Achieving a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award had been on Dot’s mind since they were young. Growing up in a rural area, they often saw DofE groups out on expeditions and their dad was a mountaineering instructor, so adventure and the outdoors had always appealed. After achieving their Bronze and Silver Awards, Dot continued on to their Gold DofE programme but was faced with, and overcame, personal, family, and mental health challenges.
During the final months of their Gold DofE, and whilst studying for A-levels, Dot became estranged from their adoptive mother and was temporarily homeless. On top of this, they were also dealing with an eating disorder which made completing all four sections of the DofE harder than usual.
Dot found that talking to other young people and the volunteers they connected with inspired them to be more open and honest about themselves. It helped them develop self-love and compassion, consider steps to overcome their eating disorder, and be kind to themselves when life doesn’t quite go as 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 their Volunteering section, Dot supported a Girlguiding group and trained to become a fully qualified Leader. They have since gone on to use the skills gained during this section in roles such as mentoring GCSE students and as a youth camp leader.
They felt that completing their DofE has also helped in many other ways. Through volunteering, they gained strong leadership skills, which were enhanced by roles as a group leader or main navigator for expeditions, and planning expeditions also gave them a foundation for organising activities and trips, both solo and with university societies and friends.
To other young people considering doing their DofE, Dot 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.”