The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award operates in over 130 countries. It provides a framework for young people aged 14 - 24 to learn new skills, volunteer and get physically active. It has been called the Hillary Award since 2019 in New Zealand.
“It's not just outdoor challenges. As part of the programme, young people must do service to the community, like volunteering, conservation work, or helping people. It also involves keeping themselves healthy and well, so it’s about mental and physical wellbeing,” said Karen Ross, National Director.
“We want to have the opportunity available to all rangatahi of New Zealand. We have reached out to funding partners to make the Hillary Award a truly national award. The funding makes it free where it is most needed.”
A grant of $10k from the Toi Foundation enabled the organisation to offer the award programme for free to some disadvantaged communities. The registration fee is normally $75.
“The young people choose what they want to focus on. In Taranaki, they have been involved with organisations like marae, Riding for the Disabled, Scouts NZ, Rotokare Trust, and predator-free programmes with Taranaki District Council.
“Particularly in the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in how young people help their communities. For example, a participant from Opunake High School collected watercress from his family farm and delivered it to Parihaka Marae as part of the Voluntary Service section.”
Over 50 young people have gone through the programme in the last year in Taranaki. "The impact on them is transformational. But there is a multiplier effect through the service they give to organisations and communities.”
“These habits stay with them. The idea is that learning is lifelong and contributes to them being a well-rounded person. We’ve got research that shows improvements in social cohesion, wellbeing and engagement with charitable community causes in people who have gone through the Award,” Karen said.