The Duchess of Cornwall spoke movingly as she visited a charity in East Sussex, closely linked with her late mother, which helps young people with disabilities.
The duchess toured part of the Chailey Heritage Foundation’s base near Uckfield, where her mother Rosalind Shand volunteered in the 1960s and 1970s.
Afterwards, she told guests: “It brings back very, very many happy memories for me as my mother volunteered here for 17 years.
“I know wherever she is now, she would be looking down so proudly on Chailey Heritage to see how far it has gone from strength to strength, and she would be very proud and equally pleased that I have come back again after all the work she did here in the past.”
The visit by the Duchess of Cornwall, who was accompanied by the foundation’s patron, the Duchess of Gloucester, was to mark the centenary of the foundation’s St Martin’s Chapel and the opening of a new life skills centre.
Together the royal pair met some of the young disabled people who benefit from the state-of-the-art facilities set in rural East Sussex.
Among those who made an impression was 16-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Thomas Nightingale who gave the Duchess of Cornwall his prediction on what sex the Duchess of Cambridge’s baby will be.
He told her: “I have a feeling it is a girl.” The duchess gave nothing away as she replied with a smile: “Well, we’ll see if your feeling is proved right.”
Children, many in wheelchairs, lined the entrance to greet the royals amid bright sunshine. Lesley Preston-Roberts, an enterprise leader for 16-plus at Chailey, presented the Duchess of Cornwall with a Chailey teddy bear.
Ms Roberts-Preston, 47, explained afterwards: “The children and their families buy these bears, take them away on holiday and then email us pictures of them abroad which we’ll use in a calendar.”
In the newly-opened life skills centre, young people aged 19 to 25 demonstrated their cooking abilities. As one made chocolate icing, the Duchess of Cornwall remarked: “It’s when you put your finger in it – that’s the best bit.”
Tours were then made of the ICT suite, the gym and an arts and crafts room featuring clay-modelling and painting before the duchess formally opened the centre.
It operates on a “pay as you use” basis for young people with disabilities who can book sessions in the gym, sauna and spa, and take part in cookery lessons.
A salon enables people to enjoy manicures, massages and hair appointments, while GK’s Cafe has become a vibrant meeting place for young people and the wider community.
The cafe is named after the charity’s founder, Dame Grace Kimmins, who in 1903 brought seven disabled children from London’s East End to be educated and receive medical support.
The foundation has three parts, including Chailey Heritage School for youngsters aged three to 19 with complex disabilities, the children’s home, and the newest part, Futures@Chailey Heritage, which helps young people with disabilities make the transition into adulthood.
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