Award challenge boosts faith

By  Peter Grbac, Youth Speak News
  • May 2, 2008

Some people describe the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as a “do-it-yourself” growing up kit for all young people. To me, it has been a mind-expanding, people-meeting and life-changing experience.

For the past four years, I have taken part in the program. I have volunteered in homeless shelters, cycled from Toronto to Niagara Falls and canoed through Algonquin Park. Through these activities, I have been able to push my boundaries and develop a life-long commitment to community service.

Having both national and international recognition is an excellent opportunity for young people to challenge their abilities, try new things and become part of this crowning achievement among youth today.

This award program has expanded to include more than 125 nations since its creation by  Prince Philip in 1956. More than 30,000 Canadian youth between the ages of 14-25 are currently working on one of three awards — Bronze, Silver or Gold. The award program’s four areas of accomplishment include community service, an adventurous journey, a documented pursuit of a skill or hobby and physical recreation. I found that one of the most rewarding components of the program is a Residential Project, which is only done at the Gold level. I joined other youth on an international volunteer and development project in rural Kenya for this. I helped construct schools, teach local elementary school children and gained a deep appreciation for the power of education.

Most importantly, I have been able to discover my Catholic faith. We live in a society dominated by mass media, popular culture and secular change. It is often difficult for young Catholics to embrace and practise their faith. The Challenge, although not a faith-based program, allows young Catholics to focus on the internal power of faith because it encourages a life of balance.

The four areas of accomplishment help participants channel their energy into focused activities, maximizing their potential while empowering them to become dedicated members of society. Volunteering in my local community has been the climax of my involvement. I worked with the Out of the Cold program in Toronto where I learned that as we help each guest, we strive to see the face of God and touch Jesus’ cross. Cleaning the church hall, preparing meals and serving the homeless makes up only one aspect of the community service. The other aspect is responding to homeless people’s needs through love, respect and self-worth. The homeless teach us the real and important things in life, like sharing, kindness and love.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Challenge inspired and continues to inspire a shared vision — a vision of challenge, leadership and inspiration. It is amazing to see what happens when you let youth discuss, debate and grow together. This program has provided me and other youth with the essential tools we need so that we can be motivated to work together and achieve our maximum potential.  I invite you to take the challenge and live the achievement. See www.dukeofed.org for more information.

(Grbac, 17, is a student at St. Michael's College School in Toronto.)

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