When Prince Charles and his wife Camilla arrive in New Brunswick on Sunday, they’ll be greeted by all the pomp and ceremony that typically accompanies a royal tour, from the 21-gun salute to the hoisting of the monarch-in-waiting’s personal flag.
But this trip, the Prince’s 18th visit to Canada, promises to be different. Between lavish dinners and a sit-down with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Charles will learn to spin records at an arts school targeting immigrant youth and chat with former addicts at Toronto’s Yonge Street Mission.
The stops are part of a tour designed to highlight his growing charitable efforts in Canada, which focus on providing business opportunities to those at a disadvantage, from transitioning soldiers to inner-city youth. They come at a time when many non-profits are being squeezed by limited funds and a growing demand for their services.
In 2010, Charles set up Prince’s Charities Canada, a registered charity aimed at wielding his influence in pursuit of a greater good. It’s the only office of its kind outside the U.K., though its president says similar venues could be set up elsewhere in the Commonwealth in the coming years.
The organization – which runs on a budget of about $200,000 a year – doesn’t hand out money. Instead, it sees itself as a convener, helping to connect the Canadian charities Charles supports with new opportunities for growth.
“One of the things the Prince is very concerned about is not giving people a handout. It’s finding ways to give people a hand up,” said Prince’s Charities Canada president Amanda Sherrington.
Last January, the charity arranged a Seeing is Believing tour in Toronto, an initiative that connects top business executives with street-affected youth. Charles wasn’t available for an interview (the Royal Family has a policy against taking questions from the media), but those in charge of his charitable activities in Canada and the U.K. say he’s a hands-on leader who demonstrates a passion for the causes he works on.
While charity isn’t new to monarchs and their families, Charles has approached the work differently.
“He made a decision along the way when it dawned on him that he was going to have a long wait before he was going to be king,” said royal biographer Sally Beddell Smith. “And he set out pretty deliberately to try to make the role of the Prince of Wales not just something to occupy himself while he waited for the ‘real job,’ but he decided to try to make [it]something substantive on its own.”
As a result, Charles has become more personally involved in the charitable endeavours he supports, she said. His philanthropic interests span a broad range of topics, from education and young people to environmental sustainability and responsible business. Not all of his choices are popular, however. He’s been a long-time advocate for alternative medicine, including remedies of dubious medical merit. And he’s argued for a shift away from conventional economic growth models – a philosophy that’s garnered another set of critics.
But no one doubts the Prince’s sincerity. “I think he has a real desire to help,” Ms. Sherrington said. “Let’s try to understand what the problems are, go in deep, and see if we can find a way to fix them collectively.”
MUSIC TO HIS EARS
The Royal Conservatory of Music's Learning Through the Arts has so impressed Prince Charles that the organization will begin working with his Foundation for Children and the Arts to train teachers and artists to deliver the made-in-Canada, arts-based education approach to schools across the U.K. this fall.
The program uses specially trained musicians, actors, dancers and visual artists to help teach subjects such as math and science in novel ways – including multiplication through songwriting or history through role-playing.
“It's all about children and teachers being fully engaged in their learning,” said the conservatory's Angela Elster, adding the program has improved discipline and school attendance and helped students score higher on their exams.
It's already been adopted in thousands of elementary and secondary school classrooms across Canada, including some specially targeted to aboriginal communities in northern Alberta.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
In 1985, Prince Charles took a group of business leaders through the streets of Halifax, West Yorkshire, a hamlet that had just lost one of its biggest factories.