James Baird (18) writes from Chegutu, Zimbabwe:
As the first Zimbabwean to be awarded The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Gold Award at Peter House in Zimbabwe, I am hugely proud and wanted to share my journey with others in the hope that I may inspire them.
My Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award programme started back in 2012; initially Bronze and then Gold levels. I did my Award through Peterhouse School. With the various clubs on offer ranging from debate to chess, there was lots of choice. I joined as I saw this as the perfect opportunity to help others and develop my skills at the same time! In order to work towards the Award, I had several hurdles to jump.
My Gold Award interests consisted of tennis, photography and volunteering as a visitor to an Old People’s Home and local hospital on a weekly basis. For sport, I played tennis at first team level for Peterhouse boys and I recently received my half-colours. Photography is a skill I truly enjoy as behind my camera I am able to see things from a different perspective; the same applies to many situations in life. Visiting the Old People’s Home and hospital has taught me many things not least that it helped my; communication skills and to be grateful for what I do have, rather than what I don’t have.
I’m proud to say for my Adventurous Journey, our Peterhouse School group became the first school group to complete the entire Turaco trail (80km) and to summit Mount Inyangani which is the highest mountain in Zimbabwe. My Residential Project consisted of erecting a fence around the staff quarters at RIFA camp in Chirundu in the Zambezi Valley. This was particularly challenging as by 10:00am temperatures often exceeded 40 degrees. I now have a lot of respect for anyone who does such a physically demanding job in extreme temperatures.
Throughout my Award journey I have developed many friendships, ranging from tennis partners, my Turaco Trail team to my elderly friends from the Old People’s home, some of whom by the way are on Facebook!
To anyone who is considering going for The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, I would highly recommend this as you will not only develop your personal skills further, make new friends and learn more about yourself, but you will have the perfect opportunity to give something back to the community as life is not all about taking. It’s good to be able to give back something and I think this all contributes towards making society a better place.
When asked, I say that my inspiration for my adventures is Bear Grylls. For me, Bear proves that nothing is impossible and if you really want to achieve something, you have to go out and get it. Like Bear, I hope to start my career in the military and see where that takes me. This long journey has ultimately taught me three important aspects about life: perseverance, dedication and commitment. With these three qualities, surely success is inevitable!