Blog | Why do the Queen’s Scout Award?

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In April 2014, Stephanie Sanderson paraded with nearly 700 other Queen’s Scouts at Windsor Castle in the annual service. She tells us what achieving the Queen’s Scout Award meant to her.

How hard can it be?

I only got around to signing up to do my Queen’s Scout Award (QSA) because a friend in my Group trained to be a DofE assessor. The QSA and Gold DofE awards are quite similar, so I thought it would be easy to complete the four-day expedition and five-day residential as well as a commitment-based skill, plus physical and volunteering sections for the Award with my friend as my leader. All I would have to do myself would be to find an international learning experience, which sounded a bit like a holiday to me and I’d get the nice blue badge to wear on my uniform. Easy!

For the first couple of months after I started working towards the Award, I had a lovely time playing games with my local Cub Pack and enjoying jogging on a treadmill while watching TV. Then summer came around and I went off to Luxembourg for 10 days to walk one hundred miles through the Ardennes for the international learning part of my Award. I refused to spend £15 on a pair of proper walking socks beforehand because, really, how much difference can they make? We were only going to walk ten miles a day, chat to a few people, and then celebrate in Belgium at the end.

Lessons learned

Fast-forward to six days in on the expedition and I was standing on the side of a minor Belgian road in the pouring rain, speaking vague French to a man that pulled over to offer us help. I couldn’t walk properly because my feet were blistered from my thin cotton socks and none of my team knew where we’d be able to pitch our tent to sleep that night. This was no holiday.

The international learning trip was hard work, both mentally and physically. But I thought that was the tough part over – kayaking around the UK for my four-day expedition would be easy, because I guaranteed myself good weather; if the sea was rough, we wouldn’t be able to go. Finally, I’d get my sunbathing holiday.

Tired and cold

On day two I was kayaking with blisters on my thumbs.

We battled against the tide to get across to the next bay and paddled into an estuary too early because we calculated the tide wrong; we had to drag the boats through sludge and two inches of water. We couldn’t give up, because there was no other way to get to our camp. Tired and cold, we pushed on. That evening, warm and dry again, we watched the sun set over the horizon as we cooked dinner by our tents on a beautiful pebbly cove inaccessible from the mainland.

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The final push

The following October, I finished my Award by doing the Great Birmingham Run. As I stood at the start line, I wished I’d done a bit more than just jogging and watching TV for most of my training. By the half way point, I’d run further than I ever thought I would. Approaching the finish line, I was exhausted. Thousands of people kept me running when all I wanted to do was stop. I was never good at PE at school, and I had achieved something I always thought was beyond me.

Two years and a lot of hard work later, I look back and cringe at how easy I thought it would be. All the work for my Queen’s Scout Award was a huge challenge and I learned a lot about other people – and even more about myself. It’s given me the confidence to do solo parachute jumps and the skills to be able to trek through the Atlas Mountains. The challenges only made the best moments even more brilliant and there isn’t a part of the Aaward I wouldn’t do again. Parading with the other Queen’s Scouts at Windsor this year was one of the proudest moments of my life, and I can’t wait to continue my adventure both in and outside Scouting.

My top five QSA tips:

  1. Just do it. It doesn’t matter if your friends aren’t ready or don’t want to do the same expedition as you: I did my four-day UK expedition, my international expedition and my five-day residential experience with people I’d never met before and I came away with loads of new friends and a lot of funny stories.
  2. Challenge yourself. Choose something new – don’t just use an event you were already planning to go on to count towards your Award. I did my UK expedition in a sea kayak because I’d never done it before, and I did my residential as staff on a UK Jamboree I hadn’t heard of. It was brilliant.
  3. A smile goes a long way. It can spur your teammates on, cheer you up, and help persuade people in other countries to feed you and give you a bed for the night!
  4. Accept that you won’t be doing much showering. The longest I went without a shower was six days, but you get used to it.

Enjoy every second. It’ll be tough, but it’s an amazing thing to do and it’ll be over before you know it.

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