It’s a scheme that sees thousands of youngsters stretch themselves – it’s all for a badge, but it’s also much more than that, Jo Hinton explains.
Wokingham Borough Council is congratulating its young residents who have this year taken part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award, celebrating a record number of bronze, silver and gold awards with students showing their determination to succeed throughout the pandemic.
“We would like to thank all participants for their efforts during these unprecedented times, as well as the dedicated staff who worked tirelessly to support the young people online throughout lockdown,” said Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children’s services.
“Completing the Duke of Edinburgh Award is an amazing achievement at the best of times and these young people have shown great strength and determination, especially with their volunteering, during the past few months.
“Congratulations to all our young people who rose to the occasion and have been truly inspirational in the way they have made a difference within their communities while developing compassion by giving service to others”.
Tushar, aged 14, successfully completed his bronze award during lockdown after initially attending sessions at Wokingham Youth and Community Centre while Nellie, aged 17, after completing her bronze and silver award, is now embarking on the challenges that come with working towards her Gold award in the current climate.
“I wanted to set myselfa challenge and by working towards this award I have learnt essential life skills to become more independent, gaining confidence, self-discipline and team working skills,” said Tushar.
Nellie said that she wanted to take part to enjoy some adventure, fun and new experiences.
“It also looked like an exciting, great opportunity to enjoy myself while improving my CV,” she said.
“As I have moved through the awards onto the silver and now onto gold it became more about helping others and I have concentrated on developing my skills and working with the community.”
As part of the award, participants had to spend time volunteering, learn a new skill and take part in a physical activity.
Over this past year, the young people taking part in these awards across the borough have in total completed 1,261 hours of volunteering, 1,235 hours of physical activity and 1,287 hours of learning new skills.
Fulfilling these hours during lockdown made these tasks even more challenging but, like many other young people, Tushar and Nellie showed their resilience and sense of commitment by continuing to adapt.
“Before lockdown I was volunteering as a young scout leader for the 1st Woodley Scout club, working with children aged between five and 10, while learning from the scout leaders about child safety, communication and organisational skills which helped me gain confidence and I enjoyed helping the community,” Tushar said.
“During lockdown I was able to help my family more, cooking healthy meals and helping with chores.”
Nellie responded in a different way, using the pandemic to assist some of the borough’s vulnerable residents.
“During lockdown I realised the importance of supporting those who were shielding and have been helping ladies from the California WI with their food shopping.” she said.
“This has also been a good way of checking on any other needs or support they may find have arisen. It has been a pleasure to help these lovely people who are so friendly and cheerful even in these difficult times.”
It wasn’t just their volunteering that was affected by lockdown. Nellie was unable to take part in her London to Brighton cycle which was part of her physical challenge and Tushar missed out on his piano exam grading which was part of his skills challenge.
Despite this they showed their resilience and recognised the positives of their Duke of Edinburgh experience which became a welcome distraction during their time at home.
“I really enjoyed playing piano as it helped me to relax during lockdown and tookmy mind off the coronavirus news,” Tushar said.
“Working towards the award helped me while I was at stuck at home as I had a good daily routine in place, carrying out my school work and other activities to keep active and healthy.”
Nellie kept up her cycling despite the race being cancelled.
“Continuing to cycle as part of my physical challenge during lockdown allowed me to have time to relax and forget about what was going on,” she said.
“I also love being outside and discovering new parts of my local area so this really helped.”
The council’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is continuing with online support and is extremely popular with young people around the borough.
Tushar said: “Duke of Edinburgh gives you an opportunity to learn essential life skills and be independent. It helps you develop positive habits and teaches self-discipline.
“I learnt that nothing is impossible when you are enthusiastic, hard-working, focused and disciplined. With a positive attitude and determination I know that I can overcome any fears or obstacles in the future.”
And Nellie is pleased to have taken part.
“My volunteering has been so positive,” she said.
“I feel like I am part of the community more becauseI’ve been able to help and assist within it. It has also encouraged my younger sister to come out with me during lockdown, our relationship has become stronger and we have worked together at times within the community.
“The Duke of Edinburgh Awards are one of the best things I have ever done.
“The experiences will be with me forever, it has helped make me the confident, happy person I have now become.”
To find out more and to add your name to next year’s waiting list, email: email@example.com