Thursday 31 December 2015

Explore Spiti, be a part of Solar Conservation Project 2016

Residential Project and Adventurous Journey for Gold Participants
10th - 25th June, 2016: Spiti, Northern Himalayas, India
Gold Award participants from around the globe are welcome to apply for the two-weeks Solar Conservation Project at Monastery, Spiti. Organised by Ecosphere in collaboration with IAYP India, the project is one of its kind, combining an Adventurous Journey and Gold Residential Project exclusively for Gold Award participants.  During this journey the Award participants will participate in the actual construction of the Solar Bath and the setup of a Solar Water Geyser (Evacuated Tube Condenser) or a Greenhouse and will be assisted by a dedicated team with a qualified mason and representative from Ecosphere. The construction period will be 7 to 8 days. The trip combines work and pleasure. During this trip the Award participants will also be visiting some of the highest villages in the world, going on a high-altitude trek, visiting some ancient monasteries dating back over 1000 years and taking a yak/horse safari and mountain bike. Traditional homestays further enrich the experience by giving an authentic understanding of the life and culture in a Spitian home. Detailed information and application form can be download from here or you can write

Registrations Open till 15th April 2016

Award Leader Training (YES) Workshop at Award Training Centre, New Delhi

The National Award Authority organized an Award Leader Training Workshop at the Award Training Centre, New Delhi on December 22-23, 2015. The participants included delegates from Vivek High School, Chandigarh; Saupin's School, Chandigarh; and Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior. Kapil Bhalla (National Director) started the workshop with an ice-breaking session and then introduced the Award to the participants. Over a span of two days the participants were given in-depth knowledge regarding the four domains of the programme i.e. Skills, Service, Physical Recreation and Adventurous Journey and also the Residential Project for the Gold Award Programme. The participants were also introduced to the technical aspect of the programme, which included Risk Management and Branding. Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager), Priyank Kumar Gupta (Head IT and ORB), Ranjana Rai (Member NTP) and Pallavi Gill (Member NTP) lead the workshop for two days.  The trainers shared their own experience as trainers and Award Leaders and had an engaging discussion with the participants. Click for pictures 

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Walk for a Light

Bronze and Silver Award participants from Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy, Narendrapur did coastal trekking for their Adventurous Journey from 9th to 11th December 2015.  Chandan Majumder and Rupanjan Goswami (Award Leaders) sharing the details about this trek.

People who cannot see the light of the world due to their blindness, are always searching for a new light through which they can enlighten their lives and souls.

Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy, Narendrapur has been imparting education and vocational training to the visually challenged students through the International Award for Young People since 2002. To complete their Adventurous Journey, twenty-five visually challenged, Bronze and Silver aspirants took part in a Coastal Trek from Chandipur to Digha under the guidance of the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers.

The participants started walking for 17 kms from Chandipur on 9th Dec '15 along the beach and crossed Buri Balam river and Kasai river. They stayed at Kasafal in tents beside river Kasai first night. On the second day they set off for Dogara village, walking by the sea for 22 kms and in the last lap they walked 23 kms and crossed Subarnarekha river and finally reached Talsari on 11th Dec '15, walking a total of 62 kms. Four NAA interns, all Gold Award Holders, escorted the participants during this journey.

This costal trek helped the participants gauge their own capacity and develop self-confidence. Now each of the participant says "Yes I can, I am prepared for any tasks, I can see the new Light of Life". Click here for pictures

Charity Begins at Home

Award participants from Maa Anandmayee Memorial School, Raiwala took part in cleaning drive organised by the school authorities.  Here is a report from the participants.

On 5th Dec, 2015 as soon as we reached the school, we heard some exciting news. It was related to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and we were asked to get engaged and contribute in this very important movement which has been started by our honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.

'Charity begins at home' -- following this very dictum, our Director Arpit Panjwani and our Principal motivated the children with their didactic words to start this very movement from their school.

First of all they told us the importance of cleanliness and they also told us how to clean our house, school and society and public places as part of our regular schedule. They showed us we can clean the places using proper dustbins. Principal Sir explained the importance of cleaning our rooms ourselves, and further put the waste into the dustbin. 

