The 15-mile journey

Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award participants at Pedro Castle on May 1.

A large and enthusiastic group of young people recently traveled a total of 15 miles, hiking district to district to bring the participants one step closer to their goal of earning a Duke of Edinburgh Award, a youth achievement award that brings together practical experiences and life skills to create committed global citizens and equip young people for life.

After journeying from West Bay, Dukers set up camp in Prospect.
After journeying from West Bay, Dukers set up camp in Prospect.

On April 16, the 56 participants and 22 supervisors gathered at the Strand Shopping Centre along West Bay Road, ready to embark on a two-day quest of camping, working together and exploring the island’s history, all on foot, traveling from West Bay road to Hirst Road in Bodden Town. The duration and distance covered would earn all those taking part a Bronze qualifying adventurous journey and the fulfilment of one of the four components, along with service, skills, and physical recreation that comprise successful completion of the Bronze level Duke of Edinburgh award requirements.

Before setting off from the Strand to George Town, participants were divided into small groups, with some traveling roadside and others along the beach, then swapping over. Supervisors guided the groups throughout their journey.

Upon reaching the center of town, participants answered questions on a worksheet about the buildings and landmarks they encountered along the way.

Groups then continued along South Church Street to South Sound Road.

In support of the Earth Day campaign, Dukers conducted a beach cleanup along the South Sound dock once they arrived there.

Earth Day cleanups were also carried out the day before, when approximately 70 participants and 11 leaders volunteered their time to clean the area around Animal House on North Sound Way, and Barkers beach in West Bay. This Earth Day cleanup had the most volunteer turnout the Duke scheme had seen.

In addition to the beach cleanup, participants also took part in the National Conservation Council’s beach survey of beach plastics.

Led by unit leader Laki Lee, participants collected data and sorted beach debris found along Barkers and Prospect beaches. Eight data forms were later completed and submitted to the University of Tasmania, Australia. They will be used for research on the density of beach plastic across the Caribbean.

Following the beach survey, participants traveled to the Prospect Youth Centre, where they then pitched their tents, lit their camp fires and prepared their meals before taking their rest.

The following morning, Dukers journeyed east on foot to Pedro St. James, where they explored the exhibits before traveling along Hirst Road to end their journey at the North Sound launching dock in Savannah, Bodden Town.

Participants take a break before tackling the Pedro Castle worksheet.
Participants take a break before tackling the Pedro Castle worksheet.

The journey from West Bay road to Hirst Road calls for a certain level of endurance and a number of miles to be covered when traveling from location to location while lugging backpacks of essentials like food, water and kitchenware throughout the trip. Participants also carried sections of the tent their group would use to sleep under.

This journey, according to the awards national chairperson of 27 years, Katherine Jackson, “gave [participants the] opportunity to make new friends because they had to work with people in their groups who they have not interacted with before. It’s an experience that they will have when they go to university,” she said. “It also gave them the exposure of having to make decisions based on a group of people rather than themselves.”

Additionally, she noted, the journey provided participants with the experience of preparing food over a fire and sleeping outdoors.

The following weekend, on April 23, Young Caymanian Leadership Award 2015 recipient Kellie McGee-Sandy addressed the participants and leaders poolside at the Ocean Club condo. Mrs. McGee-Sandy, who has earned a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award, talked about why it was important to remain focused and to take opportunities when they presented.

Mrs. McGee-Sandy, who attended the United World College of Southern Africa in Swaziland in 2006, the University of Edinburgh for her bachelor of science in medical sciences, and then Imperial College London Business School for her masters in international health management, discussed her experiences and the difficulties she encountered.

She also spoke of her involvement in voluntary organizations like Key Club and Rotaract Club.

In turn, the award participants shared their experiences of their involvement in a wide range of activities for fulfilling the program’s criteria.

More than 8 million people have participated in the award in some 140 countries and territories since its inception in 1956 by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The award arrived in the Cayman Islands in 1968 when a pilot program was launched in the Girls’ Brigade.

The Duke Award scheme allows participants to work at their level of award, from bronze, silver to gold, over a period of months. To be awarded their bronze, silver or gold award, participants are required to complete four sections: practicing a skill, such as playing an instrument, performing a service (such as voluntary work), partaking in a physical activity, like a sport, and undergoing an adventurous journey/expedition.

For Cayman participants, the bronze, silver and gold level Duke Awards journeys are held at various times of the year. Silver journeys take place on Cayman Brac where one is scheduled for later this year.

The gold level award also includes a fifth component, a residential element that is met through participation in the gold qualifying expedition, which is hosted by a different island each year. This year the two-week gold training camp and expedition will be held in Trinidad and Tobago.