To Sixty More! The Duke of Edinburgh Awards Mark Milestone Anniversary in 2016

  May 24, 2016 at 10:00 am by

As The Duke of Edinburgh celebrates his 95th birthday this year, I want to take a look back at the astonishing life of this great individual starting with something that has been a part of my life and that of many, many others.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award and International Award is available in 14 countries but Awards modelled on The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award are presented by sponsoring organisations affiliated with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Association in 144 nations. The award was founded in February 1956 and was largely designed by Baron John Hunt, who had retired from the army to run the award after successfully leading the first expedition to climb Mount Everest. The award was originally boys only, and followed a similar example to one set at Gordonstoun – something Philip would have experienced in his day.

The Duke of Edinburgh visits an early DoE Awards program during the 1960s

The “rules” that participants must follow include the Award programmes taking between one to four years to complete, and they must be completed by the participant’s twenty-fifth birthday. There are around 300,000 participants annually. The programmes are at three progressive levels which, if successfully completed, lead to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

They must creates objectives in four areas – volunteering, physical activity, skills and expedition – to complete the award. Those going for gold level Awards must do an additional fifth section (residential), which involves staying and working away from home for five days, doing a shared activity.

The Duke of Edinburgh with DoE Award participants at the 500th presentation in 2013

The DOE Award is still incredibly popular, in 2014 Buzz Feed ran a story about 31 Terrible Problems Only People Who Did DofE Will Understand!

There are thousands of stories online of people who’ve had experiences with the DOE to show but here are a few:


Jashimuddin, 17, a Gold Award participant from India who suffers from severe visual impairment: “My heart pumped fast when I heard [where we were going] for our Gold level Adventurous Journey. It was my dream to stay a night in the invincible jungle… I was not frightened to share a jungle night with elephants, deer, rhinos. I was eager to take that experience which hardly ever comes to a visually challenged person.”

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards celebrates 50 years with a Royal Charter back in 2006

Lincoln Hall is a residential educational centre for young men between the ages of 12 to 18 who have been referred through the Family Court system. Noble Varughese, Lincoln Hall’s Associate Executive Director (USA): “The Award has been the single best addition to our residential programme in years. It instils in our students a desire to help others, a belief in themselves and an understanding of the importance of setting goals and achieving them. Over 95% of our students enrol in the Award and begin their activities within a week of enrolment.

Comfort Banda, Ghana: The eighteen year old was one of 30 girls who enrolled into an Award outreach programme ‘Reach Your Dream’ at her high school in Accra. The project sought to equip vulnerable young people with the skills to set up or start up their own business. After just one week’s training in entrepreneurship Comfort was able to set up two businesses which she uses to fund her education.

Albert Cherng and Daniel Leong, Gold Award participants from British Columbia, Canada: The pair are helping elderly members of the community learn how to use tablets, smartphones and computers through voluntary organisation Tech Easy. Using prize money they won in a video competition about The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, they have been able to support their initiative, providing resources for volunteers to help them train.

James Kenner, President & CEO Kinnear Financial Ltd and Award National Benefactor: “If I can help ensure that all young Canadians have access to The Award, without economic or other barriers, I will feel that I have made a positive impact.” Meeting the Earl of Wessex.

Home Countries:

Jonathan, Young Offender to Jamie Olivers Sous Chef (England): After being sentenced to 6 and a half years in a young offenders unit, Jonathan had hit rock bottom. After listening to a couple of guys saying the DOE award was coming to the prison, he decided to sign up, with 60 others, for a shot at one of the 15 places on offer. He got that place, and the following challenges he faced changed his life. His favourite section was the Skill part which involved in working in a kitchen to gain an NVQ, this role would launch him on the path to his out of prison life. Over the three and a half years he was in the young offenders institute, he completed his bronze and silver awards, and when he moved to a resettlement unit, he completed his gold award and received it in 2011 from The Duke of Edinburgh himself as part of the celebrations for his 90th Birthday. Jon worked with the likes of Jamie Oliver, Raymond Blanc and Angela Murray before starting his own catering business.

The Duke of Edinburgh with participants from each decade of the DoE Awards during the 500th presentation in 2013

Maltby Hilltop School: Maltby School in Rotherham has been running the DofE for two years. They currently have students undertaking both Bronze and Silver programmes and are growing each year, with the hope of expanding to Gold. The students that participate have complex learning difficulties meaning they might sometimes need additional support in activities, particularly with their Expedition section.

Conor from Ballymurphy, a Nationalist and Republican community in West Belfast: A big part of Conor’s award was the meeting of two communities which for years had been consistently at war with one another. “Our families and communities seen young people doing positive things and not destroying and vandalising their area. Apart from the physical and environmental benefits there were also many social and political benefits. We had politicians from both communities helping and supporting our work, even visiting us while we working.”

2014 Duke of Edinburgh Award participants from Northern Ireland

Janice Mustafavos:  Janice suffers from a rare blood disorder which took years to diagnose and still doesn’t have a name. When she was diagnosed, she was weeks away from completing her gold award by climbing down and back up the Grand Canyon. Her determination to complete the award, and the support of her doctors, allowed her to partake in her final challenge. By pure chance there was another DOE participant on the trip who suffered from their own blood disorder and that gave Janice another level of courage. After receiving her Gold Gaisce Award from President Mary McAleese in 2007 she’s gone on to support the Gold Gaisce and the DOE International Award meeting several royals on occasion and even having dinner with The Earl of Wessex on the night Catherine and William announced their engagement!

Personally this award got me through high school, after joining high school I had very few friends and unfortunately I’m not the type to chat easily. I hid myself behind my school work, blogs and various forums. In Year 7, I was offered the chance to compete in the starter stages of the Bronze Award and this is where high school really began for me. I met people who I could talk to, I had help and guidance from several of the school staff and my confidence built! I even had my first high school boyfriend from the group meetings we had, not a proper boyfriend of course, and I dumped him via note in German class! Unfortunately due to school commitments I was unable to continue the DOE award but I maintained my friends and my confidence.

The Duke with the Earl and Countess of Wessex at last week’s Garden Party celebrating the Award’s 60th anniversary

I am supremely glad that The Earl and Countess of Wessex will continue the DOE award when appropriate because they are ambassadors that the award needs. The Duke of Edinburgh has done something remarkable for thousands of people with this award, and he deserves to know about the lives he has changed.

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