After the discussion we started our cleaning campaign. First of all we cleaned our school ground and also the classes. Afterwards, we went to the classes and told the students about cleanliness and took a promise from the students that they would use dustbins and also keep the school campus clean. They would themselves take care of the school campus and homes, thereby leading to a cleaner society. Click for more pictures

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Pangarchulla Expedition

Tabassum Akhtaer, Bronze Level aspirant from Future Hope School completed her Adventurous Journey in Garhwal region.  Tabassum sharing her this memorable journey experience with us.
One of my most lively and memorable experiences was the recent trek to Pangarchulla, a 14000 ft peak in the Garhwal region of Uttaranchal.
The long drive to Joshimath via the four prayags or confluences namely - Devaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag and Nandaprayag was most amazing. At Joshimath we were lucky enough to be accommodated in one of the finest guest houses run by Birla that night and we left for Auli next morning where the trek originated. The windy trail from Auili to Gairson Bugiyali made the trek even more exciting. Our tents were already pitched on the lush green meadows of Garson Bugiyal, our first campsite. Tired after the long ascend from Auli, we soon curled up inside our sleeping bags inside the comfortable tents and fell asleep.
The next day was much brighter and we saw some of the surrounding peaks showing up, though not very prominently. With fresh energy and excitement we soon set out for our second campsite Khullara. The trail from Garson to Khullara is a part of the popular trail known as Lord Curzon trail. This particular terrain led us through beautiful landscapes of valleys, far stretching meadows, forests of oaks and ferns, their leaves glistening in the sun, the cacophony of birds chirping and many more of natures amazing events. Soon the surrounding peaks started showing up and made our journey memorable. As we gained height the towering peaks of Mt Abagamin, Dronagiri, Kamet, Nilkanth, covered in snow made their presence felt and left us speechless.
The following morning we scaled the pangarchulla peak. We celebrated our success, on the top of the cliff, took a lot of footages, and started counting the numerous peaks surrounding us trying to get their names accurately from the guides.
Back in Kolkata even when I think of the expedition to pangarchulla, I sometimes find it difficult to believe my good luck and pluck.

The Award allowed me the opportunities that fueled my passions in life

Canadian Gold Award holder Jessica Silva, one of eight new Emerging Leaders to sit on the International Council (IC) shared her Award Journey at the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Forum 2015 at Toronto

I remember dragging my father into the room as my Bronze ceremony commenced.  He was a bit confused as to why I was so in awe with the young gentleman who sat at our table. Mr. Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free the Children and Me to We, was our guest speaker for our Bronze Award Ceremony and who had the pleasure of sitting at his table? Myself and a few students from my High School. As my father casually made conversation with him, I kept nudging him so as to warn him that he was infringing on the "embarrassing" territory and he needed to simply "stop talking". My father was still confused as to what Mr. Kielburger's role was until he got up to the podium to speak.

Mr. Kielburger began with a story. He shared with us his adventures in Ecuador where he and his team of volunteers were attempting to finish building a school, however they had underestimated timing needed to complete their plans as they were unable to finish building the school in time. Concerned, Mr. Kielburger went to the chief of the village and in an apologetic tone, explained that he and his team were unable to finish the school they were attempting to build for the community. The chief simply explained that there was no need to worry. Mr. Kielburger was confused and thought that the chief had not understood what he was saying. The chief laughed and said he would call for a "minga". Mr. Kielburger left confused, however to his surprise he would learn the meaning of this word "minga" when he woke the next morning.  As villagers from surrounding villages pilled in to help with the school, Craig understood the power of "minga".

Mr. Kielburger explained that there was no direct translation for the work "minga"   however he roughly translated it to mean " the coming together of a community for the greater good". It was at my Bronze Award Ceremony where this very sentiment was engrained in my head. The idea of the power of a community to affect change came to be the very sentiment that fueled my passion and dedication to international development work and advocacy on behalf of the marginalized. Moreover, It was also the thread that held together my personal journey with the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award.

After Mr Kielburger's Speech, my father, an avid traveller, began to ask questions about Free the children's upcoming trip to China during the summer of 2007. About three months later, I was booked on a trip of a lifetime where I began to experience the meaning of community, non formal education, and most of all the importance of taking advantages of opportunities that present themselves when you least expect it.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, was complimentary to those activities that I was so passionate about pursuing like community service with the homeless in Toronto or learning another language like French. However, I always found it challenging to meet the requirements for the adventurous journey as Toronto, which I am sure you have all realized by now, is not the most outdoorsy place. How could a young woman like myself pursue an adventurous journey when I live in an urban setting. Thankfully, the Award allowed for flexibility with the qualifications for an adventurous journey and my trip to China qualified for my Silver adventurous journey.

