April 2018 Story from an Alumni

Maria Lingga, Bronze and Silver Award Holder, Torontom

The Duke of Ed pushed me outside my comfort zone, to try new things such as dance for my physical recreation for my silver award. I had always loved to sing, but dancing was completely new to me, and truthfully, I wasn’t the best at it. However, I wanted to try new things- to push myself outside my comfort zone- I decided to dance for my school’s Multicultural night. It was a difficult decision at the time because I was afraid of the journey that it would take me on. But I should not have been afraid looking back I realize that it was the journey that I liked the best- getting to grow as person with some of the best people I have ever met.

The next step was what to dance to and with whom. I got together a group of friends and decided to mix our favourite songs because everyone’s opinion mattered; it brought us so close it was like we were sisters. Together we practiced every day after school, making sure everything was synchronized, and that it actually looked good. It was the practices that lasted hours and many revisions that made the dance what it was. As a group we learned from each other, together we learnt how to dance. It showed me that we could figure it out as a group; I learned the skills needed to dance in the best way possible.

So many hours, of effort, sweat, tears and laughter were put into our dance, and at the end we loved the end result. While I was not the best at dancing, I kept pushing myself to accomplish my goal because I wanted to learn and I learnt practice makes perfect. When it was finally show time, I remember being so nervous and feeling as if I would make a fool of myself on stage. My palms were sweating and I began to hyperventilate. However, it never happened none of us looked foolish. We had a great performance and a standing ovation. That performance was my first time dancing in front of a huge audience; it was the best feeling ever- an adrenaline rush. As a team we smiled and were proud of the things we self-taught each other. This wasn’t the last we did this either. I would continue to dance every year for the show until my high school graduation. Looking back on those times, I am so glad that the Duke of Ed program was able to help me see that possibilities are out there, we just have to reach out and grab them . It has definitely shaped me into the confident young woman that I am today!

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March 2018 Story from an Alumni

Kathleen Maitland, Ontario Bronze, Silver and Gold Award holder

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For my Gold Award I got the pleasure of going sailing for my Adventurous Journey; I went with the Toronto Brigantine for an eight day journey that changed my life. I was so lucky to receive a full bursary for this experience; they understood my home experience at still gave me this once in a lifetime opportunity. I remember that my journey did not feel real until I was standing on a boat being taught how to sail and being told I was on watch. It was a very surreal experience, when it hit me I was really doing this- I realized how much work and how much fun I was going to have. My journey started on the second week of August and it was unforgettable, the weather was fairly good all trip except for one extremely stormy day that taught me determination and perseverance. I went on the ship not knowing the difference from a line and a rope, but now I know every term in the book. We did some amazing things on our trip such as my first night shift; we were so cold we all huddled together in a group hug- it sounds annoying but it was honestly the best way to create a family feeling. Another experience was clean up duty- I remember how much I hated kitchen cleanup because I felt so trapped down below but it learning experience- it taught me patience and diligence. Two of the lighter and happier experiences were going aloft and singing sea shanties. Going aloft sounds scary but it’s not- you feel so one with nature, I felt like a bird ready to take flight. Singing sea shanties loudly and off key while on watch, combined my two favourite things singing and getting to know people for who they truly are.

Our first stop on our journey was to a small island with a large cliff face, looking at it was highly intimidating. This first day I felt so sick, I thought I was going to die but I soon realized that I was safe and that Sea-Bands really help with nausea. The island is where we had our first campfire. We climbed up the cliff and began searching for a spot and for dry wood. I used all of my knowledge from canoeing with Jeff Needham, my Duke of Ed mentor, to find all the best wood for the campfire. The best part of a campfire is the atmosphere- we ate marshmallows, sang songs, and had a great time. Then when it was time for bed we had to climb down the steep rock face in the pitch black. I was absolutely frightened that I was going to slip and fall. But I didn’t it showed me how to trust my team mates that they would not lead me astray.

That night during watch my watch mates and I kept ourselves busy by attempting to chase mice off of the boat. I remember my watch mate thought that he could catch the boat.jpgmice by laying marshmallows under a bucket. Needless to say, we did not catch the mice. But we definitely bonded. Our second stop during our course was to another small island. We had to hike to a small lake named Lake Topaz and we got lost. Our 10 minute walk took an hour and a half. It was tiring and testing. But when we got there though, it was worth it. The lake was warm and beautiful. The end goal was what was important. There were many cliffs surrounding the lake and I climbed up to jump. My Petty Officer and I stood on top of the top of the cliff for what felt like an eternity, telling each other to jump. It was a constant bickering over if we should or should not jump. Watching everyone else do it, reaffirmed my fear of heights. But I realized when will I ever have this chance against- never. I finally dove into the beautiful blue water and felt a rush of energy, defeating my fear! Our times on Shore Leave were some of the best moments on the trip. I wish I could revisit Lake Topaz.

