Kate's special mission

17:00, Apr 10 2014
Duke and Duchess
PILOT PRINCE: Prince William in the cockpit of a Sopwith Pup vintage plane at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center near Blenheim, with his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The United Kingdom could soon be caring for its dying and vulnerable children the Waikato way - with the Duchess of Cambridge keen to take some of Waikato Hospice's care models back home to the motherland.

When Catherine and husband Prince William come to Hamilton tomorrow their agenda is not simply a succession of meet-and-greets and photo opportunities. Catherine will also be on a serious fact-finding mission when she visits Rainbow Place - Hospice Waikato's childrens' arm.

The duchess is using the tour to champion a cause close to her heart - the children's hospice movement - and the inclusion of the Hospice Waikato's Cobham Drive headquarters on the royal itinerary is part of a personal first-hand investigation into palliative care for sick youngsters.

Hospice Waikato chief executive Craig Tamblyn said there was a lot she could learn from Rainbow Place, where she will possibly participate in a children's art therapy session and take part in an Alice in Wonderland-themed party for youngsters at the centre.

"We don't know the ins and outs of the hospices she is associated with in the United Kingdom, but we know she singled us out for a special visit, which makes us really proud," Tamblyn said.

Catherine and her team first investigated Hospice Waikato and Rainbow Place online, via their website and Facebook page, and were evidently impressed by what they saw.


When the royals continue on to Australia after their New Zealand visit she will also visit Bear Cottage, a similar institution in Manly, Sydney.

Catherine's visit will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to showcase Rainbow Place to the world and the staff and youngsters were excited, but there was no glossing over the vital role the facility had to play in people's lives, Tamblyn said.

"We currently have 177 children on our books at Rainbow Place . . . We are dealing with children who have gone through the experience of losing a loved one - a parent or another sibling - as well as children who have had first-hand experience of a sudden death.

"There have been studies that have shown that if you don't deal with grief at a young age, then it will come back to affect you later in life.

"The other children that we deal with here are the ones with life-limiting conditions. It's all about working with these kids so they can function in life to the best of their abilities . . . Hospice isn't about dying. It's about making the most of every moment you have left."

Catherine's visit was never a fait accompli. Hospice Waikato had to submit a formal proposal to Kensington Palace with three alternative programmes of how she might best spend her time at the facility before the confirmation that Rainbow Place was on the royal route came in early March. Her involvement with children's hospices began well before she married Prince William.

Her parents' business Party Pieces did some work with the children's charity Starlight and Catherine helped organise parties and party bags for sick children.

The duchess gave her first public speech at a hospice in 2012 when she opened The Treehouse, a children's palliative care centre in Ipswich. Then she launched the first palliative care programme in Malaysia; and last year gave her first and only televised address in a video message to support Children's Hospice Week.


Each year Rainbow Place holds an event where children and young people and their families are invited to come together and enjoy a day of fun and amusement.

Last year's gathering was hosted by the Waikato rugby team. This year's party goes somewhat better, with the Duchess of Cambridge a special guest of honour.

Inside a giant Scandinavian tepee directly outside Rainbow Place, a unique, whimsical carnival will unfold. Actors in the characters of the Mad Hatter, Alice and the White Rabbit will welcome Catherine and the children, who will be treated to activities including face-painting, henna tattoos, vintage carnival games and cupcake decorating.

Artists Felicity Cawood and Sarah Peterson have created giant beanstalks and flowers, intricate decorations and mushroom seats. There will be a menu to match, with flowerpots of sweet chocolate mud, potato-top pie with savoury soil, crispy chicken lollipops and, for the more daring, jellied eyeballs, worms and huhu grubs.

Waikato Times