My road to gold: what completing a Gold DofE Award taught me

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UK Youth Commissioner Ollie Wood tells all about going for the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, its challenges, and its rewards.

 

Nowhere felt further away than Buckingham Palace when I was struggling up a rainy Welsh mountain last summer, knowing I had three more days of the same ahead. My walking boots were the last place my feet wanted to be, and the gale force winds and hail stones bouncing down around me and my fellow Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Team were less than encouraging! 

 

I’d only known my team for eight weeks, but couldn’t think of a group I’d sooner endure the experience with. We found it hilarious that we doing what we were doing: August up the highest mountain in Wales hadn’t looked like this in our minds when we’d planned our expedition! We vlogged our adventure as we went along, taking it in turns with a Go Pro to record snippets of our days. Towards the summit on the first day, my face was sore from laughing so much, I had at least ten stories I could recount fondly, and regardless of what stood in our way, I knew we were going to enjoy our experience. And we did. 

 

For me, the expedition was the final piece of the puzzle, and once we’d completed our presentation a couple of weeks later, I was proud to have completed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. At times along the way, I genuinely didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that. 

 

Education, then work, plus lots of volunteering roles, made it challenging for me to make time for developing new skills, taking part in sports, and planning expeditions. But that’s the point of the award: I feel a much greater sense of achievement for making it through something that was a real challenge, than I would have done if it’d been easy. 

 

Challenge was rooted in all of the stages of the award for me: I was keen to test myself and push my boundaries. As a young adult who’s enjoyed being part of Scouts since the age of six, it was easy to get so consumed in a desire to help others that I could forget about helping myself. In Scouts, there are opportunities and awards that 18 to 25 year olds can take part in and enjoy, as part of the Scout Network programme. It’s important to make the most of that while you can, as your 25th birthday will soon come around and then it’s too late to take part. 

 

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is designed to challenge young people. As UK Youth Commissioner for Scouts, the most important part of my role is to do what I can to ensure all young people have access to the same opportunities to develop skills for life. The award, while you might not realise it at the time, goes a long way to developing character and employability skills that are essential for your future. To complete a DofE award, you need to be able to overcome challenge, communicate effectively as part of a team, be enthusiastic, navigate, cook, solve problems, listen, plan and lead. All of these are hugely important skills and, through the award, you get to develop them whilst making memories and friendships that stay with you for years to come. 

 

You won’t fondly remember the best weekend you spent on a video game. You won’t reminisce about a time you turned down an adventure to stay on the sofa. Grasping any opportunity to explore, travel, meet new people and do something different or challenging is really important, in my view, to maintain a healthy mind and to enjoy experiences that’ll develop you as a person. 

 

It might seem now that my DofE Award journey ends this week at Buckingham Palace, when I collect my certificate. In fact, it’s the start of my next journey; to encourage as many young people as possible to challenge themselves to complete a top award. You’ll have a blast, and it might help your future more than you know.

Meanwhile, it’s time to plan the next adventure! 

Are you an Explorer Scout or Scout Network member? Are you up for a challenge?

Then why not start working towards one or more of your Scout Top Awards? Whether it’s your Chief Scout’s Platinum Award, Chief Scout’s Diamond Award, Queen’s Scout Award, Explorer Belt, Scouts of the World Award or Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; the first step is to decide which top award is right for you. 

 

All you need to do is talk to your leader, County Queen’s Scout Award Coordinator or your County DofE Adviser. Once you’re signed up, you then need to decide on your activities and goals. Then all that’s left is to have fun developing new skills and making memories.

 

Did you know that time spent completing your DofE award also counts towards other top awards in Scouts? The Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards are aligned with the Chief Scout’s Platinum Award, Chief Scout’s Diamond Award and Queen’s Scout Award.

 

For more information about the Chief Scout’s Platinum Award, Chief Scout’s Diamond Award and Queen’s Scout Award, visit members.scouts.org.uk/reachthetop. For more information about the Explorer Belt visit members.scouts.org.uk/explorerbelt. For more information about Scouts of the World Award (SOWA) visit members.scouts.org.uk/sowa. For more information about DofE visit scouts.org.uk/dofe or dofe.org. Also check out The Adventure Begins leaflet.

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