I say it a lot, I will continue to.
I was always outdoorsy, spending most of my time in the garden or walking with my family as a child, so as I grew up it was natural that this would continue. As a teenager I was (at the time) unwillingly dragged along to join the Sea Cadets, and it was the best thing I ever did. Whilst many of my school friends were off getting drunk at house parties, I was drinking tea from a camping stove on Dartmoor.
When I turned 14, I was fortunate enough to be able to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award and it's made me who I am today. Founded by the Duke of Edinburgh himself in 1956, the scheme was designed to encourage young adults aged 14 to 24 to take on a range of activities, to broaden their skills and teach them about teamwork, leadership and perseverance.
Thanks to the Award, I'm now confident at leading a group, working as part of a team and can navigate without getting lost (mostly... I do occasionally forget the map has a sheet on the other side). Most of this can be attributed to the time I spent both training and taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
If you're thinking about getting involved or have/know young people who would like to, here are a few reasons why it's such an amazing scheme...
1. Skills For Life
It's your chance to show what you're good at or learn a new skill.
Perhaps your skill is ceremonial drill and playing the flute (ahem).
Maybe your skills are DJ-ing, cooking, sign language or even taxidermy
(yes, that is recognised by the DofE Award)
There will always be something you can do, or learn, and it's a great way to boost your knowledge too!
2. Making Friends
Planning your expedition?
Walking/Cycling/Riding/Kayaking across the country?
Before your expedition, you will have gained the skills required to navigate safely, lead and work as part of a team but also push your boundaries. All of these skills stand you in good stead for the future, be it at college, university or in the work place.
There's a reason the Duke of Edinburgh Award is held in such high regard.
3. Giving Back
What could be better than helping to give back to your local community, whilst also having the chance to inspire the next generation of participants?
What do you do?
Work out what went wrong, discuss with your team, check your route, tell them an appalling joke/sing terribly to keep their morale up, work out where you're headed. Get moving.
Problem solving, communication, motivation and time management are all critical skills for everyone to have in life and the Duke of Edinburgh Award will teach you all of these, in a practical and fun way.
You will use these skills time and time again, both as part of the Award and well in to the future.
5. Keeping Fit & Healthy
You name your sport, the DofE award probably covers it.
If not, it's a great way for you to try something new and make friends along the way!
6. Expedition & Adventure Skills
Planning a hike across Dartmoor, horse riding in the Brecon Beacons, cycling across the New Forest, recording wildlife or natural sights along the way. The possibilities here are truly endless...
This is where your inspiration kicks in, this is where you learn new skills, gel as a team and where you truly find yourself!
7. Go For Gold!
This could be anything from helping to teach dance at a youth group, working in an orphanage or attending a course and showing what you've learned upon completion!
For mine, I spent a week at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, seeing how Royal Naval officers lived, studied and trained.
Click here to find out more about the activities available. as part of the scheme.
The scheme is open to everyone. Last year 253,005 young people started their Duke of Edinburgh Award journey, including 33,650 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I've seen first hand the impact this scheme has on those young people, and how their lives have changed in a huge way because of it.
Your teenage years shape you as a person and so I am all in favour of the push to get more of these amazing young people taking part in the Award, achieving what they once perhaps thought was not available to them.
It quite literally turns lives around, creating role models for others within schools and communities.
Mont Blanc 2017 Challenge
Of course, a huge part of making the Award available to everyone is funding.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a charity. All donations lower the cost for participants and assist the volunteers who run the schemes around the country in their work training and inspiring these incredible young people, letting them push their comfort zones and, for many of them, experience their first taste of adventure.
Hopefully even inspiring some of them to climb literal or metaphorical mountains!
Just £15 could shape one young person’s future, giving them access to this life-changing opportunity and opening up a world of adventure!
Click here to donate to this inspiring cause!
Whilst you may imagine that this will only benefit one individual, as they grow through the award and in to the future, their actions will impact on their direct community and peer groups. They will take this knowledge and experience with them throughout life.