The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme seems to have gained unfashionable status lately, and I’m not sure why. It’s a scheme that’s been running with the Duke of Edinburgh as Chairman since 1965, and can take participants up to four years to complete.
Around 275,000 participants are actively taking part in the programme at any one time in the UK, regardless of ability, sex or religion.
I took part in the DofE scheme in my teens and attained the Silver level. It’s something I’m very proud of and looking back, I can see that it has stood me in good stead.
In order to achieve the award, one must partake in all of the following:
- Community volunteering
- Physical improvement (sport, fitness or whatever)
- Development of practical and social skills, and personal interests
- Expedition: planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey in the UK or abroad
As a teenager, these weren’t the normal activities most of my peers were involved in. I spent many weekends working with the terminally ill in Johnstone Hospital, an experience that taught me about life, about respect and of giving over to others. The physical improvement aspect fell within the boundaries of the football team I played for, and the practical and social skills saw us mentoring younger kids and volunteering for various charities.
The expedition was the most memorable part of the experience. What young lad wouldn’t fancy the idea of planning and organising their own trip out into the Scottish wilderness, to spend a full weekend following your own pre-planned journey? For all of us who went out on the Renfrewshire Heights that weekend, backpacks full to the brim and only the hills and the heather as our companion, it was a freedom that was new to all of us, and a weekend we’d never forget.
In terms of youngsters today, nothing has much has changed. I live in Leith and every night on my way home from the day job, I see teenagers hanging around the streets in gangs, not much of a future in store for them because they think getting involved is un-cool. They think that bettering themselves is out-with their reach so they choose to drink and smoke and waste away their lives.
This is the same attitude that led to some of the rioting we saw on the streets of London, Manchester and Birmingham over the summer.
The DofE Scheme gives youngsters hope and the chance to get involved. It gives them the chance to see outside their own lives, to learn respect and empathy for others, and to learn that bettering oneself is not something that is unachievable. It gives youngsters worthwhile experiences through which they gain confidence and self-respect in themselves, learn how to interact as a team to get things done, and learn skills that they can use as they grow and develop into the kind of adults that don’t like to see the young wasting their lives.
This is why I was astonished, while browsing through my Twitter feed yesterday lunchtime, to happen upon a tweet from a local bookshop owner in Edinburgh that read the following: “Top tip for AB applicants: I instantly reject anyone who uses the word ‘passion’ on their CV or has Duke of Edinburgh Silver or higher.”
Fair enough they don’t like the word passion (I think it’s over-used myself) but when I asked why in reference to the DofE scheme, I got no response other than a re-tweet.
I’m sure this bookshop owner has his or her reasons for saying something so broadly sweeping and inaccurate, and I suspect much of this opinion has dwelled from a lack of understanding about what the DofE scheme is actually about. However, if I was to apply that same logic to bookshop owners, I would imagine this person to be a recluse, a cardigan wearing bookophile who only reads and deals in books because they retain no social skills whatsoever and therefore while away their time hiding in the back of a bookshop.
But I don’t think that. I do think that someone who is probably very widely read, has at best made a bad attempt at being funny, or worst, been judgmental about something they clearly have not read up about. The phrase, “never judge a book by its cover,” has never been so aptly applied.
At a time when the nations’ young need guidance and something positive to aim for more than ever before, I contend the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has a much bigger and more important role to play than ever before.
If you want more info in this scheme, go here: www.dofe.org
In other news, I completed some important work at home last night. I now have all 70+ poems from my London trip typed up into the computer and through their first run of edits. Some of them will simply not make it; they are nowhere near good enough without total re-writes, but at 70+ poems, I think I may already have enough.
With so many chapbooks in production at once, I had to make a decision on what one to produce first, and then form some kind of release schedule.
First out will obviously be SILLY POEMS FOR WEE PEOPLE, the illustrated and final version. The first problem is finding a way to scan the completed illustrations, which is easier than it sounds. Some are water colour, some are pencil and some have shiny bits attached. They need to be hi-res too for the book and in colour.
I think that’ll do for today.
Ciao for now, people!
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