Wednesday, 20 June 2018

My Bronze DofE Experience 2018

The 16th and 17th of June 2018 marked the weekend of my final bronze DofE expedition. I've been enrolled in the programme since the Autumn term, so around October/November time, which means that I've got a fair bit of knowledge surrounding the ins and outs of the award, as it's been well over half a year now!

For any of you that may not be aware of what I'm talking about, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award is the world's leading youth achievement award, whereby any 14-24 year olds can undertake a few months of volunteering, physical activity and a skill, finishing off with an expedition in a rural area. Bronze is the first level available and then you will later get the opportunity to complete your silver and your gold, should you wish to do so. The teacher who runs it in my school gave an assembly to us new Year 12's back in September and I was 90% set from then on that I wanted to make the most out of this chance I was being offered. Having pretty much completed my bronze award now, except finishing my skills section and my final presentation, which is at the end of July, I thought I'd do this blog post just to talk about the whole experience in general and how I found it! I find that I benefit from reflecting on these sorts of things and some of you may find it useful or interesting too.

Before I had even started the programme, I knew that nobody in my friendship group, bare one girl was at all interested. There were a handful of people that were apparently going to take part and sign up for it, but as with most of these things, they all backed out when it came down to it, which is just typical teenage behaviour for you! That did make me slightly apprehensive, but eventually I did find 3 other people in my year (2 boys and 1 girl), who had signed up to do the award with me! You have to have a minimum of 4 people to each group anyway, so it did work out for the best after all.

In the beginning, we were given a training framework, which essentially highlighted everything that we had to get through from November to July this year. We participated in 2 sessions of first aid training, 2 training walks (it was originally meant to be 3, but one got cancelled due to the snow!), a 2 day, 2 night training camp and the 1 night, 2 day assessed expedition that I've returned from on Sunday evening. In between those practical sessions, we have also had weekly meetings at school on a Friday, ranging from discussions about route planning, navigation, kit packing and the 20 conditions that are set out in the DofE guidelines. I'm 99% sure I have attended every single session that my team have attended, but that just goes to show that dedication and commitment to these kind of things is key.

My volunteering began at the beginning of December and continued until around about the last week of May. I was in a local Marie Curie charity shop with some hard-working, kind-spirited local ladies and I'd go in every Friday for 2 and a half hours on average, which then turned into 1, but which I thoroughly enjoyed none-the-less. I've always wanted to contribute to wider society and make an impact on the lives of other people and this volunteering opportunity enabled me to do just that. My duties would typically include sorting out donations, tagging, labelling and hanging up clothes, organising displays, taking off and rotating stock, doing a bit of tidying here and there and generally trying to make the shop run a bit more smoothly during every afternoon that I went in! I value my time there and would encourage any of you to volunteer in any way that you can. It's such a valuable thing to do.

In addition, I started personal training in March with a lovely lady who offers sessions at the gym next to my Sixth Form. I've always wanted to get in shape and work on my body, as I'm sure most people say on a daily basis, but enrolling in the DofE gave me that extra push and bit of courage to just do it. I only do it on a 1-to-1, which is also something I was dreading prior to giving it a go, but now, I've started seeing her twice a week rather than just the once, because it's a really enjoyable hobby for me and I've seen the wealth of benefits that it's having on my life in just over 3 months!

For my skills section, I chose to learn more about Criminology, as one of the teachers who helps to run the DofE at my school taught it in previous years and offered to provide me with the textbook that I needed and assess me for it if that's what I wanted! It's the section which I chose to last me for 6 months, as I have a mini interview and exam paper on it at the end (we do take these things seriously!) and it's essentially like part of another subject, so time has to be invested in the learning aspect.

I naturally find the practical aspect of things a lot more difficult than the theoretical aspect. I've always been more into my writing and the explanation behind things (hence why I started a blog) rather than actually getting down and dirty, but that's just how I've been brought up. I wanted to get involved with the DofE, because it's something that I could do for myself. I've never done anything like it before and nobody around me really believed that I could do it either. I wanted to push myself physically and emotionally and I wanted to break the boundaries and go out of my comfort zone.

Looking back, it has proven to be a huge challenge for me, but it has also been a huge period of growth for me and a step in the right direction. I went out of my way to organise and stick to each of my different sections, I showed commitment and dedication by turning up to all of the compulsory sessions, I kept going until I reached the finish line and for the most part, I did it with a smile on my face and with a group of people and teachers that I didn't even really know that well.

The whole experience is a complete physical and emotional battle. Throughout it all, I did have moments where I wanted to give up, I did have a few tears on the final, I did have a few minor conflicts with the people I was surrounded by, but I also learnt a lot about myself and who I am as a person. I now know that if ever I want to do something, no matter how extraordinary it is, it's absolutely possible to do so and end with a smile on my face. It is absolutely possible to do things on  your own if you show the right personality traits, such as perseverance, determination and courage. It is absolutely possible to work with people that you wouldn't necessarily choose to be best friends with and it is absolutely possible to have a laugh, even in difficult situations.

Although I wouldn't necessarily go on to do silver or gold, I am very proud of myself for what I have achieved. I may not have necessarily brought much to the group in terms of my navigation, cooking or general survival skills, but I brought my personality, my strong attitude and my strength and I gave it all I physically could right up until the last moment that wiped me out.

Remember, anything is possible and experiences like this will make you realise that more so than ever.

Lots of love always,


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