When lockdown hit in March, young people across the UK saw daily life turned on its head. For Bronze participant Carl, the uncertainty had an immediate impact.
“When coronavirus happened, it affected me academically because we lost all the preparation time for the exams and were very unsure about what was going to happen. When I was stuck at home it was really hard to find the motivation to do anything because I had no idea what was going to happen with school or the summer.”
Carl is doing his DofE with the Youth Empowerment service under Newham Borough Council, where there are over 100 young people participating across all three levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold.
DofE Manager, Tom, recognises the importance of enabling young people to continue with their DofE: “In uncertain times, and especially at the beginning of the pandemic, where the structure of a young person’s life has been stripped away, it’s important that those who sign up to do their DofE have a way to stay mentally and physically active.”
Tom, along with youth workers from Youth Empowerment, has moved DofE support online and shares resources and ways for young people to continue their #DofEWithADifference, but it was clear that the young people he works with wanted to use their DofE to help directly with the community effort.
“We knew that the council had set up relief hubs in the borough to be able to pack and deliver essential food packages to those who are most vulnerable in the borough.
“From the period of May, through to the end of august, more than 40 young people committed their time each week to help with the running of the relief hub and became an asset to the hub.”
Watch first-hand as the young people get to work.
Continuing with his DofE throughout the summer supported Carl’s physical and mental wellbeing. “The DofE helped me as, even if I wasn’t doing much online schoolwork, there was still DofE sections that needed to be completed and it helped me stay focused on something that I wanted to do.
“For my physical, I started jogging once a week and recorded my progress on an app. Jogging helped me stay motivated for the next week, and doing this also boosted my mood as I was stuck inside a lot of the time.
“I changed my Volunteering section so that I could support the council and the community in the main relief hub in Newham, helping to prepare food packages for families and people who needed them. I preferred doing this to the previous volunteering I’d been doing, as it was really important to show up and help directly to support the community I live in.
“Through this experience I met lots of other young people who wanted to volunteer and who were also doing their DofE. This really helped as I could talk to other young people who were in a similar position to me.”
Tom has seen a rise in interest about the DofE now that other members of the community have seen young people actively helping in the local community.
The importance of the DofE in supporting the mental wellbeing of young people is clear to Tom and the Youth Empowerment team. “Throughout this period of uncertainty, there has been a huge amount of stress and a halt in development for young people.
“Those who have been doing their DofE have found that it has added a sense of purpose. Being able to participate in something, whilst under lockdown, enables them to focus and work towards a meaningful goal.”