Prince Harry officially opens Dagenham's Future Youth Zone
PUBLISHED: 18:13 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:24 12 April 2019
Prince Harry was full of praise for Dagenham’s new Future Youth Zone as he officially opened the £6.15million venue.
The Duke of Sussex took a tour of the centre, on the corner of Parsloes Park, meeting some of the young people who will be attending - and branding the youth club “amazing”.
The centre, set up by OnSide Youth Zones, will be open to young people aged eight to 19 - or up to 25 for those with disabilities - and its integrated sessions means brothers Bola and Ola Busari will be able to attend together.
Ola, 13, has autism, and older sibling Bola, 15, has been involved in the development of the Future Youth Zone for four years.
The Duke met with the pair in a special sensory room designed for those who need a bit of peace and quiet.
“It was great,” Eastbrook School pupil Bola said of meeting Prince Harry. “I said to him that we’re going to come here often.”
The Duke also spoke with 18-year-old Georgie Hart, who presented him with a silver birth certificate holder.
“When I found out he was coming I wanted to get him something,” she said.
She also told the royal father-to-be how she was inspired to take up the Paralympic sport of club throwing after watching the Invictus Games - a sporting tournament set up by the Duke for wounded, injured or sick members of the armed forces.
Prince Harry saw demonstrations of some of the youth centre’s sporting facilities, from the indoor climbing wall to the outdoor skate park and 3G football pitch.
In the sports hall, he met with former England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward before the pair gave a team talk to a group of young tag rugby players.
Not content with just coaching his side, the Duke joined in with the game, running about and laughing with the youngsters.
He then headed upstairs to the music room where he listened to a spoken word performance from Paula Rodriguez, who received a hug from the Duke after handing him a handwritten copy of Hear This London.
She said: “It was an amazing experience to perform in front of him. He made me feel confident.”
The Duke was asked by one young person whether his child - due to be born in the coming weeks - would attend an OnSide Youth Zone, to which he joked: “Give it time!”
Prince Harry then joined in with a discussion about knife crime with members of Future Youth Zone, the Barking and Dagenham Youth Zone and Box Up Crime.
Donnavan Augustine, from Chadwell Heath, said that the Duke praised them for being “better than politicians” in how they articulated their points.
Among the topics discussed, he said, was drill music, video games and the ability of parents to raise their children properly.
After meeting some of the centre’s funders and supporters, he was invited to officially open the youth centre - and picked nine-year-old Arberesha Deda out of the crowd to give him a hand in pulling the ribbon.