In keeping up with the momentum, I continued my Gold Award at the age of 17. However, I slowly began to lose not only my motivation for continuing the Award but also the reason for which I was doing the Award. I began to get tied down with school work, other personal aspirations, and most of all my passions lead my to pursue other opportunities that arose at that time. Before I knew it, I had stopped working on my Gold Award at the end of high school.

Throughout the years, I always worked towards saving up for a trip of a lifetime and for me that was during the Summer of 2011. In my second year at university, I was selected to attend as one of 10 students from my university on an international health field placement in Zambia. We lived in a compound outside of Lusaka and were fortunate enough to work alongside locals. My personal project was working with rural female gardeners and creating a social enterprise project to increase their livelihoods and hopefully, create more opportunities for a sustainable income. It was then where I realized my privilege of having experienced the Award programme. I knew that I had put that opportunity on hold for the moment and as life progressed, I forgot about the aspirations of that young girl who met Craig Kielburger. He challenged us to be that change we want to see in the world and the Award challenged me to push myself to my limits. It was not until I was living alongside those who were not as privileged as I, where I realized just how grateful and lucky I was to be afforded the opportunity of choosing to partake in such an Award programme.

From there, I decided that I would return to Canada and complete my Gold Award as an independent participant. Fortunately enough, my backpacking exploratory journey that I conducted after my health field placement qualified for my adventurous journey. I worked as quickly as I could and dedicated my time to completing my Award. I was so proud to have achieved my Gold. However, when I attended my Gold Award ceremony, I remember being a little taken aback at just how much judgment and lack of collaboration there was at the Award ceremony. As I am a friendly person, I tried to build relationships with those around me, however they were in no way, interested. Moreover, they shared with me stories that alluded to their privilege. I thought back to those whom I had worked with in Zambia and realized that from that point on, I wanted to provide the opportunity of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award to those who were less privileged in Canada. This was my plan then and is still my plan as I stand here today. 

Personally, I would like to thank the Award for allowing me the opportunity to not only gain useful life skills but to also pursue those opportunities that fueled my passions in life. The Award programme's flexibility allowed for me to take a break and pick right back up from where I started. I feel that without that, I may not have completed my Gold Award.

For the Award's future, it is my hope to see the Award flourish amongst the marginalized, of course giving careful definition to whom we define as marginalized. Personally, I think there is the opportunity to establish many partnerships with universities, community colleges, youth programs and even youth clubs where we can present the opportunity to create collaborative models to delivering the Award and more importantly creating a "minga" where youth feel supported throughout their Award experiences. If I may dream so big, I would also love to see more collaboration between countries to creating support for Award participants and Award holders in accomplishing their personal goals outside of the Award. I feel that through networking and creating partnerships, we can all do our part to ensuring the growth and longevity of the Award programme.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

From Toronto to Accra - John May, Secretary General

In Toronto, I likened our development as an Award family to making coffee. I spoke of the need to use percolators as well as cafetières -- to allow ideas room for discussion and consideration as well as driving down hard on the plunger of change. I believe that Forum 2015 gave us the opportunity to percolate a set of ideas and to begin to reach a common vision of our future.

Over the coming months we will be following up on this work: sharing with you further results from the discussions that were facilitated by Group Partners, and suggesting how those discussions might continue and transfer into action. We have further work to do on developing the memorandum of understanding and we look forward to working with members of the International Council on this task in the first instance. And we hope that, in planning for regional conferences and other meetings over the coming three years, we can capitalise on the amazing spirit of co-operation and collaboration that we created in the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

None of this could have happened without the hard work of everyone: our amazing Canadian hosts, Foundation staff, volunteer facilitators, members of review groups, delegates and guests. Thank you for making Forum 2015 the success that it undoubtedly was.

Before Forum 2015 I wrote to you about the 'road to Toronto'. We have now begun our adventurous journey along the 'road to Accra'. It'll be quite a journey and I have no doubt there will be twists, turns and the occasional exploration in what turns out to be the wrong direction. As Robin Sieger said in his speech, "let's concentrate on the 'where' and not worry too much about the 'how.'" If the Award really is the wonderful thing that so many of us believe it to be, then it is nothing short of our duty to bring it within the reach of as many young people as we possibly can; and to do that with rigour, with skill and with urgency.

