Duke of Edinburgh Award continues to inspire
There is a rustle outside and I pretend not to hear it ... then it gets louder and sounds closer. I am now wide awake in my sleeping bag trying not to wake the others. I try to think of what could possibly be moving around the outside of our tent at 2am and come up with nothing that will calm me down — that’s when it happens.
The sound of flapping wings and then the top of the tent taking the weight of what seems to be a very large heron. Everyone is awake now, caught somewhere between cries of laughter and fear.
Little did we know that more than a decade later we would still be a group completing hours in the activities we started in high school. Two out of six of us actually work for a charity, while the other four volunteer on a regular basis and are still hugely active members of the community.
Is that coincidence? Or as a pebble being thrown into a lake and creating ripples, has the Duke of Edinburgh Award created a ripple of positive effect on each of us.
Since the holidays are usually known as a season of giving, we wanted to highlight the generosity of our participants and how much they give back to the community throughout the year. Last year, participants of the Award completed no fewer than 10,478 volunteering hours to various charities and organisations on the island. The Award’s service-hour component helps to mould young people into making volunteering part of their routine, with the goal that it will become part of their lives long after completing the DofE.
Looking back now, I can see that my interest and decision to study international development at university came directly from the need to complete volunteer hours while participating in the Award. The confidence I gained from stepping out of my shell through my participation in the Award has led me to amazing places such as Asia, Europe and, most recently, Africa, where I have completed volunteer projects.
The bonds that participants make with each other are unique and inspiring. I have seen groups of participants that become the best of friends through the Award when originally they would not have been in the same social circles.
This is one of my favourite parts of my job as programme co-ordinator for the DofE — seeing someone who may be shy go through the programme and grow in confidence, and see them put themselves out there and succeeding at conquering previous fears.
I am still very good friends with the group that I completed my award with. In fact, we have a DofE alumni volleyball team, which is ironic given that some of us used volleyball for our sport requirement a decade ago.
Every “Duker” can remember their adventurous journey. It was such a physical and mental challenge, not only because you are walking miles upon miles with a fully loaded rucksack, but because you are only as strong as your weakest group member.
The constant communication that is needed to succeed in an adventurous journey does not start at the beginning, but somewhere towards the end of the day when blisters start forming and you have already been through three types of weather — because you know that’s what happens the minute DofE sets out — and spirits are not as high.
That is when the real leadership and team-player skills are being taught, and when you finish the satisfaction of completion is much more than a foot soak or nap; it is lessons and memories that can be applied throughout everyday communications, whether it be a workplace, relationship or any interaction.
January 1, 2018 starts the Award’s 51st year of service in Bermuda. More than 10,000 locals have gone through the programme and we are aiming to reconnect with all of you. Thanks to our star volunteer, Nancy McCombs, we have an amazing alumni feature on our website.
Visit www.theaward.bm, click “Get Involved”, then scroll down to “Alumni” and give us your details.
We will be hosting a draw from the first 500 alumni that register on our website to give away some fantastic prizes. The Award is always open to welcoming new volunteers — whether you are alumni or not, please check out the website for more information to become part of something great.
•Conor McLaughlin is the programme co-ordinator for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme
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