David Merkel

I gained my Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Award in 1965, when I was just 16, before the rigors of A-level study kicked in.
Against a background of a long line of difficulties, the DOE challenges opened the door to my lifelong commitment to helping others. Since then, I have been associated with a range of charities, finally setting up Lawyers with Disabilities at the Law Society, Chancery Lane, mentoring and advising disabled lawyers to help them to find work and legal experience.
My Duke of Edinburgh’s story starts in 1959, when I became seriously ill with TB meningitis. Despite this, I still managed to pass the Eleven Plus, to gain a place at Hampton School. However, this illness left me disabled and with such failing eyesight that I was unable to take up my place. Instead, I was sent to a small boarding school in deepest Hampshire.
The volunteering section opened up the opportunity to help people. At Romsey town hall I was asked to introduce myself to an elderly, blind lady. She lived in a tied cottage on the Broadlands Estate where the Mountbatten family lived., on the banks of the River Test. I remember in the autumn seeing the salmon leaping upstream. Her husband had been the head gardener there for many years. I loved these visits as it got me out of school, and I enjoyed meeting many of her elderly friends.
I am very proud to have been part the Duke of Edinburgh’s challenge. It really cemented my commitment to help others, wherever I felt I could make a difference. These include being part of local disability charities, the Law Society for 30 years and continues to this day.