My IAYP Experience

Surya Govindaswaami, Silver Award participant from Hiranandani Upscale School, Chennai shares his Award experience with us.
Now most people writing this article would start out with something like "the IAYP has been a revolutionizing experience that changed my life". But I'm going to be honest. As a teenager, the IAYP is not something that is going to change your life or shed new light for you. But what it will do is provide you with the motivation and incentive to divulge in new experiences. The saying goes that "experience is the best teacher", and I don't deny that for a second. The various experiences I have been exposed to due to the IAYP have allowed me to mature as a person, become more disciplined in nature, and understand the complexity and intricacy of the world around me. Before IAYP began, I was almost never involved in community and did very little community service, if any. This is expected, as most adolescents are not going to be thrilled to get out into the world and do some real work.

But that changed after I began the IAYP programme; I started becoming more involved in the community and participated in service related activities such as tree-planting, beach cleanups, and teaching under-privileged and orphaned children. These experiences did actually have a huge impact on me, as I began to realize "our world" is a shell, and we are a small dot or point in an otherwise huge painting. In conclusion, the International Award for Young People had a resounding effect on me, and I owe a big thanks to the founders for giving me this opportunity to become more involved in the community and discover reality via a variety of immense first-hand experiences. 
Click for more pictures

Forum 2015 - Asia Pacific Regional Board Meeting

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Orientations and Workshops - A report on Programme Manager's visit

Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager) visited the schools of Karnataka between 16th and 18th November 2015. Bivujit organised a one-day workshop for Award Leaders of Green Valley National School and P U College, Shiroor, which was attended by 11 participants. The workshop detailed the Award Philosophy and Framework, the four sections and residential projects. Mr. John Mathew (Principal) and Mrs. Whilhelmina Anna Swyney Mathew (Chief coordinator) also attended the workshop. This was followed the next day by an Award orientation session for the students of Green Valley National School and P U College. Over 110 students attended the orientation session, after which 86 participants enrolled in different levels of the Award.On 24th Bivujit Mukhoty delivered an Orientation session to the Award participants of Samsara World School, Greater Noida, where over 60 Award participants were present. The session was aimed at briefing the students on the sections of the Award and resolving the different queries of participants related to their Award Journey.Programme Manager also visited Punjab schools on 26th and 27th November 2015. On the 26th there was an Orientation session at Saupin's School, Chandigarh for 160 students. On the 27th there was an orientation session at Yadavindra Public School, Mohali with the Award Leaders and Principal and discussion of the progress of the Award Programme. This was followed by a meeting at The Millennium School, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Punjab with the Principal and staff about the opportunities to start the Programme at the school.Mr. Mukhoty also met Ms. Snehlata, Dy Director Primary Education and Coordinator Award Programme, Govt. of Punjab and discussed the progress of the Award programme in the Government Schools of Bhatinda and Muktsar District. The meeting concluded with an agreement to extend the Programme to other Govt. schools in the near future.

Forum 2015 - Inaugural Session at Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame

The Indian Delegation led by Himmat Kalsia (Chairman), included
Dr Sanat Kaul (Managing Trustee) and Kapil Bhalla (National Director)

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Online Learning Hub

The Online Learning Hub is now ready for launch to Award Leaders from India. An important part of the Foundation's digital strategy is to provide a virtual space for adults involved in the Award to learn and share good practice. In the process to achieve this, the International Award Association has launched 'the Learning Hub' and is now open for the Indian Award Leaders. The Learning hub is designed to
  • create global groups of volunteers and staff from the Foundation, NAOs and IACs
  • provide access for NAOs and IACs to resources that will assist them with Award management
  • standardise the access to and delivery of online training globally for staff (Continual Professional Development) and volunteers (courses)
This 'social media' environment allows us to learn from one another; it allows the Foundation to share materials and resources with specific groups; and allows us all to engage each other in developing our skills and sharing experiences for the improvement of the people who facilitate, manage and deliver the Award across the globe. It is, essentially, Facebook for adults involved in the Award. But the 'Learning Hub' is more than a social environment. You'll also be able to access formal online courses via the 'Learning Hub' link on the toolbar.
The National Award Authority welcomes all certified Award Leaders to join the Online Learning hub. We think the Learning Hub will create a whole new set of ways for us all to develop even more people to provide the best possible access to non-formal education for young people through the Award. With your help, this system will become the core learning and support vehicle for a new wave of global expansion for the Award.
Please write to to get the access to the Learning Hub.

