"The Award Concept is one of Individual Challenge. It presents to young people a balanced, non-competitive programme of voluntary activities which encourage personal discovery and growth, self-reliance, perseverence, responsibility to themselves and service to their community". -- Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Opportunity and Challenge
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme is about challenge. It is also about providing the opportunity to accept a challenge. The challenges are not simply to do with hiking from one point to another, or learning a new skill like photography or cooking. The Scheme offers young people the opportunity to set a goal and achieve it. Along the way they learn about qualities like responsibility, trust and the ability to organise themselves.

There is no competition between participants. The only person with whom participants compete are themselves. Self-motivation is critical.

The value in accepting the four challenges set by the Scheme is obvious. Each requires a special dedication, both mental and physical and, while the structure of the Scheme provides specialist help in different skills, it is still up to individual participants to make their own way as best they can. No lectures are provided, no exams are set. Success comes through a conscious decision to accept and take up the challenges.

THere is no such thing as failure in the Award Scheme. Even if an Award is not attained, just being involved brings new friends, new knowledge and new adventures which are, above all, enjoyable.

How the Award Scheme Works
The Award Scheme is a programme of cultural, practical and adventurous activities, embracing the four sections of Service, Expeditions, Skills and Physical Recreation.
  1. Service - to encourage service to others
  2. Expeditions - - to encourage a spirit of adventure and discovery
  3. Skills - - to encourage the discovery and development of personal interests and social and practical skills
  4. Physical Recreation - to encourage participation in physical recreation and to improve personal performance.
Activities in the four sections are intended to complement each other and provide a balanced programme.

There are three Awards -- Bronze, Silver and Gold. For each Award the participant has to fulfil the requirements of each of the four sections of the Scheme in accordance with the conditions. There is an additional requirement for the Gold Award -- the Residential Project.

The range of activities that can be undertaken is almost unlimited.

With the assistance of adult advisers, participants choose programmes that meet at least the minimum requirements laid down for each section. In this way the programmes accommodate the participants' interests, geographical location, background, capabilities and available resources.

Participants usually pursue the chosen activities in their own time. Their progress is assessed by adult advisers knowledgeable in each area. In this way both the participants and the adults are encouraged to improve communication and understanding, whilst working towards a common goal.

Although many organisations operate the Scheme, as part of their own programmes, participats do not have to join a special group to take up the challenges offered by the Award Scheme. They may take part as Lone or Independent participants.

There are minimum starting ages for each level. Whilst there is no time limit for each Award as such, participants must complete their activites by their 25th birthday.

Subject to these requirements, participants may enter for whichever Award is best suited to them. The starting point for entry into the Award Scheme is marked by the purchase of a Record Book, which forms a record of progress through the Scheme. The Record Book purchase price also includes a sum for insurance, with the Award Scheme arranges for all participants and their advisers.

On completion of their Award programme, successful participants receive a badge and a certificate presented on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Source: The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Handbook (uncopyrighted).
A short speech, reflecting on two sections of The Award:

For my residential project I travelled to Lourdes with a group of carers and disabled people. The residential project was certainly the scariest aspect of the award. The prospect of spending a week in a foreign country living with complete strangers that I'd first have to locate in Heathrow airport was definitely intimidating. Even after I found them, my fears didn't dissipate. I was assigned as one of three carers looking after two autistic twins. My first task each morning was to get them out of bed and help them dress. This took the better part of an hour. I learnt that if a team of people is given responsibility and has to work together towards a common goal, they quickly stop being strangers.

In my case, for the service section of the award, I helped out at the local hospital, as a voluntary ward assistant.

When I started out, I assumed that life on the ward would be as silent and anonymous as city life outside. The atmosphere surprised me. The warmth between patients and their visitors was striking. Through this, I learnt how important visitors are; how a daily talk with someone from the outside may be all that lets patients keep track of time. Many people, when I asked them how long they'd been in hospital, had no idea, but they had definite ideas about when they should be getting out. Before I started, I expected to only be of use insofar as I performed mundane tasks, freeing the nurse's time for them to do more important things. Instead, I found that the simple action of talking to a patient each week, while playing a poor substitute for a relative, could cheer them up. My overall impression was of a series of individual patients with their personal visitors, supported by a community of nurses. In addition to having pressures on their time, it is difficult for the staff to fulfil the role of the visitor while still being professional. I encountered a much wider range of people than I would normally interact with in my daily life. They ranged from hardened bikers who'd been in motorbike accidents to elderly souls who'd had a fall and would eat nothing but porridge.

I have memories from Addenbrookes that will stay with me for many years. From the people who aren't lucky enough to get visitors, the tragedy of those who suffer from dementia, to the ever pervading 3 hours delays on operations, to the time I was sent to a nearby ward to fetch some rice pudding and the nurse there jokingly asked if the nurse who sent me was too scared to show their face personally.

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