The most memorable day on my journey was the day that the storm came. Looking out off the boat, the sky went dark, the winds picked up, and I became genuinely terrified. During the storm, we constantly had to douse sails and set other ones; we were almost swept off our feet. I was scared that there was going to be a terrible outcome. To make matters worse, whenever I had to be on the leeward side of the ship- the boat was so tilted I almost fell off. The ship kept rocking back and forth and water kept coming up from below. I remember that there was nowhere dry to sit and my shoes were soaked. We were so relieved to make port that day. I was so happy to be on solid ground, until I got land sick and had to lie down! But I will say this event although difficult taught me about my limits I can survive so much more than I thought I could if I work with my team mates, rely on myself and persevere.

Sailing in Tobermory taught me so much. I learned all the parts of the ship, I learned a lot about myself and my own limits, and I learned how to do a proper push up. I left the ship thinner, tanned, and a lead hand. I miss sailing and hope to go again someday. Thanks to Duke of Edinburgh award and the Toronto Brigantine I got to have the experience of a lifetimewater

February 2018 Story from an Alumni

Alana Krug-MacLeod, Gold Award Achiever

Imagine the opportunity to join an expedition to the Arctic for a residential project! This was my good fortune, thanks largely to generous sponsorship by an anonymous foundation, the insight and vision of the founder of Students on Ice (SOI), and the SOI staff who enable youth to experience the poles. The Arctic opportunity was incredibly exciting for me, not just because I love exploring and photographing nature, but also because I am passionate about addressing the issues that threaten ecosystem integrity. Having learned first hand about climate change on a previous expedition and through my own research, I was especially interested to deepen my knowledge by hearing from Northern people, the trip’s experts and participants, as well as through observation. I came to see ice, and ice I saw! Imagine my frustration, though, when I found myself land-locked, along with fellow expeditioners; the expedition vessel was only a speck in the distant horizon, separated from Iqaluit by massive house-size chunks of ice that blew and drifted in from Greenland. With return flights already booked, every day separated from our ship was one day less to travel the Arctic waters. For the first couple days, we took it all in good stride, and hoped for a shift in the winds to clear Frobisher Bay, but it was not to be. We talked a lot about good Karma while we waited and we were thankful to be hosted by local residents and organizations, to have a more in-depth opportunity to explore Iqaluit and to learn about its environs and its residents’ life and culture. As impatience grew, and with it complaints, I found myself calm and accepting. I remained eager to enjoy every minute of this experience no matter how things turned out. I accepted that nature has its own realities, and that humans cannot always move mountains (or should I say, ice blocks?).

Like many things in life, I ultimately discovered that much can be learned when things go wrong. Such experiences are not always easy; sometimes they are indescribably painful, in fact, but the opportunity for learning is high. I learned about my place in the world in relation to nature in a way that could never be forgotten. A community was forged through this misadventure. I appreciated more fully the value of my adaptability. During and after the trip, I learned lessons about conflict, assumptions, and human nature; about my strengths and weaknesses; about my values and commitments; about the complexity of politics and environmentalism; about group dynamics; and about ecosystems and cultures. The insights from this residential journey did not end when I set foot in my hometown once again; that was only the beginning of a never-ending process!

With dramatic assistance from the Canadian Coastguard, using helicopters and icebreakers to carry both us and our cargo through the treacherous ice-filled waters in the dark of night, we were fortunate to be able to resume our journey. We went on to eat raw narwhale, clams, and Arctic Char while drinking tea steeped on heather fires in the small Inuit community of Qikiqtarjuaq; to see polar bears floating on ice, swimming beside our Zodiacs, and climbing rock cliffs; to observe a rosy walrus calf and its mother interact; to view glaciers and watch icebergs calve; to climb Disko Island and Sunshine Fjord; to compare the vegetation, culture, economies, and physical features of Greenland with the Canadian Arctic; to bond with this unique, international, ship-dwelling family; to swim in icy polar waters; and to marvel at the long Arctic sunsets. I could never have anticipated the many ways that the Arctic expedition would enrich and change my life nor predicted where the Duke of Edinburgh program and the residential project would take me! Sometimes reality surpasses fantasy.

