Having achieved her own Bronze Award, Emmaline O’Toole’s mum encouraged her daughter to take up the challenge; but while participating in her Bronze, Emmaline was diagnosed with Raynaud’s disease and had to be taken out of her school that ran the DofE to be home educated. But Emmaline was determined to continue with her Award and, once she finished her GCSEs, she went on to become an independent participant so she could continue her journey.
Emmaline started volunteering at The Helen & Douglas Hospice charity shop, which supports children and young adults with life-shortening conditions. Initially, Emmaline was charged with pricing products, labelling and cleaning before being given training and more responsibilities, such as operating the till, dressing the shop window and steaming the clothes. Volunteering built up Emmaline’s confidence as she was constantly meeting new people, building a good rapport with colleagues and members of the public.
Having worked hard to complete her Bronze and Silver Awards, Emmaline volunteered at the Me2 Club for her Gold Award where she helped a young boy who has autism with complex support needs. The Me2 Club is a charity based in Wokingham that supports children with special needs by pairing them up with volunteers who take them to mainstream activities they wouldn’t usually have access to. Speaking about her volunteering at the Me2 club, Emmaline said, “It took a while before the young boy I was placed with trusted me but through perseverance and commitment, we have built a true friendship where we really enjoy being in each other’s company; so much so that I have continued to volunteer even after completing my Gold Award.” Emmaline explained, “It has been really rewarding to see that through one-to-one support, there have been great improvements in his behaviour and he is much more confident getting involved in activities.”
Continuing her commitment to volunteering and the hospice, Emmaline recently raised £400 through a baking fundraiser where all the proceeds went to The Helen & Douglas Hospice Charity. Honorary guest, Home Secretary Theresa May, attended the fundraiser and bought one of Emmaline’s lemon drizzle loafs to support her and the charity.
It was through the DofE that Emmaline discovered her love of baking as she explained, “The DofE gave me a reason to channel my interests in cooking and the hospitality industry. Through my Skills section, I gained a patisserie qualification and I enjoyed it so much that I am now considering becoming a pastry chef.”
Emmaline is currently in her second year at Reading College where she is studying Hospitality. Since completing her Awards, she believes that her DofE has had a really positive impact on her future opportunities, saying “I truly believe that my DofE Awards helped me gain a place at college and secure my job, where I prepare food in a local restaurant. Both my tutor and boss were impressed when they saw it on my applications, with my boss only asking me about my Awards during my interview. The DofE is so well respected and talking about your experience makes you more memorable to your interviewer.”
Although Emmaline goes to college and works, she still finds time to volunteer. Every Monday morning she works in the hospice charity shop where she has developed close relationships with her coworkers. Along with volunteering at the shop, Emmaline still takes the boy from the Me2 group to his football club every week.
Describing what she enjoys about volunteering, Emmaline said, “It’s that nice feeling you get when you’re doing something for someone else, you don’t get anything back apart from that feeling that you’re giving your time for them. I enjoy it so much now it’s not a chore.”
Participating in her Awards sometimes proved a real challenge but didn’t deter her from her end goal, as Emmaline explained, “With my past health issues, completing my Awards was tough at times, especially going on the Expeditions; however finishing really showed me there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t achieve. I have such good memories and it was so enjoyable. I would really recommend doing the DofE to anyone.”