While the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be broadcast around the world today, some people recall memories of having met the prince before. Yvette Twagiramariya, a Rwandan journalist in UK is among those to give testimony.
She says, “A lot of people have been asking me what it was like to meet Prince Harry”.
I always say: «That was the most exciting experience of my life » and I always add « Now, I know why African women like him so much! ».
I met Prince Harry on his last royal visit (as a single man) at the opening of an HIV self test pop-up shop in Hackney, London last year.
I had to demonstrate for him how the self-testing kit works at home, by performing a live test on national TV stations. It was for the 2017 UK National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) campaign.
Having lost relatives battling the virus, I wanted to bring more attention to those suffering in silence.
A long story to tell, indeed…
Twagira: I was working for Terrence Higgins Trust, also known as THT, a UK charity organisation that promotes the benefits of regular HIV testing and treatment for both the individual and the community, in the hope to eradicate the stigma around HIV.
I have been working for the charity as a volunteer for the past 3 years and I became one of the faces of the campaign for the first time two years ago.
I had no other motivation but to encourage my community to go and get tested as over 60 percent of HIV affected people are Black African men and women. (or maybe in the Black African community or African community).
I remember when Caroline Baker, Head of Marketing, at the THT called me and said : « Yvette, we need you to be part of the HIV Testing Week opening day and you are going to meet someone special…. But it should remain confidential until that day ».
I was like : « Ooookayyyy…. I can keep a secret but who is that person ? »
She said : « Prince Harry »
OMG ! My heart almost popped out. I wanted to call my bestie and tell her about the breaking news but I couldn’t tell ANYONE as I was sworn to secrecy! I found myself shouting and jumping on my bed out of pure joy.
I managed to calm down and stay quiet and humble about it.
Most terrifying and stressful time of my life was going through the rehearsal a few hours before Prince Harry’s arrival.
The royal family press and social media representatives were all there and made sure they listened to everyone’s speech. I was a bit nervous because I know that whatever I say in rehearsals, is never quite what I say when it’s « lights, camera, action ! » My heart was pumping soo fast I thought I was going to faint.
I was asked to greet him as Prince Harry and not just Harry. In my head, all I wanted to say to him was « Hello, Harry, congratulations on your relationship with Meghan », as I knew him and Meghan were not official. It was probably inappropriate at that time for me to say that. So, I forced myself to keep quiet and behave.
When Prince Harry came in, I was behind my counter waiting for him to come and greet me. As soon as he came behind my counter, we shook hands and I just said « Hi » nervously. I had forgotten all the instructions (he didn’t mind though). He made me less nervous by joking about my short height because I was in heels, standing on a stool but yet still short next to him.
HUMOUR! Prince Harry has got a great sense of humor. Looking back, The scene where we both were laughing about me being scared of needles was the image that the world’s media broadcast around the globe. He made me feel comfortable around him and the rest of the conversation went extremely well.
I was very impressed by his knowledge and devotion around HIV stigma. He reminded me of Princess Diana, his mother, but again, it wasn’t the right time and place for me to mention my admiration for Princess Diana’s work.
I think I could have ruined the whole show if I had said the things I wanted to say.
Surprisingly, unlike many other men, Prince Harry wasn’t wearing any perfume. And NO LADIES !, he didn’t have a mobile phone. People often ask me if I took his phone number…. I look at them and I just laugh !
Well, I wish Harry and Meghan well and I am forever happy for the both of them.
Twagira, Harry and Rwanda
Yvette Twagiramariya (Rwandan by name, born there) left the mother land at the age of 8 in 1994 during the genocide against the Tutsi. She is now a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) bilingual broadcast journalist (French & English). She has also worked with Voxafrica TV as an Entertainment Presenter on her own ‘The Guide’ show & also as a leading Sales Executive managing the marketing department. Her passion for the youth has led her into educating about HIV to the new generation in the hope to eradicate the stigma.
Back to Harry who marries Meghan today, Rwanda is among five countries the couple would visit to spend their honey-moon.
Apart from Namibia, Brazil, Philippines and Italy, a better bet for the pair, both of whom are known for their humanitarian work, is Rwanda. Meghan visited the “Land of a Thousand Hills” as a World Vision global ambassador in 2016 and called the experience “incredible”.
The couple might be tempted by gorilla-trekking amid the breathtaking scenery of this mountainous African country. It was here that the pioneering primatologist Dian Fossey studied mountain gorillas in the wild. Alongside the rich biodiversity of Volcanoes National Park in the northwest of Rwanda, Akagera National Park in the east is home to one of the largest protected wetlands in eastern Africa. It’s only recently that Rwanda has boasted the sorts of luxury accommodation options suitable for a royal honeymoon, making this something of a cutting-edge destination for the newlyweds.
Jean Baptiste Karegeya