The Duke of Edinburghs International Award For Young People – Challenging people everywhere

by Ellen Schepens

“My life is a novel, unwritten chapters. Theme and setting in search of characters.
Plot twists bring me to roads unravelled. Inspiration on the one less travelled.
Expanding my mind, skills are stretched.
Lifelong abilities on my mind are etched.”

This is a little quote from a Canadian video on The Duke of Edinburghs International Award For Young People. This project stimulates youngsters to raise the bar and achieve things they never imagined achieving. The DofE International Award inspires, motivates and supports young adults to make a difference.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it. But that it’s too low and we reach it.”

Why am I talking about this project in a blog about excellence? Because the DofE is all about excellence. The project is linked to schools, sportsclubs and associatons around the world. But it’s not something you achieve because of your school or because it will shine on your diploma.

You achieve a DofE International Award because you are you. Because you, like every other person on this planet, have dreams and goals. But these are your dreams and goals. And you are the only one to set the bar, raise the bar and to be you.

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal”

Participating in the DofE International Award you start a project of at least 1,5 years. In which you set goals in sports, skills and volunteering. You also take on the challenge to hike somewhere on the world for 4 days. To show the world you are a talented individual you combine all of your new insights and strengths into the final task: ‘The Residential’. You’ll find yourself in a completely new environment with people you didn’t know before. For one week you learn from them and they learn from you, a soon to be ‘Golden Awardholder’.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

I started this programme when I was 14, in 2007. By the time I was 21 I achieved my Golden Award. In this period of time I learned a lot about myself, about the people around me and about the way the world works. I did some things I never imagined doing. Like yoga. Or playing the guitar. I hosted a radio show in the local hospital, I travelled to Great-Brittain and I started my singing career.
At one point I wrote a song. I put it on a cd and sold it. To 1100 people! The song I wrote is now the themesong of the International Award in The Netherlands and I get to sing it every time a group of brave and talented Dutch youngsters achieve their golden award.
This means I get to face the ‘getters’ of this country every 1,5 year. And see the population of Golden Award-holders grow. Three years after achieving my own Golden Award these young heroes remind me that we are capable, that we cán do something and that today is the day to make the first move.

“Life starts at the end of your comfort zone.”

Since last month I am officially an Award Officer. This means I now get to coach youngsters around me to achieve a DofE International Award. Together with Suzanne Unck I want to try to integrate this wonderful programme into the honoursprogramme at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht. The two programmes are quite similar and can reinforce one another to make students get the best out of their talents and possibilities.

“Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect.”

On the 13th of December you are most welcome at the Faculty of Healthcare (Utrecht) to hear more about this programme.

See more about the award on: and
Or watch this inspiring youtube-movie.

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