A Memory of a Lifetime

Anushka Ghosh, Bronze level aspirant from Delhi Public School, Gurgaon took part in her first Adventurous Journey during her Bronze Level Award.  Here she is sharing her experience with us.The excitement began a week before the fourth of November as the bags began coming out of the closets. The trip kick-started as all the Award aspirants who were thrilled to see the teachers accompanying them left for Rishikesh on fourth night. After an overnight bus-ride, enthusiastic singing and dancing, the participants finally reached the destination, Beas Ghat in Rishikesh. We were elated to see the campsite on the banks of the river Ganges. The tents were beautiful and the view of the river and the serene mountains was splendid. During the days spent there, activities such as flying fox, trekking, beach volleyball, river rafting and body-surfing were introduced to the participants. Rafting emerged as the most thrilling activity for the participants, especially as it was a new activity to the majority. Apart from the rapids, we were allowed to swim freely in the chilling Ganges waters, which took the spirit of adventure to a whole new level. All the difficulties and fears faced by us were taken care of by the instructors and our teachers too ensured that we were well taken care of. The trek arranged for us gave us a new perspective and a deep bonding with nature. The view of the turquoise waters blending into the orange of the skies due to the setting sun left us in complete awe.  The changing colours of nature, the tinge of purple in the rocks and the rustle of the leaves narrated a different tale to each one. Singing, dancing and enjoying meals around the bonfire, and watching the beautiful starry skies was absolutely euphoric. Apart from this beautiful experience and the joy and knowledge of the unknown, Rishikesh gave us a memory that will always be an intrinsic part of our lives.  Click for the pictures

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Residential Project at a Spiritual Retreat

Mridul Upadhyay, Open Award Participant attended SPIC MACAY International Convention for his Residential Project. Mridul is presenting here a report on his Residential Project.

The 3rd International Convention of SPIC MACAY was held from 31 May to 6 June at IIT-Mumbai. SPIC MACAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) is a voluntary movement that organizes events (over 5000 annually) of classical music and dance, folk arts, crafts etc. in educational institutions through the world. The annual conventions of SPIC MACAY, with more than 300 chapters in India and abroad and thousands of volunteers working selflessly, is a Mahakumbh or a spiritual retreat. The annual convention has acquired international status from the past three years, when delegates from other countries also joined hands. 

The International convention focusses on providing a unique atmosphere to delegates with an emphasis on the Guru-Shishya model. The convention aims to provide a holistic experience in line with classical Indian tradition and participants follows certain rules and regulations like consumption of holistic food, not using mobile/camera and early morning wakeup etc. The convention aims to bring the lesser known and often underappreciated art forms, and the associated artists back into the spotlight. Arts forms like Paper Mache, Puppetry, Kudiyattam and more are probably not as famous as others but they are without a doubt equally significant in the amount of skill and hard work that goes into them. The convention serves as a great stage for these artists to earn the respect and appreciation they deserve while attracting people towards these lost art forms. 

The unique experience of the week-long "Aashram-Vaas" for nearly 1,800 participants from home and abroad was unforgettable, where the normal day started at 4 am with Naad-Yoga, the practice of music; Hatha Yoga, the Yogic exercises; and Dhyaan Yoga, or practising meditation; followed by "Shram-Daan" or cleaning up the surroundings. After it the most unique feature of the convention: the 3 hour long intensive workshops every day by renowned Gurus of classical music and dance, folk theatre, painting, handicrafts and much more. Based on what we learnt during this period we got a chance to perform in front of everyone on the last day. 

On various days, the afternoon sessions and lecture demonstrations had Qawwali by Warsi brothers, Sattriya dance performance by Guru Ghanakant Bora and his talented disciple Anvesha Mahanta, Odissi by Sujata Mahapatra, Bharatanatyam by Praveen Kumar, Kathak by Prerana Shrimali, Mayurbhanj Chhau by Ileana Citaristi, classical Hindustani music by Pt Vinayak Torvi, screening of Malayalam film Kathapurushan followed by interaction with 16 times National Award winning film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, an illustrated lecture with Puppet show by Dadi Padamji and an inspiring talk by the renowned painter Akbar Padamsi.

