Teenager caught up in Malaysian drama

A STEYNING teenager has spoken of his '˜humbling' and '˜life-changing experience' on an ambassadorial tour of Malaysia.

Steyning footballer Henry Hayden, centre, on the ambassadorial tour of Malaysia
Steyning footballer Henry Hayden, centre, on the ambassadorial tour of Malaysia

The visit was all the more poignant, as the team involved was at the British High Commission during talks about the missing Malaysian airlines plane MH370.

Footballer Henry Hayden, 19, was part of the University of East London’s ambassadorial tour of Malaysia, including visits to a charity helping impoverished children, an elephant sanctuary and several colleges and universities.

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Henry said: “Playing futsal with the children at KL Krash Pad was very humbling. It helped me understand the lack of importance of material possessions, as the children there had relatively little compared to us, yet were still astonishingly happy.

“The educational institutions we visited were also phenomenal and the reception we received from each of them was hugely welcoming. It was a life-changing trip.”

Britain’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Simon Featherstone, apologised to the students for not spending more time with then, as he was meeting Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, to discuss Britain’s support to find the missing Boeing 777, which remains lost.

The students met Ray Kyles, deputy head of mission at the embassy, and spent time with Nikesh Mehta, counsellor for foreign policy and security.

Henry added: “The trip to Malaysia was an unbelievable experience. We did many amazing activities which I will never forget, such as seeing the British High Commissioner and washing the elephants.”

The 11 ambassadors, from the university’s football club, played futsal, a variant of football played on a smaller field, with teenagers from a deprived area. They have to contend with problems of prostitution, drugs and homelessness, but go to Kuala Lumpur Krash Pad for a safe space to relax, have fun and access support with education.

Arfan Akram, the university’s international sports development officer, said: “This was a once in a life-time opportunity for these students, which they grabbed with both hands and feet. They have grown in maturity, are more worldly, appreciative and confident.”