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November 15, 2016
Newham's Duke of Edinburgh's Award work given royal seal of approval
The achievements of Newham's Duke of Edinburgh's (DofE) Awards was celebrated last Thursday (Thursday 10 November) with a special visit by HRH The Earl of Wessex. Cllr Lakmini Shah was instrumental in getting the Earl to visit the Borough.

The Earl attended a special event at the Old Town Hall, Stratford attended by the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales and 24 DofE participants including pupils from Rokeby, Lister and Sarah Bonnell schools and Brampton Manor Academy.

HRH The Earl of Wessex, a DofE Trustee and Gold Award holder, visited the borough as part of a national tour to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of the charity which provides young people aged 14-24 the unique opportunity to gain valuable life experience while developing essential employability skills.

He is also promoting the Diamond Challenge, a one-off initiative for people of all ages to take on a DofE inspired challenge and earn a limited-edition DofE Diamond Challenge pin.

The council's mayoral adviser for domestic and family violence, Councillor Lakmini Shah, the Deputy Lieutenant for Newham, Mr John Barber, and the DofE Regional Director, Peter Fleet, also attended the event.

Since 1980, more than 2,500 Newham young people have achieved a Bronze, Silver or Gold DofE award.

In 2015/2016 alone, 725 youngsters signed up to take part in the scheme - a 127 per cent increase on those signing up the year before. During this period, seven people completed their Gold awards, 49 their Silver and 64 their Bronze. Since 1 April this year, five people have completed their Gold award, four people their silver and 57 people their Bronze.

During his visit, HRH heard about the experiences of some of Newham's young people This included Sara Patel, who had attended Plashet School, who outlined how the scheme had helped increase her confidence, especially after she climbed Snowdon as part of achieving her Gold award.

She said: "There were times when I was near to tears but the determination to reach the summit and the self belief we gained throughout would not let me quit. I knew if I could make it up Snowdon in one piece I could achieve whatever I set my mind to."

The Earl of Wessex also presented the borough's first Diamond Challenge Pin to Cllr Lakmini Shah. Certificates were also presented to representatives of the African Ladies Group, Forest Gate Older Ladies Group, Russian Ladies Group, and Right Voice Group. They have developed special conversation cafes across Newham giving residents the chance to talk to others about the challenges they are facing and find ways to tackle and overcome them.

Sir Robin said: "I am delighted HRH The Earl of Wessex has been able to hear first hand the great work of the borough's Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme and the impact it has had on the lives of those taking part in it."

"Regardless of their background, our children should have the same opportunities as those from wealthier boroughs. Our Every Child Programme which gives our children access to a range of activities including theatre, sport and chess is making this a reality."

"The DofE Award embodies this same spirit, giving our children the chance to volunteer, develop a new skill and fend for themselves in the great outdoors. All of this can have tremendous benefits in the long term as they enrich people's lives. The Diamond Anniversary campaign is also opening up the opportunity of achieving a DofE Award to more people."

Cllr Shah said: "I am hugely proud to be part of the Diamond Challenge and to be leading the efforts to get the people of Newham involved. The Challenge provides a positive opportunity to help Newham's community with so far more than 600 people signing up to support the conversation cafes initiative. I want to continue to link the work of the Diamond Challenge it into our wider work on strengthening the resilience of our community."

DofE Regional Director, Peter Fleet, said: "As we celebrate 60 years of The DofE Award, it's clear that the Charity is an integral part of life in Newham which has played an invaluable role in the development of thousands of young people in the community. It is fantastic to see Newham being recognised for the outstanding work it does and enormous thanks must be given to the volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure that every DofE participant makes the most of this wonderful opportunity."

To find out more about The DofE Diamond Challenge and get involved visit: www.DofEDiamondChallenge.org

The Earl of Wessex presenting to Cllr Lakmini Shah
the first Diamond Challenge Pin in Newham Borough

Cllr Shah presents HRH The Earl of Wessex
to representatives of Right Voice Group

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, and Cllr Lakmini Shah with councillors
and representatives of the groups receiving their Diamond Challenge certificates
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