Sarah Ferguson

Philanthropist

Location: London, UK

"Many dark days followed and I wanted to hide from the world. But I could not hide—I am a mother."

If only I had listened to my inner voice. If only I had trusted my instincts.

One morning in October 2010, I had flown in from the U.S. after two weeks on the road. I was totally exhausted. Back in London, I pushed myself through one meeting after another, honouring my commitments.

But I really should have cancelled a final dinner meeting that would turn out to be a trap and the ultimate deception. All my warning bells were ringing but I succumbed to pressure and an obligation to follow through and I overrode my gut instinct. The rest is tabloid history.

Many dark days followed and I wanted to hide from the world. But I could not hide—I am a mother. My children needed me and will always need me. Even now when things look bleak, I just have to look at our daughters to know that no matter whatever else happens in my life, I can achieve no finer than being a mother.

Yet like most mothers I want to do more and I am blessed that I can do more. My own inspiration comes from charity work—whether it is educating children in forgotten places and forgotten countries or helping secure specialist units for teenage cancer sufferers in hospitals and tackling the global problem of human trafficking.

I would never presume I could do this work on my own; nor would I want to. Generosity of the human spirit is never more apparent than in the world of charity. Earlier this month I went to Liberia where until recently the life expectancy of a child was five years old. The children I met had so little yet were filled with such strong spirits, such enthusiasm for life and a willingness to learn that children in developed countries would do well to embrace.

The charity I founded in 1993 was building another much needed school. And when I say school—there is no gymnasium, no science lab or library. It is a basic building but filled with teachers we had trained and pupils desperate to learn. It was a humbling and life affirming experience to see that fundraisers organised by teams of good-hearted people back in London had made a real difference. We had changed lives.

The more absorbed I become in charity work, the more I realise there is to be done. And so I have no time to dwell on past mistakes. I love the saying: when you feel everything is lost apart from your dreams – don’t just hang on to them – dare to live them. I have learnt that whether I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother or a friend there will always be steadfast family and friends who love me and will help me back on my feet and set me on my path again.

My grandmother was correct. Giving to others always brings me back to remembering just how lucky I am.