 

January 2018 Story from an Alumni

Featuring: Emily Hunt

“How DoE made a difference in my life:

When I started the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, I’d already been involved with all of the categories for most of my life. It was my physical rec section, though, that was most prominent. I had been doing taekwondo for 7 years and it was the center of my life. It was that last year though, that things at my club started to fall apart. There were a lot of politics involved and things got very messy very quickly. As one of the senior members at the club, I was caught in the middle of things. I got hurt by a few people, and after months and months of stress I made the decision to leave.

To be honest, I was lost. I needed to find something else to do not only to take my mind off of it, but also because I had my award to keep working on. That year at Christmas, my family had gone on my adventurous journey with me. We did a winter camping trip, cross country skiing from one site to the next. We’d been recreational skiers for my whole life, and that trip reminded how much fun it was. So after leaving taekwondo, I decided to start skiing again, competitively.

That fall I joined my community club, and was immediately hooked. The club was not big, and everyone knew each other. I trained with other people my age and wow did I ever learn a ton. That first season was spent catching up on all the technique I had missed out on over the years, and experiencing what it was like to race.

I loved the sport, but what really struck me more than anything was the community that came with it. I was immediately welcomed by all my teammates, it didn’t matter that I was new and hadn’t skied in years, they were happy to have me. I made so many close friends on my team, became very close with my coaches and even my teammates’ parents. Having just come out of such a broken and unhealthy community at taekwondo, I was overwhelmed by how kind, welcoming and easy it felt to be a part of the ski community. Today my main social circle is my team, and nobody seems to remember I’ve been around 3 years because we’re so close.

As I continued with Duke of Ed, I learned that this concept of community is very prevalent in the award as well. Had it not been for Duke of Ed, I might not have made the decision to start skiing again, a decision that would have cost me meeting my best friends.”

Picture Emily Hunt Dog Sledding for her Gold Award Adventurous Journey

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December 2017 Story from an Alumni

Featuring: Brad Hampson, M.O.M., B.A., Staff Sergeant, Ottawa Police Service

“As an Ashbury College grad in 1982 I was the first Gold Award achiever in the history of the school.  While I was certainly proud of this accomplishment, it would not have happened without the leadership of teachers Dave Morris and John Beedell who coordinated the program at the school.  As a teenager with not a lot of wisdom yet or life experience, I could have easily strayed away from the DOE program without these teachers keeping me on track.  Teenagers often think about 5 seconds into their future when strategizing on the future and that was me.

One aspect of the program was to have great impact on me and still does to this day.  Community Service is an important DOE pillar in volunteering to give back and improve the communities we live in.  I recall Mr. Morris counselling me on this in terms of choices and he guided me towards visiting the elderly and infirmed in hospitals and retirement homes.  I recall accepting this challenge with some reticence and asking him what I would say to these lonely people whom I did not know.  He told me to speak from the heart, to ask them questions about their lives, to tell them a little bit about my own life, hopes, fears, and expectations.

I took up the challenge and was introduced to a local Ottawa retirement nursing facility where I started my visits.  Weekly I was introduced to elderly folks who had no family and were nearing the ends of their lives in some form of loneliness.  I was very nervous on my first visit but soon discovered that these visits of mine seemed to add quite a bit of excitement in their lives.  So much so that they would request to meet me again and again through Staff.  All I did was to tell them who I was and start asking them questions about their lives.  The stories I heard often kept me riveted with their interest and variety.  I learned that opening up to those we do not know and listening with keen interest to their life stories increased my own wisdom quotient.  I heard about life in an earlier time, challenges they faced with courage, exciting moments, sad times, and so many things I wanted to know more about.  And by listening and building a relationship with these people it made them feel important again.  There is something about the happiness that comes from sharing life experiences with another when nearing the end of one’s life I believe.  There is a certain comfort that comes, a sense of peace and happiness, in taking interest in another’s life.

After several months of weekly visits I’d reached my required hours to fulfill DOE requirements, and while I did not continue my visits to that particular facility, this experience changed me.  My life focus solidified on service to the community in the form of police work (OPP, Ottawa Police, RCMP, UNPOL).  A police officer’s role is most often one of a social worker in crisis situations, and I have spent the last 32 years doing so around the world.  My career took me to rural eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Indigenous reserves, Inuit communities in the Arctic, and the Sudan with the United Nations.  Among so many other things, I found myself often building relationships with and listening to those in need to provide some form of comfort and help in trying times.

Thank you to the Duke of Ed Award Program, Dave Morris and John Beedell for sparking a fire within a young teen which changed my life.”

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