Ladies and Gentlemen, I must start by expressing the warmest possible thanks to all The Prince’s Trust’s Ambassadors who have been kind enough to turn up today and help us “Celebrate Success”. I am particularly grateful to our compÃ¨res Steve Jones and Kimberley Walsh for spending such a lot of time and effort on this whole occasion. I know how busy they are, and the fact that so many of them can give up their precious lives to come and help, I promise you it makes a fantastic difference. I’m hugely grateful as well to Cheryl Cole for coming all the way today and taking part in the ceremony. I’m thrilled too because she has decided to set up her own charity and she’s asked The Prince’s Trust to help administer it in the North East. I’m very proud that she should have chosen The Prince’s Trust to help her to effect what she hopes will happen in terms of turning people’s lives around.
I hope today, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have some idea of just how proud I feel of so many of these young people who’ve had their lives turned around. They have been helped by so many wonderful, dedicated people around this country who either work for The Trust full time or are volunteers in some way or other, whether they’re business mentors or whatever. All these people make a fantastic difference. I’m so lucky, I feel, because they’re prepared to give up their time to encourage and inspire, raise aspirations, build self-confidence and self-esteem. It doesn’t all happen over-night so they have to work, as you can imagine, incredibly hard, with great patience and understanding, showing concern for people - and you can see the results. You can imagine perhaps just what encouragement it gives not only myself but those who work for The Trust including marvellous people like Martina Milburn who helps run it in her incredible way - to make sure that it all works properly and that we have a tiny bit of money left over at the end of the year, if we’re lucky. Also, in Charles Dunstone, The Trust’s Chairman: again, I’m incredibly lucky to have somebody like that, who’s prepared to give up so much time in his incredibly busy life I think it’s wonderful.
So today provides an opportunity just to say how much I appreciate all their contribution. You can imagine how much a ceremony of this kind requires such a degree of support: today’s National Final is the culmination of 11 regional competitions, involving hundreds of young people across the whole country. Of course the young people we’ve applauded today have succeeded despite these huge difficulties which so often seem to overwhelm their lives, from abuse to homelessness, from self-harm to drug and alcohol addiction, to prison, to wanting to end their lives.
In fact, I receive quite a lot of letters from young people who write in to me saying I would have committed suicide, I would have been dead or in prison again, if it hadn’t been for what The Trust has done to turn my life around. Then, when they go on to become Young Ambassadors for The Trust, well that’s even more exciting for me because it’s proving the value of the investment we’ve made in their lives to see them go out to inspire and help others - and become part of that every greater army of young people getting rapidly older, who might be able to continue to help the Trust in the years to come. So, it is a long-term investment process.
When you think just how much unshakeable determination is needed to overcome these unimaginable odds that people are facing, that would have defeated most people people like Katey, who was once so lacking in confidence that she even struggled to talk to anybody; and Steve who felt so worthless that he felt like giving up both of those had contemplated taking their own lives before they even reached the age of 20. But now, thank God, their future is now so different.
Of course what we have to remember is almost one million young people living in England are not in work, education or training. That’s a lot of people we have to try and help. We help over forty thousand every year; we help a lot some six thousand into business every year and that makes me incredibly proud, but as I say none of this could be done without the huge generosity of others and you can imagine we can’t do it without so many corporate supporters and I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to them. Most notably, I just wanted to thank today L’Oréal Paris and all the Award sponsors for supporting this particular ceremony. There are all sorts of other partners who’ve assisted with programme development, volunteering, pro-bono support, offering work placements, job opportunities and so on and so forth. All this is crucial and makes a fantastic difference. I particularly wanted to mention and thank the whole army of volunteers, five thousand of them, all over the country, who again make the whole difference. Without them we would not be anything, we would not be able to transform people’s lives - I really mean that. The fact that they go on wanting to be volunteers is fantastic. I also must mention the people who make it all happen - the staff the wonderful staff of my Trust, who help to make it what it is today, the United Kingdom’s leading youth charity, which every year helps tens of thousands of young people back on to their feet. One of the things that has given me enormous pleasure, we’ve heard about it just earlier, is the fact that I can today add my own welcome to the staff from Fairbridge, which is the charity that my Trust will merge with next week on April Fool’s Day! Some genius thought up that!
Together with Fairbridge, my Trust will now have just under a thousand staff, a turnover of 50 million pounds a year, as Charles Dunstone said and we’ll help about fifty thousand young people a year and we hope in due course more. The wonderful thing is that Fairbridge has also got a network of some 15 centres around the country which also enable us to do even more in terms of delivery. I am much looking forward to meeting staff and young people from Fairbridge in the near future and all I can say is the contribution made by Fairbridge to helping so many young people is deeply valued. So Ladies and Gentlemen, again today, all I wanted to do is offer my warmest and heartfelt congratulations to all those who’ve overcome all these obstacles, because I bet now, sitting in the audience are many proud mothers, dads, friends and relations who I hope are feeling very special as a result of seeing their loved ones overcome all these obstacles, standing up here, and they could never perhaps have contemplated such a thing, and even having to meet me! So again I cannot tell you just what pride and purpose and how much it gives me new power and raises my spirits to see what you’ve all achieved. Thank you for going on as our Ambassadors and making a difference to a lot of young people’s lives.