How Prince Harry's Volunteer Work in Los Angeles Connects Him to Princess Diana
By Liz Calvario
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Prince Harry is always willing to give back, no matter which state or country. The Duke of Sussex, along with wife Meghan Markle, volunteered at Homeboy Industries, a community social justice organization working to improve the lives of formerly incarcerated and previously gang-involved people in L.A., this week.
The visit, however, speaks to Harry's values and how he's more alike and connected to his late mother, Princess Diana.
"Some people might wonder why Harry is getting so involved with something like Homeboy [Industries], which is such a L.A.-based, centric initiative," royal expert Katie Nicholl tells ET. "But it is a charity. It is an organization for those who are marginalized by society, those who have no hope, those who society simply want to dismiss."
"And I think in that sense, we are seeing Harry do exactly the sort of work that his mother, Diana, did," Nicholl adds. "She was there for those that society just wanted to reject and ignore, and in that respect, I think Harry and Meghan are really keeping Diana’s memory and her work very much alive in what they are doing today."
Homeboy Industries provides counseling, education, legal assistance, addiction recovery support, tattoo removal, job training, and direct opportunities for employment through its 10 social enterprises. During their visit, Harry and Meghan got to experience two of those enterprises, Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Café.
The Homies were only given about a 20-minute warning before the couple arrived, with Homeboy Carlos Nieto telling ET's Kevin Frazier they were also told to put their phones away and take no pictures.
Nieto was working in the front of the café when the duke and duchess arrived and admitted to getting a little starstruck. "The first thing I noticed with Meghan was she was wearing huaraches," he noted of her Mexican-style sandals. "And I was like, 'Wow, that's totally cool.' And then Harry comes in and they came right next to me… and yeah, they're very, very nice."
"They were just down to earth. They were really, really grounded. Super nice," Nieto added, saying that Meghan was "very sincere. Both of them were… The way they came in they were just so humble. Like someone just down the street, just super chill."
While there, Meghan and Harry joined the Homies working in the café and bakery for a session of cooking and conversation. Together they prepared food for the #FeedHOPE program, which employs Homeboy participants to provide meals to food-insecure seniors and youth across L.A. in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They were definitely hands-on," Nieto shared. "When they came out of the bakery, they were wearing their aprons and hairnets and stuff… They had flour on them and I was like, they're definitely hands-on, you know, and they're in it."
For Nieto and the Homies, having the royal couple visit, volunteer and raise awareness for their organization was amazing.
"They're amazing people. They're inspiring people," Nieto expressed. "For them to walk the walk that they're walking right now, they're trailblazers."
Meanwhile, Nicholl tells ET that "what we’re seeing with Harry and Meghan is them laying down their roots" in Los Angeles with their volunteer work.
"Finding out the organizations and charities they want to work with, signing up with the Harry Walker Agency is a big sign that we’re going to see and hear more from them," she notes. "I'm not convinced we'll see them sit down and do a big television interview. If we do again, I think it will be to put the spotlight on something important to them, such as the Black Lives Matter campaign. It's not going to be to sit down and spill the beans about life in the royal family."