How DOE introduces and highlights the importance of charity work to students By Ginnie Pennington
Founded in 1956 by Prince Philip, the accredited challenge that is the Duke of Edinburgh Award is a youth award programme that distinguishes adolescents for completing a series of self-improvement challenges.
As part of the award, students must participate in an overnight excursion in which they must navigate their way to and from their chosen campsite without the help of technology, armed solely with a map and compass. They then must document their attainment of a new skill, such as dancing, drawing or a sport, whilst also completing a years’ worth of charity work. This could entail anything from working in a charity shop or volunteering in a local nursing home.
A student in year 12 at the Hertfordshire and Essex High School, Isobel Roach, has been doing DofE since year 10, having started the experience with no previous involvement in charity work. Isobel volunteered at Keech, a local charity shop in Bishops Stortford who aims to provide free, specialist care for adults and children suffering from life-limiting and terminal illnesses. Their specialist care lets children and adults alike access care and support, so they can live pain and symptom free, whilst also offering support and advice to families affected by illness. This is what Isobel had to say about the process: ‘I really like that The Duke of Edinburgh award encouraged me to volunteer in my local area as this opened my eyes to issues that I didn’t know affected people so close by.’ Now 17, Isobel has started volunteering at Grove Cottage, a local organisation that aims to provide social and educational activities for people of all ages with learning disabilities, whilst also aiming to offer respite for the families and carers. ‘I feel more connected with the community and know that even after DofE; I will continue doing charity work wherever I go’. Although many worry about the participation cost of DofE (£20-£30 depending on the level), there is a fund specially for people who need financial aid. And for those with worries regarding time commitment, another student, Beatriz Daconti, told me: ‘It went really quickly and when it’s finished you miss it because you’ve made new friends and volunteering becomes a part of your daily routine.’ With 10,800 centres around the UK and around 40,000 volunteers, DofE is always open to students wishing to broaden their horizons and contribute to their community by interacting with new people and gaining new experiences. ‘Without DofE I may never have started volunteering, which would have been a great shame. I love the newfound confidence I have, all thanks to the skills I’ve learnt during my time at Keech and Grove Cottage. I’m so glad I’ve done it!’- Isobel Roach, year 12.