Prince Edward coming to Victoria to honour B.C. youth

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, will visit B.C. next month to present awards of merit to youth in Victoria and Kelowna.

The Queen’s youngest son and his wife will visit Canada between Sept. 12 and 20.

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They will be in Victoria Sept. 13 to present 85 youth from Victoria, Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland with the gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Gold is the highest level of the award, which challenges youth ages 14 to 24 to complete a program of activities that include service, skill, physical recreation, and adventure.

The award was founded by Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1956 and was started in Canada in 1963.

Sushil Saini, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon branch of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, said she’s excited to have Edward meet the youth and award them their certificate and pin.

“One of the great things about the award program is we offer youths this public recognition,” Saini said. “Having the prince come and honour them for what they’ve achieved is significant.”

Edward has taken a special interest in the award program and meets with participants all around the world, Saini said.

A second ceremony will take place Sept. 16 in Kelowna to recognize youth from the rest of B.C. and the Yukon.

Edward’s brother Prince Andrew, Duke of York, presented awards to 100 youth in Victoria in May 2013.

On Sept. 14, Edward will attend a working lunch in Vancouver where the topic will be engaging aboriginal youth and youth from Yukon in the program.

More than 20 per cent of youth who particpate in the program are considered at-risk youth, Saini said. “Of those, 89 per cent said doing the program gave them the skills to turn their lives around.”

The trip is a working rather than a royal visit. Edward and his wife have accepted invitations from a number of organizations to come to Canada.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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