Achieving a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award had been on Dorothy’s mind since she was young. Growing up in a rural area, she often saw DofE groups out on expeditions and her dad was a mountaineering instructor, so adventure and the outdoors had always appealed. After achieving her Bronze and Silver Awards, Dorothy continued on to her Gold DofE programme but was faced with, and overcame, personal, family, and mental health challenges.
During the final months of her Gold DofE, and whilst studying for her A-levels, Dorothy became estranged from her adoptive mother and was temporarily homeless. On top of this, she was also dealing with an eating disorder which made completing all four sections of the DofE harder than usual.
Dorothy found that talking to other young people and the volunteers she connected with inspired her to be more open and honest about herself. It helped her develop self-love and compassion, consider steps to overcome her eating disorder, and be kind to herself when life doesn’t quite go as she planned:
“The biggest thing Gold DofE did for me was help me face my mental health head on. It helped me realise that I needed to get professional help for my eating disorder and to realise that opening up to friends about my mental health and things I was facing was okay and actually a REALLY good idea. This has made my life so much easier and enjoyable, learning that being authentic and open is healthy!”
“The challenges we faced together brought out our authentic selves and forged really wonderful friendships, some of which I still maintain today.”
For her Volunteering section, Dorothy supported a Girlguiding group and trained to become a fully qualified Leader. She has since gone on to use the skills she gained during this section in roles such as mentoring GCSE students and as a youth camp leader.
She feels that completing her DofE has also helped in many other ways. Through volunteering she gained strong leadership skills, which were enhanced by her roles as group leader or main navigator for expeditions, and planning expeditions also gave her a foundation for organising activities and trips, both solo and with university societies and friends.
To other young people considering doing their DofE, she says:
“You can do whatever challenges you like and face whatever fears you decide to face. You can take time out and you can ask for help at any point. You might love netball and do that as your physical, but you could just at equally be doing mountaineering or yoga or wheelchair basketball or fencing or archery. Do something you love that makes you feel good about yourself and makes you feel that you have accomplished something you want to do.”