Lauren Burns Talks About Her Experience In The Silver Duke Of Edinburgh Award

Junior Down News columnist Lauren Burns describes her experience in participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award.

Do you have what it takes to step up to the mark and earn your Duke Of Edinburgh asks Lauren? 

For the past year and a bit I have been working towards my silver Duke of Edinburgh award writes Lauren Burns and I am now near the end of this fantastic, once-in-a lifetime experience. I was made aware of how few young people were aware of this programme and so I decided to tell you a little about my own personal experiences.

The DofE award began in the UK in 1956, brought about by Prince Phillip. There are three stages to the award: bronze, silver and gold and each of these requires you to complete a set of achievements of your choice for you to complete it. They also require you to complete an exhibition in the hills for a set amount of days.

[caption id="attachment_53113" align="aligncenter" width="540"]Lauren Burns, junior columnist with Down News, chats to Raymond Lundy, Christopher Curran and Jorge Velasquez about the DofE silver award at a meeting in the Ballymote Welfare and Wellbeing Centre. Lauren Burns, junior columnist with Down News, chats to Raymond Lundy, Christopher Curran and Jorge Velasquez about the DofE silver award at a meeting in the Ballymote Welfare and Wellbeing Centre.[/caption]

The DofE award has become highly acknowledged across over 140 countries and expresses to employers some key skills they look for in their employees. It is especially recommended for those interested in higher education as it is awarded UCAS points and Universities etc. also look on the award very highly.

For more information on the DofE scheme you can click on the link at the bottom of the article.

I began my DofE award rather nervously as I had never done anything like this before. It was a completely new world to me but at the same time I knew how beneficial it could be to me In later life and so I was willing to give it a try; and I’m now incredibly thankful that I did.

I’ve learnt so much from this award including how important it is to help the people around you, how to work with a group in an efficient way, and most importantly, how to make decisions in a stressful situation. When you and your team are in the mountains, by yourselves, things will inevitably go wrong. And there are no adults to fall back on like so many of us have at present in our lives. We all had to grow up and put our petty squabbles aside, and it was a real eye opener for us all.

The DofE award is incredibly physical, and so it requires you to do a number of months of a sport or exercise in some form to prepare you for the 16 hours of walking you are required to do on your 3 day exhibition. This is the bit I personally struggled with the most as I had not done any form of sport in a very long time, however I hit the gym to prepare and simply hoped for the best. The first practise exhibition exhausted me, I barely made it, but by the time we made it to the actual exhibition I was running across the finish line. It has greatly improved my physical health and the health of the rest of my team.

My group did two practise exhibitions before the real thing, and let me tell you, it’s a completely new type of exertion you will never have experienced before. Up there, in the mountains, is a whole different world many of us have no idea about. The trees, the rivers, the animals, the views… they’re just out of this world. Breathtaking! The climb may be hard, but the results are more than worth it.

I asked a fellow member of my DofE team about the bit of the experience that has influenced him the most. He said: “It’s such a great feeling when you’re out and looking over all the views. Even though the walking is hard, it’s worth it for moments like that!”

Especially those of us who live in the Down area, we have the Mourne Mountains on our doorstep and many of us will never venture into them. It’s such a waste. I was the same, but this award has changed me, and changed how I look at the world. The hard work has actually done the opposite of putting me of the mountains, it has made me really appreciate them for what they are: dangerous but outstandingly beautiful.

Before your exhibition you will learn all of the skills you need to venture into the mountains on your own. These include first aid, map and compass reading, how to pack your kit bags, how to purify river water, how to pitch a tent in the rain and wind and many other skills that are incredibly useful to have.

As well as the exhibition and the physical triaining, I was also required to develop a skill and do some volunteering in my community. The fantastic bit about this is that you get to choose whatever skill etc. you learn so you are gaining knowledge in something you are interested in.

Personally as my skill I gained my grade 5 in playing the clarinet and for my volunteering I helped organise and took part in a community clean up. Each of these were hard work but they were fun at the same time, and resulted in me gaining something further as well as my DofE award.

One last thing I feel is so great about this award is the peace that it can bring to young people whose lives are currently so filled with stress and high expectations. This award is a chance to get away from everything, all the teachers and the parents and the stuffy classrooms; a chance to go out on your own and gain some independence for yourself.

I hope this article has made you interested in the award and what it has to offer, as I promise you that if you are committed to completing it, you will never regret it or forget the experiences it will give you. I feel it is particularly essential for young people in this technical era to get out of their rooms and realise exactly what is out there for them to enjoy. It will set you up for a much happier and more rewarding life.

The Official eDuke of Edinburgh website: