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How the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme shaped me

My journey to meeting Prince Phillip

Like millions of people all over the world I watched, with sadness, the funeral of Prince Phillip.  As a teenager, I had been through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, and as I watched the austere ceremony and the associated pomp, I thought about this man whose youth initiative had such an important influence on my early life.  Today, as an entrepreneur with a business embedded in the community, I can see how the D of E Award had laid an important part of the foundation that has helped me achieve my self-confidence and belief.

Always into everything

Growing up, my parents juggled day and night shifts in their full-time jobs: Mum a nurse and Dad a chemical process worker, both working shifts.  It was a struggle a lot of the time, but it meant that at least one of my parents was always around for me and my four siblings at any one time.  They never missed a sports day, parents’ evening, school production, or anything we were involved in.

I was an active child and loved sports and music.  Thanks to a curriculum that encouraged and funded these I was able to learn instruments, get involved in team and individual sports, as well as dance and drama. But with all five of us equally busy, my parents were stretched when it came to undertaking extra-curricular activities.

Joining up

I have always yearned for stimulating adventures and challenges. But because my parents did not earn a lot, I had to find things to do that were affordable. I joined the Brownies and progressed to the Guides, following in the footsteps of my sister in becoming a Queens Guide holder at 15. My secondary school encouraged pupils to do the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  I embraced it fully and progressed through the ranks to get my Gold at the age of 19.

I have heard so many people talking about what the Duke of Edinburgh Award gave them, and I can endorse that, with some great memories such as my camping trip in the Lake District with three of my best friends.  But without doubt, it helped shape who I am, giving me confidence and belief in myself that I can trace back to this success.  My love of the outdoors and nature and a strong sense of community was in part hatched by the D of E.

A day to remember

Back in the mid-1980s achieving the Gold D of E was newsworthy. Plus, it also meant a trip to St James Palace.  This was one of the proudest moments of my life.  I was so excited – a trip to London was something to look forward to for this Yorkshire girl.  But my mum was even more excited than me.

Now, remember, I followed in the footsteps of my sister. So, when the invitation to the palace arrived, I had to say who I would be taking as my guest. Mum went three years earlier with my sister, so naturally, I assumed Dad would want to come with me.  He didn’t get a look in.

I remember that day so clearly. In our new dresses, we traveled to London on the coach and made our way to St James Palace. We had refreshments in the Great Hall and then lined up to receive our badge and certificate from Prince Phillip.  As the great man came to us, we curtsied as instructed, and he congratulated me. Then mum very politely said to him: “We’ve met before you know. I don’t know if you remember me, but I was here three years ago with my other daughter.”  He was lovely, and without even a wry smile, he asked about my sister and what she was up to.  A perfect princely reply.

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