Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) was one of the best things I ever did. This programme really instilled my love of the outdoors and opened up many opportunities for me, many of which I’m still involved with now.
What is DofE?
According to the DofE website:
A life-changing experience. A fun time with friends. An opportunity to discover new interests and talents. A tool to develop essential skills for life and work. A recognised mark of achievement; respected by employers.The DofE is many things to many people, supporting generations to successfully navigate adult life.14-24 year-olds can do a DofE programme at one of three progressive levels which, when successfully completed, leads to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
There are four sections to complete at Bronze and Silver level and five at Gold. They involve helping the community/environment, becoming fitter, developing new skills, planning, training for and completing an expedition and, for Gold only, working with a team on a residential activity.
Any young person can do their DofE – regardless of ability, gender, background or location. Achieving an Award isn’t a competition or about being first. It’s all about setting personal challenges and pushing personal boundaries. Through a DofE programme young people have fun, make friends, improve their self-esteem and build confidence. They gain essential skills and attributes for work and life such as resilience, problem-solving, team-working, communication and drive, enhancing CVs and uni and job applications. Top employers recognise the work-ready skills Award holders bring to their business.
I was really lucky to complete my Bronze and Silver DoE with my local Scout group which I had been part of since a young child. This meant completing practice hikes in our home area of the Lake District and Northumberland which was great fun with friends. Our Scout Troop enabled us to complete our final hikes abroad, I was in Canada for my Bronze DoE hike which was an amazing experience.
I completed my Gold DofE through my school, our final hike was in the Lakes and we experienced all the elements from needing full waterproofs to protect us from the snow and hail to needing sun cream and plenty of water for the blazing sun. These practice hikes and final hikes really built my resilience for long distance walking and gave me the wild camping bug. I now love walking within the UK and abroad and still enjoy heading out into the hills with my camping gear to have a little detox from the daily dramas of life.
DofE not only requires you to walk and camp but you have to develop skills and give time to local organisations or charities as a volunteer. These skills have lead to paid roles for me and developed a life long passion for Riding for the Disabled.
The skill I developed throughout my 3 DofE awards was playing the violin, I completed some of my Grade exams and this gave me more purpose to playing the instrument.
My volunteering began at Calvert Trust Riding for the Disabled in the Lake District. I not only completed my DofE here but continued to volunteer with them for 7+ years this lead to a paid position as a yard hand with them, without my Duke of Edinburgh I would never have discovered this opportunity, I’ve made some life long friends here and it’s inspired me to be involved with Riding for the Disabled still to this day. I am now 24 and coach twice a week at Woodbridge and District Riding for the Disabled, this is a huge part of my life and I am truly passionate about giving my time to enable people of all abilities to horse ride and carriage drive, this passion was sparked back in 2009/2010 thanks to volunteering for my DofE.
DofE really helped me to develop my personal skills, I went from being a very shy girl who had very low confidence levels to being a team leader and being confident in leading a group around the countryside, up mountains and through bogs to complete long distance hikes.
I am proud to have been awarded my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, it was a pleasure to attend the presentation at St Jame’s Palace with my dad. It was lovely to stand among many other young people who had worked hard to achieve this award and was inspiring to listen to a guest speaker about what we had achieved.
Even after achieving my Gold DofE it didn’t stop there, this award has helped me to successfully apply to University where I achieved a degree in Countryside Management and then went on to volunteer with many conservation organisations including The RSPB, Northumberland National Park, Lake District National Park, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, The Ramblers, North Pennines AONB. Having my DofE really helped me in interviews for these opportunities and applications allowing me to be confident and being able to demonstrate my skills developed throughout the 3 awards.
I would highly recommend all young people get involved with the DofE awards. I hope I can get involved with DofE and possibly become an assessor once the pandemic period is over and I’d love to enable more young people to gain the skills I did through Scouts and my school.