It is always great to celebrate the achievements of our vibrant volunteers and Kay, our Head of Volunteering and Partnerships, was delighted to accept an invitation to the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Diamond Anniversary Awards in the splendid Westminster Abbey recently. Here, she tells us all about the grand occasion and what it means to celebrate the incredible work of volunteers far and wide.
In the past two years we have supported over 100 young people to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards by providing residential volunteering opportunities across each of our three respite holiday centres in Southampton, Southport and Chigwell in Essex. In many ways, our volunteers help us to create the magical atmosphere that is unique to our centres and that so many of our guests have come to know and love.
So, as I’m sure you can imagine, when the invitation came for me to attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s service of Thanksgiving I was delighted to accept. When I arrived, it was wonderful to see so many people gathered together in celebration of the value of volunteering and the contributions made for causes everywhere – Duke of Edinburgh staff, Girls Brigade, Scouts and Schools for people with Special Educational Needs. A few famous faces also attended, including comedian Steven K Amos, newsreader Martin Lewis and Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury.
Amongst much pomp and pageantry, The Procession of the Queen included the Choir of Westminster, the deeply reverenced Doctor John Hall, followed by HRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and her Majesty the Queen – all of whom lead the way for the DofE ambassadors.
Of all the day’s proceedings, the part I found most inspiring and moving was to listen to the testimonials given by past participants of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Take Hannah Cockroft MBE who told us that aged 15 she had never before stayed away from home, that doing her DofE pushed her, enabled her to discover inner strengths. Just like everyone else Hannah was encouraged to do all she could to fully earn her award, proving to herself and her parents that she was able to achieve anything and later she went on to win Gold at both the London 2012 and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Then it was Thomas Wainwright’s turn to share with us how achieving his DofE Award while serving a prison sentence changed his life. Through the prison service’s encouragement to achieve an award, Thomas experienced for the first time what it was like to have someone believe in his ability to achieve.
To finish, the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, spoke with a great deal of pride and passion about the fact that the Duke of Edinburgh had set up the awards over 60 years ago, because of his belief in young people. Having met young people from all over the word as a result of his involvement with the DofE Awards, the Earl of Wessex closed his speech with one last sentiment – ‘go for it’ – for anything that you want to achieve takes commitment and determination and that’s the ethos of the DofE Awards.
We don’t know what your dreams are, but we’d love to play a part in helping you to achieve them. You can find out all about our involvement with the Duke Of Edinburgh Awards and the opportunities we have waiting for you by clicking here