DIANA, Princess of Wales led an exceptional life and it was her dedication to humanitarian work that captured the world’s attention. For those familiar or fascinated with the British monarchy, royal patronages of charitable establishments are expected. But Princess Diana took a step beyond her duties and explored areas that were often shunned and considered dangerous or taboo. Her celebrated handshake with an HIV+ person in England and her walk through a minefield in Angola are examples of this and did much to raise awareness on important issues and change people’s thoughts.

Her interest in humanitarian causes made people aware of issues that were not commonly discussed during the 1980s and 1990s. Raising the profile of issues such as stigmatized diseases and overlooked communities is one of Princess Diana’s many legacies.

Here are 5 causes that received global attention from Princess Diana’s humanitarian outreaches: 


For decades, HIV/AIDS was a feared disease and people who contracted the virus were avoided, shunned, outcast and often refused access to healthcare and other rights. Its association with homosexuality, which was widely considered unacceptable until recently, was another reason there were not many discussions on the need to find a cure. The disease was also wrongly believed to be transmitted through mere touch. So when Princess Diana visited AIDS patients, sat on their hospital beds and shook their bare hands, her actions changed people’s perceptions about how the disease could spread. It told the world that AIDS was not to be feared and people with the virus are in desperate need of understanding and care.

In the dark alleyways of red light districts in India, there are children who have contracted HIV/AIDS as a result of rape. These minors are the children of sex workers and are constantly beaten, tortured and sexually humiliated and assaulted by the men who pay for sex with the children’s mothers. To rescue these children, the NGO Snehalaya provides a home, regular meals, medical care and education to give them a better life. Snehalaya is currently taking care of 250 HIV-positive children and needs your support to save more children from the horrors of the red light district. To support Snehalaya, donate here.

Princess Diana sitting in a car and smiling


Leprosy is a disease that is transmitted after prolonged contact through droplets from the mouth and nose, and cannot spread from one person to another through a handshake or sitting next to someone. But the stigma surrounding leprosy is just as aggressive as that against HIV/AIDS sufferers. Even though leprosy is a curable disease, the ulcers, swelling, loss of limbs and paralysis cause people to avoid those with leprosy out of fear of “catching” the disease. In another handshake that dispelled the myth surrounding how diseases can spread, Princess Diana shook hands with leprosy patients in Indonesia and touched their bandaged wounds. “It has always been my concern to touch people with leprosy”, she shared, “trying to show in a simple action that they are not reviled nor are we repulsed.”

Banished from their villages, fired from their jobs and pushed into poverty, old people who have contracted leprosy have no choice but to live on the streets and beg for food. Raphael is an NGO that rescues senior citizens with leprosy from roads and railways stations and gives them shelter, nutritious food, medical care and treatment for their wounds. Raphael shelters 200 elderly people with leprosy and gives them the physical and emotional support to live healthy and dignified lives. To support Raphael, you can donate here.

Children with cancer

Families who have children with cancer are forced to endure the pain of watching their cancer-diagnosed children struggle and die of a disease that has treatment options. In the 1980s, when a family in England with no fame or connections lost two children to cancer within a few months of each other, Princess Diana stepped in to use her platform to help this family highlight the issue of child cancer death prevention. Until her death a decade later, she did what she could to help this ordinary family in their effort to help other children with cancer and raise awareness of the disease among children. 

The child cancer survival rate in India is 20%, due to the lack of access to cancer care facilities. Whereas in places where families have access to early detection and treatment facilities, children with cancer have a 90% survival rate. Cuddles Foundation reaches out to underprivileged families with children suffering from cancer and focuses on the nutritional aspect of their care. This nutritional support helps the children undergo chemotherapy and reduce other side effects. Cuddles Foundation helps more than 15,000 cancer-diagnosed children each year and needs your help to continue giving them the assistance they need. To support Cuddles Foundation, donate here.

a photograph of Princess Diana with a woman embracing her

Homeless and abandoned children 

Ending up on the streets, abandoned children are vulnerable to dangers such as abuse, exploitation, child labor, sexual assault and death. Without a guardian or supervisor, children are vulnerable to the uncertainties of an unfamiliar world. But with the care and support of individuals and organizations, these children can dream for their future and work toward reaching those dreams. When Princess Diana brought her young sons to a homeless charity, it opened her children’s eyes to the physical suffering and emotional anguish of the homeless. “Any of us can be a few steps away from being homeless”, her son recently shared. By placing ourselves in the shoes of homeless people, especially children, individuals can do their part to alleviate their distress.  

Infants and toddlers are dumped in public places and wait on the streets for their families to return, too young to realize that they have been abandoned. Families abandon children who have disabilities, diseases or are “the wrong gender”. Mission: No Child Orphaned works with NGOs across India to rescue these innocent children before they fall into the hands of criminals and traffickers. Mission: No Child Orphaned gives them shelter, regular meals, enrolls them in schools and gives them the chance to build their lives and have better futures. To support Mission: No Child Orphaned, donate here

a newspaper clipping of Princess Diana and her children

The “Diana effect” on mental health

When Diana disclosed her struggles with bulimia and self-worth, it encouraged people, especially women, to speak up about their vulnerabilities and seek professional help. This was called the “Diana effect”. Her televised interviews humanized the mental health struggles that people used to keep hidden and led to open discussions about mental health. Diana used her platform to destigmatize mental health and her efforts focused on eating disorders, self-harm, suicide and feelings of inadequacy that so many women struggle with due to societal pressure and expectations. 

Two people saw a distressed woman walking in the middle of traffic down a busy road. While trying to find a safe space for her, they realized there was a lack of services for women with mental health struggles. This was how The Banyan was founded, an NGO that addresses mental health among women and rehabilitation. It focuses on rescue, emergency care, mental health rehabilitation and livelihood and other social needs. The Banyan offers a lifeline to marginalized women by prioritizing mental health issues, reintegrating people into society and fighting the stigma associated with mental health struggles. To support The Banyan, donate here.

a well wisher's note to Princess Diana

Decades on from her tragic death on August 31st, 1997, Princess Diana’s legacy as a humanitarian continues to impact individuals and organizations in the social sector who work to change the world for good. The life of Princess Diana serves as an example for people to use their voice to make the world a better place. When you support these 5 fundraisers, you help people overcome their struggles and improve their futures.


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