Many congratulations to Emily Brown from Heathrow Division who has achieved her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and is the second individual in our County to achieve this award in the last 6 months!
I started my gold DofE back in September 2015 and finished it 6 years later in May 2021. 17-year-old me was excited to get stuck in and I managed to finish the first three sections (volunteering, physical and skills) in just over a year. Then I took a year to study before jumping straight back in. It was a little bit difficult to find a residential that suited me and even longer to find an expedition as my guiding group didn’t have enough numbers at the time. But I will explain a bit more about that further down.
I volunteered at my local Brownie Unit, attending weekly meetings. Coaching, teaching and leadership were a couple of skills I wasn’t too confident in but I enjoyed it very much. My assessor said, “She has shown responsibility and intuitive in organising and running certain parts of the program with the Brownies.”
Ballet was something I had always been involved in since I was a little girl so I decided to complete Grade 7 and continue to Grade 8 for my gold physical. I received a level 3 certificate as well as having the opportunity to perform in a theatre. I didn’t want to end after the 12-month time frame so I stuck at it and achieved my level 3 certificate in Grade 8 as well.
I wanted to learn a completely different skill to anything I had done before. Did you know that there was such a thing as Domino’s All 5’s championship? Well neither did I but I was intrigued. I learnt and I practiced this new skill and eventually I was good enough to play against a past champion, who said “She has learned, played and mastered the game extremely well.”
I managed to find a residential before my expedition. I spent 5 days away from home to build a wildlife hedge. I didn’t know anyone in my team but my nerves were soon put at ease because everyone was so lovely. We stayed in bunk accommodation, planned our menu and built the hedge as a team. In the evenings we even got to participate in a couple of extra activities such as go-karting, abseiling and building a camp fire. The conservation work really sparked my love for the environment and our planet. Since then, I have been involved in planting trees in my local area as well as overseas.
I completed my practice expedition in mid Wales with a Scout unit. I found the wild country very challenging and I did struggle to finish but my team were very encouraging despite multiple blisters telling me to stop. This expedition opened my eyes up to the fact that I wasn’t as fit and healthy as I was when I first started this award so I made it my personal goal and joined a gym.
My qualifying was planned for Dartmoor in April 2020 with the same Scout unit. You have probably guessed from the year, that it got cancelled and you have guessed correctly. About a month before, a national lockdown was announced, which meant we would need to postpone our expedition.
Nevertheless, a year later restrictions were easing and we were able to safely complete the expedition in the South Downs. Restrictions meant that we were not allowed to camp, so I drove to and from the South Downs everyday (which was a challenge in itself). No wild country unfortunately but surprise challenges like putting up a tent blind folded and making a stretcher from a rope to carry a ‘casualty’ (I drew the short straw with that as I was the lightest) definitely kept us on our toes. Our presentation had to be presented over zoom a couple of weeks later.
So that was my experience. I wouldn’t change it if I could, even though it took me 6 years. I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did and I’ve made friends for life. I would highly recommend the gold DofE award to anyone who is thinking about. I want to say a huge thank you everyone who was involved in my journey. I have learnt so much and have memories to cherish forever!