Her Majesty the Queen has today, Wednesday 5 December 2018, officially opened a new building at Coram’s central London campus dedicated to children and named in her honour – The Queen Elizabeth II Centre.
The Queen Elizabeth II Centre is dedicated to the promotion of children’s rights and best practice. The new building is located in the heart of Coram’s historical site and is a celebration of the 350th anniversary of the birth of the charity’s founder, Thomas Coram. Thomas Coram refused to look away from children abandoned on the streets of London and campaigned for 17 years for the Royal Charter of 1739 which established Coram, formerly known as The Foundling Hospital – the first home to care for these vulnerable children.
Sadly, today, still too many children and young people in the UK do not get the help and support they need and Thomas Coram’s work continues through the charity simply known now as Coram. Coram has ambitious plans for the future and with this building is starting to write the next chapter in its history.
Upon arrival, The Queen was greeted by Isaac, aged 8, who found his adoptive family through Coram.
Edward Newton, aged 102, and the oldest surviving pupil of the Foundling Hospital, was presented to the Queen. The occasion was particularly poignant for Mr. Newton who also met King George V and Queen Mary during their 1926 visit to the Foundling Hospital.
Mr Newton said to The Queen: “I remember when your grandmother and grandfather came to visit.” The Queen replied: “That is a very special memory”. Mr. Newton later added: “I remember their open carriage arriving and waiting in line to greet them so it is wonderful to meet Her Majesty today. I grew up in the Foundling Hospital and I am grateful that I was given a chance to lead a good life. I came today because I felt I owed it to Coram. I am very happy to support the great work they are doing to help children.”
Alongside Mr. Newton, Her Majesty also had the opportunity to meet one of the youngest children to be adopted through Coram, Mia, aged 14 months.
Her Majesty then met Lewis, aged 8, who found his adoptive parents after taking part in Coram Adoption Activity Day. His moving story was featured in the highly emotive Channel 4 documentary, Finding Me a Family. It is exactly a year to the day that the documentary aired and coincidentally it is also the day that Lewis moved in with his adoptive parents in time for Christmas. Lewis presented The Queen with a copy of the recently published children’s book Captain Coram: Children’s Champion which tells the story of the remarkable life and achievements of Thomas Coram.
A ceremony of performances by young people was hosted by Carrie and David Grant, former judges on Pop Idol and Fame Academy and adoptive parents themselves. Carrie said: “This is an issue that is very close to our heart. We have four children, three birth, one adopted, and they all have special needs. It’s important for young people to know they are represented throughout society and to know that they are not alone.”
Before her departure, The Queen decorated Coram’s Christmas tree with a miniature Thomas Coram coat decoration, alongside Shylah, aged 8 and her mother Eve Clarke.
As a young parent, Eve pioneered Coram’s Young Parenthood Programme, a peer-to-peer education scheme in London where young parents talk to pupils candidly about the impact of having a child at a young age.
Shylah said: “I felt pretty overwhelmed and excited to meet the Queen. I felt proud.” Eve said: “It felt like a dream, it didn’t feel real. I was so happy for Shylah; it was a lovely experience for her.”
The Queen Elizabeth II Centre was made possible by the generous donations from a number of supporters led by The Queen’s Trust and ZVM Rangoonwala Foundation.
The Queen Elizabeth II Centre encompasses:
- Coram’s Children’s Rights Centre, integrating legal advice and information, legal representation, outreach and advocacy across education, immigration, community care and family law, securing access to justice for children and building civil society capacity to use legal means to fight for children.
- The Rangoonwala Conference and Learning Centre, supporting improved delivery of services seeking to drive systemic change and building capacity for the future through training, development and debate.
- The Co-Production Unit, championing children’s voices in decisions that matter to them and co-producing solutions for the future, putting children at the heart of the debate and development.
Dr Carol Homden CBE, CEO of Coram said, “We are delighted that Her Majesty The Queen, with her long-standing royal association and interest in Coram and its work with children, has graciously agreed that our new building can be named in her honour, and be known as The Queen Elizabeth II Centre. Her interest in our work is a source of huge pride for us.”
“The Queen Elizabeth II Centre will be far more than just bricks and mortar. We are building a home for all who care for children and want to use this space to bring together people from all walks of life to build a better world where all children can thrive.”
View more images from Her Majesty, The Queen’s visit to Coram