Enjoying an impromptu game of cricket at a special orphanage, William, 37, whacked a shot – mercifully with a softball – that landed on wife Kate’s neck. “William!” she exclaimed as she feigned pain and clutched her neck. The prince collapsed into laughter and told the children in Lahore “Ha! She’s my wife, so I can just about get away with it.”
The playful moment came when the royal couple returned to SOS Village — a charity that provides a home and family structure to over 150 boys and girls in boarding houses. The mid-air drama that saw Kate and William change their travel plans brought an opportunity to re-visit on Friday morning.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had stayed in Lahore overnight because their plane could not land back in Islamabad due to a fierce – and terrifying – electrical storm.
But Kate, 37, asked aides if they could factor in another visit to the place that had such an effect on her. Sources said it also enabled the couple to delve deeper into the stories of the children, and the graduates, of the remarkable set-up.
The previous residents now mentor some of its younger residents, and William sat down with some of them and asked them about their “journey? Where would your life be if you hadn’t found SOS?”
Saba Shahzadi, 28, who came to SOS when she was 8 years old after her grandmother – who had been caring for her when her parents divorced – died. She still lives there, acting as a mentor to the children, when she is not working as a manager for Nestle in Pakistan.
“I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t found SOS,” she told the couple.
William said, “That nurturing of this place really comes through. It’s like an arm wrapped around you. You have a network of friends here who are your family to support you. That’s even better than normal life. As you get older, you begin to appreciate how important that friendship group is. A lot of what some of you have experienced, losing family and going through trauma. Does that bring you together? I understand.”
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And, in a signal of more work the couple will do on behalf of the charity, he said, “What you’re all doing is amazing and you’ve got two ambassadors in us.”
Kate, who has focused her recent work on children’s early years, told them, “Some of the things I’ve been looking at back home are how best do you support children and what do they need to have a successful life. One, it’s about quality relationships and two, the environment. What’s great is that you have both here.”
They were clearly taken with the setup. “What is amazing here is that it is a safe nurturing and loving environment,” she told the graduates.
The couple then joined a group of children in the outdoor play area for the game of cricket – the second time in the tour that they had played what is the national game in Pakistan. Afterward, William asked the children for high-fives and said: ”I don’t know much about cricket but I love football. Does anyone like football?”
William had been about to move inside when he noticed the children still seemed keen to play. “One more ball,” he offered them.
Afterward, William and Kate knelt on the ground as a group of children they tied friendship bracelets on each of their wrists. “Thank you so much for the bracelet,” said William. “I won’t take it off. My children will wonder why I’m wearing it.” (They were still wearing the bracelets on their flight home.)
Later, as they joined some of the children for an art group, William revealed Kate’s love of landscape photography. “Catherine likes taking lots of pictures. She does a few portraits, but mostly landscapes. When we went up to Chitral to see the glacier and then looked around, she took some great photos up there,” he said.
Kate — who, before the tour started, had been especially looking forward to visiting SOS — spoke about the fate that had enabled them to return. “I’m so glad we came back to get the full picture,” she said. And her husband added, “I could feel that there was more to talk about.”
He also gave credit to his staff: “Our team is very good at finding us projects.”