At 14 he was homeless on the streets of Brighton, having been alienated and thrown out of his home by his dysfunctional family.
At that time he was vulnerable, hooked on drugs, drink and tobacco, and by all accounts a lost cause.
Fortunately he found someone who offered friendship, support, and occasionally a safe space. However he continued to struggle with his addictions, low self-esteem, and lack of motivation to get out of the rut he found himself in.
Last week that same young man, now twenty years old, took up my invitation to visit Ote Hall Farm to see for himself how small family farms function and survive, often through diversification, prior to enrolling on his agricultural course.
This charming confident young man asked intelligent questions about the beef cattle and arable crops, and he was interested to see how our harvest was progressing. He was thrilled to travel with John in the combine, once conditions allowed, which to his delight he got to drive.
He was curious about the variety of diversification projects run by Ote Hall Farms.
And he was very surprised that the person he had met some weeks earlier, in very different circumstances, actively worked on the farm; driving tractors, feeding cattle, and organising and running the weddings, events, and lettings of residential properties and business units, and marketing, amongst other enterprises.
We first met at a Princes Trust Award ceremony in Lewes, where he was presented with his certificate having taken part in a twelve week course.
The charity was founded in 1976 by Prince Charles, to help disadvantaged young people. Each year the Trust works with about 60,000 youngsters aged 16 – 25, on training programmes, providing mentoring support and offering financial grants to build confidence and motivation.
The Trust aims to work with long-term unemployed, those in trouble with the law, in difficulty at school, and those who have been in care.
Prince Charles’s charity is one of the most successful funding organisations in the UK, and the UK’s leading youth charity, having helped over 825,000 young people turn their lives around.
It has created 125,000 entrepreneurs and given business support to 395,000 people in the UK, and from 2006 to 2016, its work for disadvantaged youth has been worth an estimated £1.4 billion.
When the ten young people, most of whom fell into one or all or the above categories, received their awards, each gave a very personal presentation, telling the audience about their troubled backgrounds, and above all what having been accepted onto the Prince’s Trust training and mentoring project, had done for them.
All expressed deep appreciation and thanks for the opportunity they had been given, and above all the confidence and motivation they had gained while working on projects, mentoring each other and experiencing work placements.
To see these enthusiastic and motivated youngsters talking about their futures, with growing confidence and enthusiasm, now they have turned their backs on drink, drugs, crime and self-harm, was heart-warming
The Princes Trust transforms broken young people, some of whom would not survive in the long run, and at the very least would be a burden on society, into useful and motivated individuals who will now be an asset to their communities.
This project is just one of the many charities which fall within the Prince’s Charitable Foundation. Through his foresight over forty years ago, and his wish to use his status for the benefit others, Prince Charles has enriched the lives of thousands of people, not only in the UK but as far afield as Australia, Canada and India.
I feel confident that the young man who came to Ote Hall, and his fellow graduates of the Prince’s Trust, will now go from strength to strength. I wish them luck and good fortune. Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat