'It was beyond words': Duchess of Cornwall visits Barnardo's Ilford hub
PUBLISHED: 16:28 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:50 22 February 2019
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A Romford baker who was supported out of foster care by charity Barnardo's was "lost for words" after the Duchess of Cornwall cut her cake on a visit to Ilford.
The Duchess visited Barnardo’s wellbeing hub, in Granville Road, Ilford today (Thursday, February 21) to see the range of services the charity offers to transform the lives of vulnerable children and young people.
The event culminated with the Duchess cutting a cake baked by Zhane Decembre, 20.
“It was beyond words really,” said Zhane, who spent hours preparing the macaroon-coated, vanilla-bean, butter cream dessert.
“This is something I have always wanted to happen. Now I am here – I don’t know what to say.
“I have been through a lot in my life and to be here at this point is really exciting for me.”
Zhane told the Recorder that she grew up in foster care from the age of 13.
She came into contact with Barnardo’s aged 18, and said its support was invaluable as she went through court proceedings to retain custody of her one-year-old-son Marhz.
Now living in Romford, she has launched a business called Blissful Cakes.
The Duchess was greeted at the hub by Redbridge Mayor Debbie Kaur-Thiara, council leader Jas Athwal, Deputy Lieutenant Thomas Chan and Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan.
Her tour began with a look at the centre’s arts and crafts rooms, where children who are responsible for looking after ill family members can find respite.
“Oh you’ve got lots of different colours over here,” the Duchess remarked to a group of young girls painting each others’ nails.
She added: “You’re going to be very beautiful by the time you’re finished.”
The Duchess spoke with Tomomi Malcolm, 16, who has spent eight years looking after her mum who suffers with blood disorder sickle cell disease.
“I was a bit nervous,” Tomomi admitted.
The Duchess then went on to cut a ribbon to formally open the hub’s new sensory and music rooms, whose construction was funded by a £20,000 donation from Asif and Sarah Ansari.
Camilla played with interactive images of strawberries projected on the floor and marvelled at the room’s electric blue fibre-optic lighting as children played in a multi-coloured ball pit.
She also spoke to 23-year-old Ilford vlogger Isaac Harvey.
Despite it being his second time meeting the Duchess, he described the experience as being “a little nerve-wracking”.
He was born with limb/pelvic hypoplasia syndrome, which means he has no arms and a weak pelvis, so does most things with his feet.
“I told her about my time here, how initially I came here for respite care and then came back as a volunteer,” he said.
“I told her about how it is good for people with disabilities to have a space they can come to.”
Ten-year-old Anton, who looks after his little sister, had the opportunity to perform on the glockenspiel for the Duchess.
“It makes me feel happy because I have never really met a Duchess before,” he said.
“It was pretty simple because all you have to do is tap [the instrument] with this stick!”
Among the other people whose lives have been transformed by Barnardo’s were Aaron Kumar, 19, and Leticia Hebert, 20.
Both have been appointed onto a Barnardo’s advisory panel to give feedback to the charity on their own experiences leaving care to help improve the services offered.
In a speech, the charity’s chief executive Mr Khan said: “It is a real honour to show our royal patron, the Duchess of Cornwall, how our expert workers support some of the most vulnerable children and young people in Ilford and around the UK.
“Some of these children have huge responsibilities, spending up to 30 hours a week caring for a parent or sibling.
“Others are adjusting to adult life after being in local authority care, and don’t have a family of their own to support them.”
Barnardo’s Young Carers Service supported 152 young carers in Redbridge last year.
Visit barnardos.org.uk to find out more