Always the adventurous type I had hoped to undertake the Duke of Edinburgh Award during my teenage years. Unfortunately, that period turned out to be rather turbulent and I feared I had missed out on the chance. Then as fortune would have it, luck would accidently fall into my hands. Put simply I met a cute guy from Wales whilst at university, who as it happened was already involved with a DofE centre back home. I went to scout it out and the rest as they say is history.
The award requires the participant to complete various sections, which together help to equip the young person with a diverse portfolio of both personal and professional skills. There are three levels; bronze, silver and gold, with the idea being that you gradually build and expand on the sections started at bronze level. However, veering closer to the age limit, I was able to launch myself straight into the challenge of the Gold Award; which involved maintaining my blog for 18 months, volunteering with the Students Union for 12 and hillwalking for six. Alongside this there were also numerous day walks leading up to the expedition across Dartmoor, as well as a residential to complete the award.
After several years of hard graph and an awful lot of hills, I finally received confirmation last year that I had successfully achieved my award and soon after received a very special invitation to receive my award from Buckingham Palace. Having waited several months, the week of the grand occasion finally arrived and I got all glammed up, before making off on a train bound for London.
The weather couldn’t have been better as we were guided through from Hyde Park Corner to the leafy green gardens of the Royal residence. After registration there was time allocated to enjoy the surroundings and explore the tranquil grounds that lie hidden behind the famous façade. Soon enough it was time to gather, as we stood proudly with our representive clusters, with a brief opportunity to speak with our guest presenter Aled Jones before the national anthem played.
In time several members of the royal family would work their way round each group, individually asking questions of our experiences, before an all important group photo and then finally the certificates were handed out. All in all it was a wonderful afternoon and I really did feel proud of my achievements.
We were asked at one point whether we would embrace it all again given the chance and for me at least, the answer was undoubtedly without question a resounding yes. Though the award had its challenges, it gave me so much confidence and was a really positive experience. I can’t promote the award and its benefits enough and would urge any young person to rise to the challenge, if only to have more confidence in themselves and their own abilities. I enjoyed my time so much that I’ve since gone back as a Young Leader. I mightn’t be able to repeat my own DofE journey, but I can go on to help others achieve their own.