A Visit from the Prince’s Trust

The Prince of Wales takes a bite of a home-made burfi sweet, prepared by Krishna devotees at the Tolcarne Organic Farm in Cornwall. Prince Charles takes a keen interest in home-made produce, and as the Duke of Cornwall is especially supportive of organic farming in the area. The local organic farm is run by Dhirashanta Das. This picture was taken last year at a farmers market in Launceston.

Today I spent a few hours with the leading policy makers for the Prince’s Trust, the leading charity in Britain for helping young people aged 14-30. Formed by Prince Charles when he completed his Royal Navy service in 1976, the charity provides training, business start-up support, and ongoing mentoring and advice to young people who would benefit from additional help.

The charity has grown in size and capability over the past thirty years, and has to date helped around half a million youngsters, mainly those who were educational underachievers, the unemployed; youth offenders or those previously in institutional care. The results of the extra care have changed lives, and central government have taken up some of the ideas of the Prince’s Trust as national policy.

Today, a large group of those policy makers, from different arms of the charity, came to Bhaktivedanta Manor for a day out. Luckily the sun was shining. After a tour of the temple and Srila Prabhupada’s rooms, the grounds and the farm – to which they travelled by ox-cart – they took in a short yoga and breathing class. Afterwards I took questions for some time on the application of spirituality in helping others, and the discussions continued over lunch.

Our teachings have a lot to say about how young people can remain healthy and mentally positive, free from the anxieties and depression that plague so many. The life of Srila Prabhupada was a perfect demonstration of how the lives of thousands can be transformed by practical techniques of spiritual development.

Yes, we have a detailed and complex Vaishnava philosophy to offer, but even just a few simple ideas on health, diet, rising early, bathing, remaining free from sensual distraction, meditation, service to others, restraint, and useful employment within a community – all of that, or even some of it – could change the fortunes of many young people in Britain.

I sat with two members at lunch, one of them a Major in the British Army, the other from a background in campaigning organisations. We had an interesting and lively conversation during which I was informed of the Trust’s Team Programme, a 12-week personal development course which offers practical skills and engagement in worthwhile community projects.

I am old enough to have heard about ‘National Service’ – the state institution of two-year armed forces training. Many countries still have such a scheme of compulsory semi-militarisation for youths aged 16-18. In Britain such programmes finished in the 1950s, but every taxi-driver I’ve ever met has suggested it as a cure for youth crime and the growing gang culture.

Perhaps Britain shall never see the like of it again, but the Princes Trust people seemed interested in how spirituality might be added into a similar, non-compulsory scheme of personal development for those in their important youthful years.

And to give personal weight to my convictions about practical training for youth, this evening my son Mali, 11, joined the Scouts. He loved it.


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