunteers.

They spoke to Conscious Youth, an organisation that works with young people from mainly black and other ethnic minority backgrounds in Huddersfield, Dewsbury, and other parts of Kirklees in West Yorkshire.  They also called Machynlleth Community Corona Response, a group set up to help people in Powys, Wales, during the coronavirus crisis.

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I’m going to share a little secret with you guys but I’m actually on the platform volunteerin

Prince William

During their call to Conscious Youth, the royal couple, who have refused to say whether Princess Charlotte went back to school in London this week, joked with volunteers about the challenges of home schooling their children during the crisis.

They appeared to be still at Anmer Hall and William, who has a degree in geography, admitted that some of Prince George’s coursework has proved daunting at times. “I struggle with Year 2 maths,” he said.

Sophie Simpson, 38, who co-founded Conscious Youth with Serena Johnson, 35, said: “We were talking about the struggles of teaching at home. Both Serena and I are parents as well and I guess we totally understood their saying: we can’t teach maths and English like they do at school.

“The Duke and Duchess totally agreed that teaching Year 2 maths was very difficult. I could agree with them because I teach that as well and I’m struggling.”

William and Kate at a royal event before lockdown

William and Kate at a royal event before lockdown (Image: GETTY)

Their organisation, created in 2016, has set up a virtual youth club on a website during the coronavirus pandemic to support young people through the crisis.

Similarly, Machynlleth Community Corona Response is one of many mutual aid groups that have sprung up across the country to support to those in need during the pandemic.

More than 120 volunteers in the market town of Machynlleth and surrounding villages go shopping for neighbours, man a telephone helpline, and cook and deliver nourishing meals for the vulnerable.

Some also produce 3-D printed visors, scrubs and facemasks for health workers, and there is a mini-Land Army growing produce for the community in gardens and on land donated by local farmers.

Kate told volunteers Kim Bryan, Sadie Maund, Katie Hastings, and Martin Kemp that she has been planting seedlings at home with George, six, Charlotte, five, and two-year-old Prince Louis after hearing that local children had been given free seed packs to grow their own food.

William seemed baffled by some of the shortages that have occurred during the crisis. “Can any of you explain to me why all of us were bulk buying toilet roll?” he asked.

He and Kate spoke to 91-year-old great grandmother Lynda Edwards-Ryley, who was lonely and isolated before Sadie, 31, began helping her with medication and then shopping before sorting her out with a speaker phone and iPad to help her keep in touch with her family. The two are now firm friends. “It’s just like having another daughter,” Lynda said, before regaling the couple with stories about when she had a Bentley. “I hope you didn’t get a speeding ticket, Lynda,” William said.

Sadie said the group intended to carry on after the pandemic is over and people now looked out for their neighbours much more than before. “I think people have really changed their view,” she said. 

Kate and William: The royal both launched the crisis line last year

Kate and William: The royal both launched the crisis line last year (Image: GETTY)

“They’ve had time, I think, to think about the kind of lives that they want to lead. Actually, the important things are where your food comes from and that you have a strong community and you look after each other. And I think people will carry that on.”

Kate, 38, said: “One of the things that would be amazing, I think, is if everyone in their communities is to carry on and still celebrate volunteering in the way that everyone has been during the pandemic.”

She added: “Everyone’s got something to give back.”

Wiliam thanked all of them. “It’s National Volunteering Week and we want to say a big thank you from both of us,” he said. “Thank you for all the volunteering you’re doing, thank you for all the time and all the effort you’re putting in. It’s been hugely rewarding and important that you guys are doing that and, as we’ve heard from Lynda, all of you have been a lifeline to all the people who you’ve helped in the area.”

In April he, Kate and their children packed and delivered food parcels to pensioners and other vulnerable people on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. Now it has emerged he is also volunteering for Shout. 

Usually its volunteers are asked to commit to 25 hours of online training and to work two to four hours per week to chat to people, using trained techniques via text messages to help them think more clearly about their problems and how they can solve them.

The palace confirmed William had completed his 25 hours training but would not say if he committed between two and four hours per week to the service.

He actually told his fellow volunteers about his involvement on a video call last month but that part of the conversation was edited out of excerpts given to the media. 

The volunteers were impressed. “Are you? That’s amazing,” said one, Jo Irwin. Victoria Hornby, chief executive of Shout, said: “You’ll be taking six or seven at a time in no time.”

But William insisted he would leave dealing with multiple calls at the same time to the more seasoned volunteers.

In their call to Conscious Youth on Wednesday, the royal couple heard how young people using the service, set up in 2016 to replace youth services closed down in council cuts, have been encouraged to become volunteers.

“We get a lot of young people that want to come back and volunteer for us,” Sophie Simpson said. “They come to the services that we provide and then they say, right we want to give back because we still want to be a part of that even though we may be too old. So it’s just nice seeing that they’ve grown and that they’ve built this confidence  that they’re like right, we can deliver to our peers what we’ve learnt.”

George, Charlotte and Louis join their parents in Clap for Carers

George, Charlotte and Louis join their parents in Clap for Carers (Image: GETTY)

William and Kate joke around back in a 2014 Commonwealth event

William and Kate joke around back in a 2014 Commonwealth event (Image: GETTY)

They spoke to young volunteers Cain Adams, 16, and Summer Hall, 14, along with the group’s voluntary director, Gill Kirkman, 51.

Cain told the couple: “I started off teaching the younger children how to play chess and things like that and then I just stayed.” He helps out in the centre and said he even dressed up as Santa Claus one time. During lockdown he  made a video about types of kids at school to make the children laugh. 

William asked him: “Are you a chess maestro, Cain?”

He replied: “I’m not that good. Because I don’t want to have nobody to play with.”

Kate said; “Cain, you’ll have to give me some lessons. I’m terrible.”

She added: “It’s so impressive to see young people volunteering. Would you recommend volunteering to other young people?

Summer said: “Yeah. It’s such a good experience and I’ve got so many other opportunities out of it, like this. Imagine if everybody had it. It would be just so amazing.”

The Duchess told them: “I think the world would be a better place with more of you both in it, because you’re giving so much back, not only to the young people but to your community as a whole. So really well done for all your hard work.”

William added: “It’s brightened up our day seeing all five of you. It’s a lot of smiles on the screen. So it’s good to see everybody.”

Published at Thu, 04 Jun 2020 23:01:00 +0000