Our 18-year-old son Matthew was recently presented with his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award at Buckingham Palace. The sun shone, we chatted with like-minded young people (and Princess Beatrice) and enjoyed the royal gardens. 

This was the culmination of 18 months of dedication and determination. Matthew coached young players at Letchworth Tennis Club each week for the ‘Volunteering’ element of his award as well as improving his own performance in the sport for his ‘Physical’ section. His chosen ‘Skill’ was playing the drums (you may have heard him!), and ‘Residential’ saw him spend a week at a Loughborough University basketball camp with people of a similar age, none of whom he had met before. 

However, it is the ‘Expedition’ section that the Award is most renowned for. For Matthew it meant four days and three nights spent wild camping in Snowdonia with five friends, completely self sufficient and cut off from running water (other than rivers and streams), fast food and WiFi. Matthew tells us the night in the youth hostel at the end was the best night’s sleep and meal he has ever had! While enjoyment probably isn’t the first word he would use to describe his expedition, the experience taught him resilience and other valuable life skills that he wouldn’t have learnt in a classroom.

The whole Duke of Edinburgh Award is designed to give young people opportunities to challenge themselves and show commitment to others. Over the last five years at Bronze, Silver and now Gold level, Matthew has grown and benefited from the many experiences offered by this highly regarded scheme – well done Matthew, seeing you receive this recognition at Buckingham Palace is something we will remember for many years to come. 

We hope reading this also inspires other young people to try something that takes them out of their comfort zone.

Jim & Lynda Caldwell