Duchess of Cornwall visits home for vulnerable women

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pretoria - The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Rosemary, received a warm reception when she visited Potter's House, a centre for abused and destitute women in Pretoria on Thursday.

Dressed in a cream, butterfly-print dress and matching jacket, the Duchess arrived in a top of the range, grey Mercedes-Benz. And unlike the arrival of the US first lady Michelle Obama, and her daughters, Sasha and Malia at the beginning of the year, the arrival was relaxed, with no sniffer dogs, police or FBI.

There were waves and smiles as she entered the humble home, where she met and greeted some of the residents and former residents of the house.

One such woman who connected with the Duchess was 28-year-old Andisiwe Njaba, who is a mother of two children, aged four and one.

Andisiwe sought refuge in the home after she was beaten and stabbed while pregnant with her second baby by her then boyfriend and father of her children.

"I knew I had to turn my life around ... I could no longer stand being in an abusive relationship, so I turned to Potter's House. I came here pregnant with my second child, from 2009 to 2010," said Andisiwe, who had a long conversation with the Duchess.

When she came to Potter's House, Njaba said she had no purpose in life, had anger management issues, was unemployed and had no self-confidence.

"But now I'm alive, I'm working, living in my own flat and supporting both my kids. I'm more focused in life - and it's all thanks to Potter's House," said Njaba, who shared a joke with the Duchess about how naughty her kids are at this age.

Although media were kept at bay, the Duchess of Cornwall, who was also treated to a dance by the kids, could be heard expressing how grateful she was that the centre was helping vulnerable women and children.

Potter's House was established in 1993 as the first non-racial shelter for abused and destitute women in the city of Pretoria. It is hosted by Yeast City Housing and can accommodate 24 women at a time with their children, averaging about 100 women and 50 children per year.

The main activities of the Potter's House are outreach services to vulnerable women in the community, a drop-in centre, a transitional residential facility, job preparation and job skills training, advocacy work regarding women's issues and a baby care centre, which caters for the babies of the women who live in the transitional facility.

After a tour around the centre, the Duchess - who looked relaxed as she mingled with the crowd, giving hugs occasionally - was then whisked away to the British High Commission to meet the staff there.

Her husband, Prince Charles, did not accompany her and was at a corporate leadership event.

The royal couple has had a busy day. They visited Soweto in the morning and are due to visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, this afternoon where they could possibly meet former President Nelson Mandela.

The royal visit, according to the commission, will focus on trade and investment promotion to support Britain's economic recovery; employment opportunities; education and practical support for disadvantaged young people.

While in the country, the royal couple will also visit KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town before jetting off to Tanzania on 6 November to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that country's independence.