On Wednesday, the Princess of Wales had an enjoyable morning interacting with children. She attended a sensory class at a specialized center in Sittingbourne, Kent, called the Orchards Centre. During her visit, she met with young individuals who have special educational needs and disabilities, as well as their families. The main objective of Kate's visit was to gain insights into the activities and initiatives of the National Portage Association. This organization provides home-visiting educational services for children from infancy to pre-school age in both England and Wales. You can view the top photos from Kate's outing below.
On Wednesday, Princess Kate received a cordial reception from the staff when she arrived just before noon. She maintained her usual elegant appearance, wearing a red blazer, black trousers, and a cream top as she attended the playdate, showcasing her role as the mother of Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.
She gathered her lengthy hair into a bun and opted for minimal accessories, wearing plain gold hoop earrings.
A more detailed examination of Kate's sophisticated updo.
Kate interacted with a gathering of youngsters who had various requirements and conditions, encompassing challenges in social communication, autism, complex needs, and Down Syndrome.
She further solidified her image as a princess adored by children, gently comforting toddlers by patting their backs and playfully tickling their bellies during messy playtime. She wholeheartedly engaged in the activities, playfully tossing tinsel and shredded paper around.
Kate expressed, “She's incredibly charming,” when referring to Skylar, a nearly two-year-old girl who was covering herself in foam.
Janet Rickman, who serves as the Chair of the National Portage Association, later shared with HELLO!, “It was evident that she genuinely connected with the families and actively participated in playing with the children.”
Kate chuckled as a three-year-old girl named Beatrice gleefully squealed in delight at the sight of the shredded paper.
She also commended Darcie, a three-year-old with Down syndrome, who was pouring colorful paper squares into a cup. The Princess offered words of encouragement, saying, “Great job,” and mentioning, “Louis has a classmate named Darcie.”
The royal mother also engaged in a conversation with Steve Ikebuwa, a father of four from Gravesend. He shared that his youngest child, 11-month-old Nathan, faced significant learning difficulties. Mr. Ikebuwa confided that his wife had experienced hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) during her pregnancy, a condition that Kate had endured in all three of her pregnancies.
“When I mentioned to the Princess that my wife had hyperemesis gravidarum, she instantly connected with it,” Mr. Ikebuwa informed HELLO!. He recounted her response, saying, “She told me, ‘I went through that, and I know what it feels like.'”
Expressing appreciation for the positive impact the service had on his family, he shared with HELLO!, “You can see that the practitioners are deeply committed to their work, and you can feel the support they provide.”
Additionally, the Princess had the opportunity to meet some of the frontline professionals responsible for delivering the service. This allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of Portage and its role in offering daily support to families.
Portage offers community-based home learning sessions, where dedicated and specially trained practitioners collaborate with families and their children. Together, they engage in learning, play, and community participation.
The National Portage Association, commemorating its 40th anniversary this year, collaborates with more than 100 Portage services. They offer a quality framework and training for both Portage Practitioners and parents.
Before and after her official engagement, Kate took several minutes to converse with the staff and practitioners.
Janet Rickman, who serves as the Chair of the National Portage Association, shared with HELLO!: “She expressed a keen interest in understanding the organization and funding structure of Portage. She wanted to ascertain whether there were adequate resources.”
It was evident that she recognized the significant positive effect Portage has on children, particularly during their initial five years. Janet emphasized, “The first five years are pivotal for any child, but they hold even greater importance for a child with additional needs and their family.”
Furthermore, Janet expressed hope that Kate's visit would be transformative, showcasing the work of British practitioners and the substantial impact they have on the lives of children and their families.
Naomi Nice, a portage practitioner based in Kent, emphasized the crucial importance of raising awareness about portage services. She explained to HELLO! that public awareness of these services is essential.
Naomi stated, “If you simply discuss this with the general public, most people won't be familiar with who we are.” She stressed that unless someone has directly experienced portage services, they may remain unfamiliar with them. However, she also highlighted that parents who have benefited from Portage often describe it as a lifeline.
She went on to elaborate, “In reality, we are individuals who become involved right from the early stages, and frequently, we develop a close personal relationship with the family. We serve as a primary point of contact for them. Therefore, it's vital to raise awareness nationwide about the nature of our work, especially during a time when services are facing reductions. When parents perceive us as their lifeline, it becomes imperative to ensure the continuity of that lifeline.”
Kate's recent visit marks the beginning of a series of Shaping Us engagements scheduled to continue until Christmas. These engagements are centered on children and families, aligning with her longstanding commitment to early childhood development.
In January, Kate initiated the Shaping Us campaign, emphasizing the critical importance of robust support for children, parents, and caregivers during the formative early years of life, and underscoring the potential for life-altering effects such support can bring.