I started this blog as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The other day, I finally completed my hours for my Bronze Award. It has certainly been an adventure!
What is the Duke of Edinburgh Award?
The Duke of Edinburgh Award, colloquially known as Dukes at our school, is designed to empower young people to challenge themselves; trying new things and gaining unique experiences. It is about making young people “world ready”, and teaching them important life skills.
To break it down, there are three levels to the award: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. To attain the awards, you have to demonstrate achievements in an activity from each of four categories: Skills, Physical Recreation, Voluntary Service, and Adventurous Journey. The opportunities are endless, and you can choose any activities you like, so long as there is something from each category.
The Skills component encourages participants to try a new hobby, or to expand on their talents. Physical Recreation involves participation in a sport or other fitness activity. For Voluntary Service, young people volunteer their time to help out in the community. The Adventurous Journey can either be an exploration or an expedition, designed to encourage participants to get out into nature, and challenge themselves in an unfamiliar environment.
This year, I have been doing Dukes as an elective class in school, which has given me the chance to try out more than just my four chosen activities, including: cooking, orienteering, volunteering at a primary school and at a nursing home, and various other fitness activities.
I have to say, the Skills component was my favourite part of the Bronze Award adventure. I have loved every minute of working on this blog. At first, starting a blog felt like a wild idea to do for my Skill, but I am so glad I did it.
It’s quite possible that without True-Story, I wouldn’t be as committed to writing at a young age. Starting to blog has opened up many doors for me as a writer. I have gotten feedback from other writers. I have joined the Young Writer’s Workshop, an online learning community for young writers. I am also excited to start committing myself to more fiction writing as well.
I love the writing side of the blog, and I really enjoy the website development as well. It is fun.
True-Story has also helped me to open my eyes to the small things around me. I appreciate beauty more. I encounter adventure in the every day. I have been encouraged to reach out to different people. I have started to write down my musings about life.
I think True-Story has lead me on a path that is exactly what the Duke of Edinburgh Award promotes. It has caused me to look at the world around me, and prompted me to use my talents.
I know that, although I loved it right from the start, I wasn’t very consistent with my blogging to begin with. I have realised now that True-Story is a bit of a dream come true for me, if I may put it like that, and that I want to be more serious about it. I am determined to blog regularly, and to keep on dreaming for True-Story.
To complete my Bronze Award, I had to log 26 hours of blogging over 6 months. My assessor and mentor throughout this journey has been my aunt, Kelly Burstow, who founded and manages the blog, Be A Fun Mum. Having Aunty Kelly answer my questions, and guide me through the blogging process has been amazing. She has inspired me, and encouraged me through this journey.
Honestly, I often forgot I was doing this blog for Dukes, and I didn’t log many of my hours working on it. Most of the time, it has genuinely felt like something I was doing for the love of it. Without Dukes, I may not have started my blog, but True-Story is now more to me than just completing an award.
I am not a very sporty person. So for me, the Physical Recreation Activity was perhaps the most challenging. I couldn’t think of anything else, so I chose to take up jogging. My goal was to be able to run (without stopping to walk) 5 kilometres, by the time I had logged my 13 required hours. This was always going to be a tough goal for me.
My assessor for running was a friend, Anja Hohls, who is an avid runner. We haven’t gone for a run together yet, but that is something I would love to do. I am very grateful for the encouragement she has given me over the last few months, not only with running, but with the many beautiful sunrise and sunset photos she has sent. 🙂
I started this challenge by going to parkrun with my mum every Saturday. Our local parkrun is a 5-kilometre course along the beach: perfect for me. While I can’t say I always enjoyed the actual running, I loved the scenery, the quality time spent with my mum, the satisfaction of being able to run further every week… and the bliss of getting home to work on True-Story. :).
While doing parkrun, I was improving week by week. Probably, I would have quickly achieved my goal if I had kept going. After a month though, life got in the way, and we stopped going. For months after that, I went on a few short runs, but I would never be able to run further than 2 kilometres. For me, dropping the regular parkruns wasn’t good for my improvement. It was very easy to convince myself not to run.
If my mum hadn’t taken action, and pushed me to start running again, I probably wouldn’t have completed this activity. She started taking me on runs to the beach and back (approximately 5km), pushing me to run further every time.
While I haven’t managed to fully run 5km without walking yet, I am very close. I still struggle to keep a constant pace while running, and I tire out fairly quickly. But I have improved, and I have completed my hours. Perhaps my biggest success, however, was my most recent run. It was the first that I can genuinely say I enjoyed. For me, this is quite a change. I am actually looking forward to my next run.
For my Voluntary Service, I volunteered to help with data entry for my dad’s health research project in Timor-Leste. RECARDINA involves screening school-aged children for Rheumatic Heart Disease. Helping on the project wasn’t always easy, and involved a lot of hard work, especially for Dr Helen Fairhurst, my assessor for Dukes and the Project Manager for RECARDINA. In the three days I helped out, I worked for a total of 19 hours, easily finishing my Dukes hours. Volunteering for this kind of research project was an amazing experience. It can be quite rewarding, especially as I picked up more Tetun, and learned from watching the echocardiograms. Dad and Helen are looking for a Project Officer to join their team; I am too young to apply apparently, but you might not be! 😉 😀
I had intended to write a whole blog post about my Adventurous Journey, but for the moment, there are a few stories I can tell here.
In June, I went to Lake Argyle on a canoeing expedition. I knew it would be a fun camping trip, but I didn’t know what else to expect. It was awesome.
We spent three nights “roughing it” around the lake, and I loved every minute.
What made it most enjoyable for me, was the bond my group formed over the trip. Most of the 14 people in my group, were people I hadn’t talked to before. It was amazing how fun it was to hang out with different people. It felt like a space where everyone could be themselves, not held back by the expectations of school and society, and the pull of social media.
It was also just a lot of fun. Whether we were jumping off rocks into the water, forming a raft with our canoes and sailing with an outstretched tarp , or catching nothing but catfish, we were having a great time. Getting to cook our own food, play card games, go croc spotting, and wave at passing tour boats made it a terrific trip. There was plenty of time to relax, and just be on country. We were able to take in our surroundings, and switch off from society for a few days, which made it really valuable. This trip encouraged me to “live in the moment”, something I discuss in another blog post.
It was a time that I won’t quickly forget. The people were real, the scenery was beautiful, and the memories are special. I will remember the deep group conversations by the fire, the battle with the wind, cold and mud on the first night, the competitive canoeing races and card games, how we repeated the same songs over and over in our canoe raft, and the awesome bond of our group, the Boab Family.
Overall, my experience with Dukes this year has been incredible. Blogging has taught me to pursue and commit myself to what I love doing. Running has taught me to persist. Volunteering for RECARDINA has taught me to work hard. The Lake Argyle trip taught me to live in the moment, and to spend time with new people.
I am looking forward to completing my Silver Award next year.