Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Birthday kiss is fit for a prince

By Sarah Bell
BBC News

Prince of Wales
The Prince was handed a cake sporting a bus pass

Prince Charles chose to begin his milestone 60th birthday by meeting young people at a project run by his own charity in east London.

Showing no signs of fatigue after a lavish banquet in his honour the night before, the Prince, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, could not escape the fact it was his special day.

He was greeted with cheers of 'Happy Birthday, sir', from assembled photographers, birthday banners were pinned to the wall and he was handed a cake sporting a bus pass by the Sun newspaper.

One passer-by even broke protocol to give the heir to the throne a birthday kiss on the cheek as he got into his car.

He was marking his 60th by launching the Prince Trust's Youth Week, which aims to highlight the positive contribution young people make to society.

When I asked him for the kiss he just leaned forward and went for it
Naiyer Qureshi

His first destination was a pavilion in Beckton where members of the Trust's Team programme, which teaches life skills, have reclaimed a disused bowling green for the community.

He admired murals before sitting and playing with three-year-olds who use the building's nursery.

Ibrahim Mehmit, who helped to paint the murals, shares the Prince's birthday, albeit with 40 years' difference.

"I wished him happy birthday and he wished me one back. Then he asked if I was 24 and I said 'No, I'm 20', and he said 'You're still young. I can't remember when I was 20," he said.

Ibrahim, who makes music and wants to work in the industry, said the Prince had defied his expectations.

Ibrahim Mehmit, Craig Borrill and Ashley Brown
The Team project teaches life skills to help young people get work

"I thought he would be stiff and just stand there, but he came across as a nice person and can talk to people, he's really down to earth," he said.

The royal party then moved onto the nearby Beckton Community Centre to meet a variety of young people the charity has helped with practical and financial support.

The Prince's Trust works with 14-30-year-olds who have struggled at school, been in care, are long-term unemployed or have been in trouble with the law.

Since its 1976 inception, it has helped 575,000 people and supports 100 more every working day.

Charity's work

Among the guests was Steve Godwin, 27, who left school with no qualifications and found it hard to get work.

After years of drifting in and out of jobs he was advised to speak to the Prince's Trust about a business idea.

A 2,700 grant allowed him set up a leafleting business that offers information packs with ideas on activities young people can safely take part in outside of school.

"I now just feel really happy. Before, my whole life was failing, I had no hope for anything. I just think it's the most important charity you can come across, it actually makes changes for people," he said.

Steve Godwin
The Trust has helped 575,000 people since 1976

Cynics might say the life of a 60-year-old prince is a world away from the young people he met but on the day many said his charity's work provided relevance to their lives.

Steve Godwin said: "He must be a very nice man if he set up the Prince's Trust. It completely changes the lives of so many people, it plays an important part in youth culture."

In a speech launching Youth Week, the Prince congratulated the young people who he said were making "a fantastic difference" by leading and inspiring others.

He said: "A lot of the future is going to depend on all of you, and all you have been doing over all of these years, believe it or not, is investing in the future.

"So I hope you can provide the kind of return I've been expecting in terms of what you can do for your own communities and other people."

There was one more birthday surprise for the Prince as he left for his second birthday engagement, when Naiyer Qureshi from Beckton gave him a birthday peck on the cheek.

Speaking after the royals departed for a classical concert organised by The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts, she said she could not believe she had done it.

"He's not proud or stuck up and I just thought 'why not?'. The police didn't seem that bothered about keeping us back," she said.

"When I asked him for the kiss he just leaned forward and went for it. I thought should I go for the other cheek but I could see his wife in the background."

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