Filed in Charities News

Duchess of Sussex visit leads to first international donations for sex workers charity

Until recently the Bristol-based project One25 had been a little-known charity quietly trying to improve the lives of vulnerable sex workers.

But now, following a visit by the Duchess of Sussex, it has found fame across the world, even receiving its first ever donations from overseas.

In an example of what is being called ‘the Meghan effect’ the charity has been sent hundreds of pounds from donors in the US, New Zealand and Jamaica. Donations have also come in from Switzerland and Canada.

Photographs of the Duchess touring the project – and writing messages of support for the sex workers on bananas included in food parcels for them – were seen around the world, leading to One25’s website receiving a surge in visits, with thousands more logging on to read about their work.

As a result of media coverage of the Duchess’s visit others also sent in items for distribution to sex-workers operating on the street, such as umbrellas, socks and gloves

Anna Smith, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The upsurge in interest in our work as a result of Meghan’s visit has been incredible. We’ve had our first donations from overseas. There’s been lots of interest from America, but also from other countries.”

The Duchess, who visited the charity alongside Prince Harry to see for herself its work in trying to help women break free from sex work, homelessness and addiction, decided she wanted to send a personal, handwritten message to those in need.

During a tour of the kitchen at One25, she asked for a felt tipped pen to draw hearts and notes, including the words: “You are strong”, “You are loved”, “You are brave”, “You are special”.

As the Royal couple were shown the food bags being prepared, the Duchess said: “Oh actually do you have a Sharpie 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 fruit was turned into banana bread included in a food parcel for sex workers and subsequently delivered by van, along with blankets, condoms, hot water bottles and advice from the charity’s experts, to women on the streets.

Ms Smith said the women who received the banana bread, along with photographs of the Duchess’s messages, had been deeply touched by her gesture.

“One said it was just so lovely to be thought of in that way,” she said. “Our service users were so happy at the idea that she had visited the project.”

Ms Smith said the Royal visit had highlighted the work of the charity, which operates on an annual turnover of £1.2 million. in trying to encourage and help women women trapped in street sex work to break free and build new lives away from violence, poverty and addiction.

The Duchess’s interest in an unfashionable cause such as sex work has been likened to visits made by Prince Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, to people with HIV and AIDS, at a time when they were still being shunned by parts of wider society.

Ms Smith said: “The plight of our women is often misunderstood, and they are stigmatised and hidden from the world. The way the Duchess carried out her visit made a huge difference to the way our work is seen.”

Following the visit one former sex worker called Sam, who now volunteers at One25, said: “By being there in a non-judgmental, loving way you all made me see I could be more – and for that I will always be eternally grateful!”