His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex visited Wokingham Youth Centre on Thursday 17 March after hearing about the centre’s impressive approach to running The Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award.
The Earl is currently visiting venues across the UK to celebrate the DofE’s Diamond Anniversary and to see first-hand the impact that the DofE has on young people and their communities.
Wokingham Borough Council’s targeted youth service has been leading an innovative approach to offer the DofE to vulnerable young people in the Wokingham Borough. It has been offered not only to young people in care, but care leavers and young people where the academic route isn’t always necessarily for them.
Through the DofE, the borough council aims to give young people something to strive towards, and something that is nationally recognised as showcasing commitment and dedication.
The council is passionate about enabling young people to have the best chances in life; the DofE provides vital learning, skill-set building and resilient attitudes towards achieving in life and work.
Over the last 60 years, 14 to 24-year-olds, from all backgrounds and circumstances, have had the opportunity to take part in the DofE and complete their DofE programmes, opening doors to learn work-ready skills, cement life-long friendships, broaden interests and stretch horizons.
HRH The Earl of Wessex, who was received by the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Mr James Puxley, was introduced to local dignitaries and received a tour of the youth centre. His Royal Highness met with a number of young people from the Wokingham Borough who explained their individual journeys and how participating in the DofE has helped them develop and thrive.
Met local young people
During his visit, The Earl was introduced to Peter (16) who has autism and attends a special educational needs school. Peter said: "I initially found the DofE quite hard work, but working alongside other young people, and being mentored by the centre staff, I have managed to achieve my Bronze and Silver DofE Award."
Robert Hussey (22), a care leaver and part of the leaving care council, who also met The Earl, said: "I knew nothing about DofE until I discovered that I was already carrying out activities that covered sectional certificates for the award. I was then told more about it and thought it was a good thing to sign-up to as it could be good experience for my future."
By working alongside their peers, both Peter and Robert have gained confidence by mixing with others and their self-esteem has increased dramatically.
The Earl of Wessex was also shown expedition route planning and moped training demonstrations. To mark the end of the visit, The Earl of Wessex was thanked by centre staff and signed the visitor book.
Wokingham Borough Mayor Cllr Parry Batth, who accompanied The Earl, said: "This was a momentous occasion for all young people currently participating in the DofE and will act as a showcase for those young people potentially wanting to join something so rewarding.
"This was a day the young people could be proud of and celebrate their successes, it is such an honour and a privilege to have His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex visit Wokingham Youth Centre."
Wokingham Borough Council, in partnership with the DofE, aims to ensure all young people from the borough have access to the DofE Award either through the council’s targeted programme or through the DofE’s school programme.