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March 26, 2003

Sophie takes on new charity role

From: icWales, UK - Mar 26, 2003

By Laura Elston and Lesley Richardson, PA News

The Countess of Wessex has become a trustee of the UK's largest charity for the deaf and hard of hearing, it was announced today.

Sophie's new role with the RNID was revealed as she met a group of youngsters with severe hearing loss.

James Strachan, chairman of charity, described the news as "tremendous", adding: "Her desire not just to be involved but to become an active member of our board of trustees is doubly exciting.

"RNID's goal is to ensure a radically better quality of life for the nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in this country."

Sophie is following in the footsteps of her father-in-law, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is patron of the RNID.

Sophie visited the Wandsworth Service for Hearing Impaired Children in south London as she continued a run of official engagements.

The service, which is supported by the RNID, aims to deliver support to local families, whose youngsters suffer from hearing loss.

It forms part a Government drive to improve help in the early years of a child's life.

Earlier in the day, Sophie watched performances by dance students at Central School of Ballet in central London and took a tour of the planned site for the performance theatre.

The school celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and is in the process of raising £3 million for redevelopment and refurbishment.

The Countess, dressed in a loose-fitting black dress and single string of pearls, has agreed to scores of engagements at home and overseas, quelling rumours that she is pregnant.

Sophie, 38, was said to have conceived naturally after having had unsuccessful IVF treatment and suffering a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy 15 months ago.

But, at a recent charity gala, her husband Prince Edward denied the couple were expecting, saying: "I wouldn't believe everything you read in the papers."

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