Opinion

Developing skills for life

  • What a fantastic opportunity: young people are able to push their individual limits and gain a great sense of personal achievement

We have all seen them — small groups of young hikers carrying oversized rucksacks, navigating their way around the island. Well, not all learning happens in the classroom. The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Bermuda, or “the Award” as it is fondly referred to, has inspired a great many Bermudians — more than 10,000 over the past 50 years — who have benefited greatly from their participation in the programme.

The Award has played a critical role in equipping young Bermudians for life, regardless of their background, physical abilities or skills. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is proven to be a fantastic opportunity for Bermuda’s young people to push their individual limits and gain a greater sense of personal achievement by completing each level of the programme. Indeed, the stated purpose of the Award is to guide young people through their evolution into responsible, committed and fulfilled citizens of the world.

Undeniably, successfully completing the Award involves hard work and commitment. This dedication enables young people to discover, develop and achieve their greatest potential by participating in activities involving community service, developing personal skills, physical recreation and adventurous journeys that are completed locally and overseas.

Participants commit to their chosen activities for a set time frame, thus allowing them to experience the impact their contributions have on others. “Dukers” strive to improve their skill sets, and are encouraged to try new experiences that expand their personal boundaries. As with all aspects of the programme, commitment is required to develop and improve personal and professional skills. The rewards can be great, as participants begin to feel an extraordinary sense of achievement and wellbeing with each goal they reach. Furthermore, the finely honed skills that are developed through participation in the Award often lead to improved employability and future opportunities for growth.

Healthy behaviours among developing individuals not only benefit the young persons themselves, but can have far-reaching effects within families and communities. Moreover, active participation in the Award is likely to improve attitudes towards health and promote positive lifestyle choices. Within safe parameters, participants move beyond their comfort zones, growing visibly in confidence and self-esteem.

The Award’s adventurous journeys are designed to be conducted as an exploration or an expedition. An exploration is a “purpose with a journey”, while an expedition is a “journey with a purpose” — the difference being in the amount of time/distance covered travelling versus time spent researching and collecting data that is related to the purpose for the journey.

The principle aim of an adventurous journey is for each young person “to be challenged”, with the aim of learning more about their wider environment while working within a team. These purposeful experiences are not always with the young person’s usual groups of friends; nevertheless, they set out on shared adventures with a common purpose.

The Award is an excellent way to develop valuable skill sets that last a lifetime. From practical and problem-solving skills to strong leadership and team-building abilities, the Award has consistently proven successful in promoting these aptitudes. While academic grades are essential in most careers, our future leaders also need to be effective communicators and courageous team players. Knowing how to “keep calm and hike on”, literally or figuratively, is a key quality to possess. This is one of the many attributes developed through participation in the Award.

Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex is joining the Bermuda Award from March 3 to 5 in celebration of 50 years of service to generations of young people across the island. The Earl has expressed a high level of commitment to the programme since achieving his own Gold Award. He is a trustee of the UK and International Award Associations and travels extensively promoting the merits of both. The Earl will meet groups of Award participants from the Berkeley Institute, CedarBridge Academy and Mount Saint Agnes Academy.

He will participate in a special 50th anniversary service on March 5 at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. This service will also pay tribute to Bermuda’s youth-serving organisations that are partnered with the Award.

Fun and exciting fundraising events are scheduled during the royal visit, including a private lunch with the Earl on March 3 for golfers who are committed to the Duke of Edinburgh World Cup being held on April 21. We invite the public to join us for a night of celebration at The Fairmont Southampton on March 4. This gala includes a cocktail reception with the Earl and will showcase a variety of live entertainment featuring local talent. Bring your dancing shoes, as this is sure to be the social event of the year. On the afternoon of March 5, we will be on the water for a private sailing excursion and lunch with America’s Cup team Land Rover BAR. Tickets for the royal events are available through www.theaward.bm or by e-mailing royalevents@theaward.bm

Belinda Henderson, Assistant Psychologist at Solstice, is a volunteer for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award