We take a look through the eyes of two participants closely involved in the organisation. Ralph Durbridge is a Hertfordshire freemason who has a strong association with the scheme. Harry Jackson is an active participant working to achieve his award. Both give us their perspective of what it means to them.
How did you first become involved in the scheme yourself?
Through my sixth form.
What is the scheme, what does it do, and what does it mean to you?
The scheme is a character and skill building process where you learn to be practical, push yourself physically and give back to the community while also enhancing your CV.
What stage are you at within the scheme?
I am just about to complete my expedition qualifier for the Gold Award (28th June – 1st July).
What are the key benefits you’ve taken from participating in the scheme so far?
Memories of the stunning scenery hiking through mountains.
Have any memorable, u nusual or unique moments happened so far for you?
We recreated Simba being lifted into the sky at the start of lion king.
How has Covid impacted on your participation in the scheme?
As we can’t go to Wales we will be hiking round the scenic routes of Broxbourne instead and sleeping in our own houses.
How popular would you say the scheme is amongst young people today?
About 60% of people I know have participated in at least one variation of the scheme. It could be higher if more schools/clubs offered it to all ages. I moved schools for sixth form and it was at this new school I was able to participate in the gold award. The new school also offered bronze and silver to most year groups. But my old school hadn’t been able to do DofE until 2018, and that was only available to form students at the time.
What kind of impact can you see with Freemasons providing funding to the scheme?
I would say more enterprises have the ability to facilitate the qualification. I expect most students would participate in the award if they had the opportunity to.
What kind of activities do Freemason lodges undertake that participants on the scheme can get involved and use it as evidence towards their award ?
I know it’s obvious but volunteering in some form to give back to the community. Like delivering hot meals to elderly to prevent them leaving the house. Cheshunt Lodge, for instance, and others helped to deliver meals from the kitchens at Halsey Hall in Turners Hill, Cheshunt, and my Dad, Andy, who’s a mason, and me helped out as delivery drivers.
How did you first become involved in the scheme yourself?
I am not academic and only truly succeeded in sport as a young person. I joined the Army Cadets and found I had a set of skills which made me feel useful and not thereby excluded. That Army Cadet Unit developed skills I enjoyed and became good at and signed me up for D of E going in Direct Gold undertaking my expedition in the Brecon Beacons. I became a D of E Wild Country Instructor / Supervisor / Assessor. I became a qualified Mountain Leader and later Head of Outdoor Education at a School.
What is your association with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme today?
I now assist by Assessing or Supervising Expeditions. Recently I assessed a school in London on their Bronze Award Expedition.
To the layperson what is the scheme and what does it do?
The DoE is a personal development programme which promotes a range of skills in young people enabling them to become useful members of their society. It teaches participants to work as a member of a team, set their own aims and targets which meet the programme’s requirements and allows each person to achieve success by identifying something they are good at. We are all good at something – finding that self-worth is rewarding to each individual participant. Each person can achieve at their own comfortable level yet feel invigorated by achieving a range of additional and new challenges.
Under your leadership how many participants have you got through the scheme?
I was lucky to have been asked to set-up Outdoor Education at a school and remained at that school for eleven years. Each year we had approx. 80 Bronze participants, 40 Silver and 28 Gold and got them all to succeed, not from my perspective but their own wish to complete their Award. I did not ‘get them though’ I encouraged them to participate and complete THEIR award. Too many organisations now steal that success. I saw my role as hiding in the background but being there when needed.
What are the key benefits for the participants on the scheme?
The main benefit is self-identity and on completion of the Award to achieve personal success, obtaining their Award at St James’ Palace from Prince Philip and meeting a dignitary such a Sir Geoff Hurst and many others who give their time freely to support the success of Gold Award Recipients. Prince Philip was a wonderful person who showed the young people that he had time for them and an interest in them, he never once asked them about their background or school, he accepted them for themselves.
What kind of occupations have your delegates gone on to achieve?
A wide variety of occupations because the DofE Scheme is open to all young people from all walks of life.
The levels require the participants to engage in a wide range of activities. What has been the most unusual put up for submission?
Taking part in Hedge-Hog counting.
What are the main benefits for anyone considering becoming involved as an assessor in the scheme?
Gives the person an opportunity to be part of the ‘Circle of Life’ by passing on their personal skills
What do you envisage the impact being of this newly established partnership with UGLE and the funding being provided?
There is a dire need to develop change in public perception of people and cultures, especially the young. Freemasonry can be a catalyst in that change in promoting the good and excellence in young people and display there is no cultural bar, DofE is for all to undertake and make those participants part of society. Rather simply seeing this opportunity to supply funding, more importantly is to provide personal time and support to young people.
Can Lodges/Chapters etc support local schemes, if so, how?
Freemasons could volunteer to assess / supervise a participant at B, S, G with UGLE providing
an on-line link for DoE participants or their DoE Centre to access when looking for support to
enable them to select and undertake a VOLUNTEERING activity or SKILL. There are many
difficulties for young participants to enable them to sign up for such activities. To assist less
fortunate participants to be included on expeditions when they cannot afford the necessary kit to
complete the expedition section. Many young people are excluded because of the cost of the