Young people have missed out on much during the Covid-19 pandemic but the reaction to the Duke of Edinburgh’s death has highlighted the impact of the organisation that bears his name.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was founded by Prince Philip in 1956 and well over six million young people have taken part.
In Kirklees there is a thriving Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme which sees 2,000 young people take part every year.
In fact, a group of 46 young people from Kirklees were among the last group to receive their awards from the Duke himself in 2017 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh.
Denise Bedford, manager of the scheme in Kirklees, said: “It’s been a really difficult 12 months for all young people and the legacy we can take from this is if teachers and youth leaders come forward and give even more young people the opportunity that the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award affords.
“Young people have missed out on so much but with the award scheme we have something that can redress the balance.
“Staff in schools really inspire young people and what better, as we emerge from restrictions, than we encourage young people to volunteer and get active with sports and outdoor pursuits. Now is an ideal time to get involved in something new and create a positive change.”
The Duke launched the award scheme on September 1, 1956 – and it’s still going strong 64 years later.
In any normal year the Kirklees scheme would sell-out Huddersfield Town Hall for its annual awards presentation, the only organisation to fill the town hall to capacity.
Mrs Bedford said the scheme’s appeal and longevity was down to the awards being for the individual. It was a personal challenge.
“It’s a personal award,” said Mrs Bedford. “You are not competing against other people. I always believe that life begins when you take young people out of their comfort zone.
“Everybody has their own Mount Everest. A young woman with Down Syndrome has different challenges to a young man at secondary school.
“Everybody has their own unique challenges and that’s the uniqueness of the scheme. It’s non-competitive and it’s a challenge to individuals. We find that young people succeed and thrive.”
Mrs Bedford met the Duke around a dozen times and she paid tribute to his dedication and warmth. “He was a really interesting man who always broke the ice and encouraged young people to tell him their stories. He was genuinely interested in them.
“We’ve been inundated with good wishes and there has been such an outpouring. We have heard from so many who took part in the scheme as young people and now have children or grandchildren of their own. They say it changed their lives. People never forget what they did for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
“The Duke attended every single presentation for 60 years until his retirement. That is a phenomenal achievement. Let’s hope young people take inspiration from that.
“There were plans in the pipeline to celebrate the Duke’s 100th birthday but his passing has meant new generations now know more about his life. From uncertain beginnings he became this inspirational figure.
“It would be wonderful if we could now get more young people involved to experience new challenges. For that we need more adult volunteers to come forward to help bring through the next generation.”
To volunteer or to find out more go to http://www.kirkleesdofe.org/ or ring 01484 225952.