Hannah Chowdhry from [Chigwell will celebrate achieving her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award in Buckingham Palace Garden, hosted by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in his first celebrations as Patron of the DofE charity.
Hannah, (19 yrs), will join thousands of young people and their loved ones from across the UK for a festival-style celebration on 15th May 2023.
The celebration was one of four taking place over a week at the Palace, recognising around 9,000 young people who have shown extraordinary perseverance, creativity and resilience to complete their Gold DofE in schools, community organisations, youth groups and workplaces, all over the UK.
Buckingham Palace Garden had been transformed into a festival-style celebration for young people and their loved ones, with giant deckchairs, bunting and garden games and activities. Attendees had the chance to hear from famous DofE Award holders and other inspiring speakers.
Hannah Chowdhry, wrote about her experience.
“I started my DofE programme while at King Solomon High School, Barkingside. The scheme was operated via the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade (JLGB). Though I am of Pakistani Christian origins I was allowed to participate , as I was attending a Jewish Comprehensive School open to people of other faiths.
“I have nothing but compliments to share about traversing through the programme with JLGB they were extremely professional and helpful, I never once felt uncomfortable about being non-Jewish though I did sometimes struggle with only being allowed kosher food on expeditions.”
“Expeditions were quite tough for me as I was coping with quite severe juvenile arthritis; this meant I was always in debilitating pain at the end of each day’s trekking. Sleeping on rough floors also exacerbated pain – I was having to take regular pain-killers.
“For my bronze award I carried my own rucksack fully loaded and spent 6 days recovering after the expedition as my right arm could not take it. For the silver award however, after submitting evidence of my medical condition I was able to half my load which was carried in a van, the same occurred for my Gold award which made this stage of the award more achievable. It was still extremely difficult however, and I had to push through pain to complete the routes, eventually conquering the Welsh Mountain of Snowdon which to date is the toughest thing I have ever done.
“To bring some context to how difficult this was for me, I share with you that in year 10 I had missed over 8 months of school (after a car crash worsened my condition) and had to learn to write with my left hand. I am still receiving physiotherapy for my right arm and still cannot write with it.”
Hannah Chowdhry (far right) after her DofE silver expedition.
“While completing the volunteering section for my Gold Award I began a meals for the homeless programme due to help those struggling during the lockdown.
“The ‘Meals for the Needy’ project was featured on BBC News. I managed a team of volunteers from the community, designed risk assessments that were approved by Redbridge Council. We were the only soup kitchen in our borough throughout the entire Coronavirus Pandemic lockdowns. The centre became the 4th largest collector of food from Fareshare during the lockdown and served 65 people twice every day. I had to learn 9 online courses during that period including project management, risk assessment and safeguarding, to ensure my projects were feasible and safe.”
“For my physical section I went on a training course for badminton for my bronze Award and during that year won a London-wide schools tournament, having never won a tournament before or since. I started the same course during my silver award but could not complete because of an injury and the aggravation of my juvenile arthritis and a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). While off school however, I was able to take some Taekwondo lessons, mainly stretching and other rehabilitation exercises and got through this section too. “So going through DofE helped me get back to school and improve my physical well-being.
“I returned to Badminton for my Gold Award but the COVID-19 lockdown prevented my participation at Redbridge Sports Centre. I moved school for 6th form however and at Davenant Foundation School 30-minute lessons restarted 6 months before they returned at Redbridge Sports Centre. I was able to stay back for 30 minutes after each session and practice new skills learnt with friends. In this way I managed to get a certificate of achievement [Special COVID-19 partial certificate] for completing all sections barring my residential.
VIDEO: Hannah Chowdhry can be seen working at the Meals for the Homeless project.
“The residential was a little bit more difficult to complete as I was in the middle of my A level exams. I decided to wait until after my exams. During the summer holidays before I started University, I travelled to Liverpool to volunteer with Revitalize a charity that provides holiday retreats for disabled people. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. My role was to join quizzes, managing a karaoke, cleaning up, carrying things and being a social companion with disabled visitors.
I became very close to many of the visitors I was serving, and it was an emotional departure when I left. All the DofE Gold award volunteers who were at the retreat, agreed to stay in contact and many of us hope to return and volunteer this summer.”
“I decided to start the DofE programme after hearing about it at school. The programme is recognised by UCAS and I wanted to put a best foot forward when applying for university. However, once I started the programme I began to see the real benefit of the structure of the scheme which is designed to give real-life vocational and wider skills.
“I am naturally competitive and represented my school in five sports before my health problems worsened – I wanted to complete up to Gold, as half measures just don’t work for me.”
“Going through the DofE programme taught me resilience (especially the expedition) and I was able to use that strength to get me through GSCE exams, and A Levels; I’m now studying law. I may have had 10 months off school and been unable to write or read during that time (an accident caused temporary sight loss), but have achieved most of what I wanted academically, thus far.
During the Gold Award expedition, I had a mini-breakdown, I was finding A levels difficult and the expedition felt like it was gong to add to my burden, especially as I had left King Solomon High School and was put together with strangers. A JLGB counsellor helped me get over the emotional strain and by some miracle I ended up climbing a mountain. To this day, I feel indebted to him. Something changed after that event and I lost a lot of my social anxiety and a new surge of confidence took over.”
“The physical element of the programme, kept me fit, rehabilitated me and enabled me to enjoy sports with improved performance.”
“I understand a lot more about the world because of the DofE experience. It taught me simple things like how to talk effectively and without fear on the phone and I gained many organisational and financial skills.
I grew into an adult during the DofE experience and now at 19, am working, have almost completed the purchase of my first home, all while studying for a law degree in Scotland.
I would like to thank all at DofE, King Solomon High School, Davenant High School and JLGB who helped me achieve this award and the confidence it has imbued in me.”
“Now I am looking forward to a once in a life time visit to Buckingham Palace.”
Hannah Chowdhry, previously wrote a thank you to Prince Philip for starting the DofE which was added to the messages of remembrance on the DofE website(click here).
She completed her DofE Bronze Award in record time for the JLGB (click here) and (here).
About The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
A Gold DofE programme is a non-competitive personal challenge, open to all young people, which takes a minimum of 12 months to complete. Young people build their own programmes with activities in five sections – Physical, Skills, Volunteering, a five-day Residential and a four-day Expedition.
While working towards their Award, young people discover new talents and passions, give back to their communities, broaden their horizons, build their resilience and self-belief and gain skills employers value – like teamwork, problem-solving and leadership.
About the DofE
Every year, the DofE inspires hundreds of thousands of young people – from all walks of life – to develop skills, resilience and self-belief. We help them take on their own challenges, follow their passions, make a difference to their communities and discover talents they never knew they had.
DofE is open to any young person aged 14-24. Each young person builds their own DofE programme – picking their own activities and choosing which cause to volunteer for – in order to achieve a Bronze, Silver or Gold DofE Award. The DofE is run in schools, youth clubs, hospitals, fostering agencies, prisons, sports clubs and more, all over the UK. Find out more at DofE.org.