The sun was beaming down as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the Joff youth centre in Peacehaven today (October 3).
Union Jack-waving crowds gathered and chanted Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s names as they arrived at the centre in Roderick Avenue to highlight the work it is doing towards children’s mental health.
The royal couple were welcomed to the centre by local youth cabinet representatives Libby Russell, 16, and Indya-Jayne Wardle, 15.
Indya told them: “We work with people with mental health issues. We want young people to be as involved as possible and feel empowered to make a change and get the support they need.”
Meghan said: “That’s excellent!” She called the girls very eloquent. While Prince Harry said: “There’s so much I want to say to you guys!”
He then went to speak to members of the children in care council about their experiences.
Fatma Bacha, 15, said: “It’s important for someone in his status and of his age to understand the situation children are going through, 20 years ago this wasn’t spoken about.”
Leah Goodman, 17, added: “He was so down to earth, so lovely. It’s okay to have mental health issues. Everyone under the age of 18 will have a problem but children in care may not have the confidence to say ‘I need support’.”
While Meshelle Cormody, support worker, said: “He said people that have been through that have a feeling in their stomach and when you have coped with it yourself you can help a lot of other people and it’s really important to talk about that with other people.”
Meanwhile Meghan sat with a workshop of children who are part of the youth cabinet and chatted about the Takeover Challenge day, taking place on November 23.
Chloe Ayres, 15, said: “It was scary at first but she’s really easy to talk to. I really wanted to ask her where her outfit was from.”
Meghan was wearing a green leather skirt from Hugo Boss and a smart camel coat from Emporio Armani.
Emma Garwood, 16, added: “We explained what the takeover is all about – we’ve been blogging to promote it and designed a news article.”
In East Sussex the theme of the takeover day is Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing, with a focus on ways young people can help each other and themselves.
Speaking to a group of children who shared their personal experiences with mental health, Prince Harry said: “What I have seen in there I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
“There’s so many of you guys who are sharing your experiences to make sure people don’t have to go through what you have been through.
“No matter what you have suffered from there’s something inside which makes you willing to help somebody else.”
Then there was a big group photo and Prince Harry said: “Should we all cheer or something?” And the room exploded in applause.
Saying goodbye, Prince Harry even gave one girl a kiss on the cheek. Akosua Gyasi-Addo, 13, was stunned. She said: “I don’t even know what to say. He hugged me twice and danced with me!”
Reflecting afterwards, Atiya Gourlay, equality and participation manager for children’s services at East Sussex County Council, said: “They have been fantastic, they absolutely understood immediately what the day was about and the importance of young peoples’ voice in their own mental health and emotional wellbeing.
“They had a talk in a small group and really wanted to understand and have a real insight into children’s lived experiences – being a child in care, or LGBTQ, or with depression or anxiety.
“It’s bringing young people together to talk about it. If you don’t address it at a young age it gets worse as an adult.”
Mandy Collings, of the Joff centre, said: “Things of this magnitude don’t happen in Peacehaven. It highlights the good work we do at the Joff.”
The visit was part of the Duke and Duchess’ first official visit to Sussex since being wed in May.