Royals / 3 February 2019, 10:53am / Rebecca English
It was a spontaneous – and distinctly unusual – gesture.
Seeing care packages for sex workers enduring icy temperatures on the streets, the Duchess of Sussex grabbed a pen – and wrote messages of support on some bananas.
During a secret visit to a charity in Bristol, she wrote slogans in the hope of ‘empowering’ the recipients.
Declaring herself ‘in charge of the banana messaging’, pregnant Meghan, 37, wrote ‘You are strong’, ‘You are loved’, ‘You are brave’ and ‘You are special’.
The princess and her husband Prince Harry visited the charity One25 under conditions of strict secrecy limiting knowledge of their presence to a small core.
After meeting volunteers and donors, the couple sat inside an outreach van that tours Bristol’s red light district five nights a week, offering food, warm clothing, condoms and advice to women on the streets.
They also met 43-year-old former prostitute Sam, who told them how she was groomed into prostitution when she was ‘14 or 15’ and ended up addicted to drugs.
She explained how she came into contact with the One25 van and started going to the charity’s drop-in centre. ‘They loved me when I did not love myself,’ she said. ‘That’s a bit cheesy but it’s the truth.
‘One25 was there for me when I had no one. They helped me keep my children, helped me keep a house.’
The former sex worker told the couple that she now volunteers for a project that helps women who have given up walking the streets.
Sam said she was grateful for their visit to One25, adding: ‘It is amazing that they chose to come here. It is heartwarming and makes you think that these women are not forgotten and not cared about. I have been away from the street and away from drugs for 13 years in April.
‘If you had told me when I was that girl that I would be meeting with the Royal Family, and they would be interested in what I had to say … that would have been alien.’
During the couple’s visit to One25, the duke and duchess were shown food bags being prepared in the charity’s kitchen when Meghan suddenly said: ‘Oh, actually do you have a marker? I have an idea. I saw this project this woman had started somewhere in the States on a school lunch programme. On each of the bananas she wrote an affirmation, to make the kids feel really, like, empowered. It was the most incredible idea – this small gesture.’
The duchess, who once worked as a calligrapher, proceeded to write messages on the bananas.
Sam said afterwards: ‘I can imagine being on the van, and [someone saying] “Meghan wrote this”. I think they might not eat it. I think that banana would be at home until it is rotten, because I would do the same.’
She added that ‘little things like that’ meant a lot.
Anna Smith, the charity’s chief executive, told the couple: ‘The plight of our women is often very much misunderstood and they are stigmatised and hidden from the world.
‘They are incredibly vulnerable. They don’t really do it by choice. It is survival more than anything. But they are like you and me. They are wonderful … and we try and show them as much love as we can.’