Another unique feature of this convention was the overnight music concert which started on the night of June 5, 2015 from 8 pm and go till 6 am in the morning of June 6, 2015. Renowned artistes like Balamurali Krishna, Aswani Bhide Deshpande, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Wasifuddin Dagar performed during the overnight concert. On the last day, the participants were taken on tours to different heritage sites in the city like the Kanheri Caves, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and many more.

All in all, the week-long convention facilitated hundreds of participants not only the awareness of our classical art and culture but also its ethos, the deeper and subtler meaning and values, inspiring them to become better human beings. Click her for pictures

Thursday 12 November 2015

What I learned from doing the Award

My Brilliant Moment

About the International Award

Award Leaders training workshop

The NAA organised a two-day Award Leader training workshop at the Award Training Centre, New Delhi, attended by 15 participants from Amity International School, Sector 43, Gurgaon;  Amity International School, Sector 46, Gurgaon;  Astitva Foundation, Pune; Amity International School, Saket, New Delhi; Samsara World School, Greater Noida and The Naz Foundation (I) Trust, New Delhi. Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager) inaugurated the workshop with a brief history and introduction to the Award.  The sessions covered the four pillars of the Award i.e. Physical Recreation, Skills, Service & Adventurous Journey, and other topics like Residential Project, Award Branding and Safety issues.  Priyank Kumar Gupta (Head IT & ORB) and Pallavi Gill (Member, National Training Panel) lead the workshop along with Programme Manager, which was conducted on 6th and 7th November, 2015.  Click here for pictures

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Adventurous Journey for Bronze and Silver Level

The IAYP Silver & Bronze levels Adventurous Journey was held for Symbiosis International School, Pune from 25th to 30th October, 2015. Forty-five Silver level and two Bronze level participants were taken to Manali. They took a flight from Pune to Delhi followed by a 14-hour bus journey to Manali. They stayed at Prini base camp located 3kms from Manali.

The participants reached Manali on 26th morning. The 3rd practice trek took place on the first day from the base camp to Jamdigni Rishi temple. The overall trek was 6kms long and all the participants were able to complete the trek successfully. It was a fitness and endurance test and the participants showed the same perseverance like the 2 earlier practice treks. The same evening, they participated in a number of team activities like stretcher - making things out of limited resources available in the wild - and pitching tents. They learnt valuable and crucial life skills. It also promoted team spirit, co-operation and using presence of mind and analytical skills among the students.

On the morning of 27th October, the participants were divided into two groups. Half of them went for a cycling journey and the other half went for rafting. The cycling team travelled to Naggar castle located 18 kms from the campsite. The total journey was 36 kms to and fro. The cycling trip pushed the participants to their limits. It was a test of extreme perseverance and grit. Most of the participants had never covered such a massive distance on a cycle, which made it difficult for them to keep up but they worked to the best of their abilities and completed the journey. The road journey had many uphill and downhills at various points and the castle was located on a hilltop. The trip was extremely strenuous and challenging, however, the participants did not give up. This journey boosted the confidence of the participants and showed them the importance of stamina and will.

While half the group participated in the cycling trip, the others went white water rafting on the river Beas. The starting point of this was Pirdi. The journey was 14kms long and ended at Sharavai. The challenging part of this journey was the extreme temperatures of the water, which was very difficult to bear. The participants coped well with this physical as well as mental challenge. Rafting also promoted team work and co-ordination. Overall, it was an extremely enjoyable experience.

The same activities continued on 28th October. The group that did cycling switched to rafting and vice- versa.

A cultural programme was organised for the participants in the evening where a local dance troupe performed 'Kulvi Pahadi Naati'- their folk dance. This helped the participants understand their culture.

29th October was the last day in Manali. The participants embarked on a trek in the morning to Arjuna gufa (cave).  It was a to and fro journey of 10kms. They travelled to a cave where Arjuna, an important mythological character in the Mahabharata, had meditated in peace. This was an insightful experience and the participants got to admire and appreciate the elaborate history and beliefs of the religion and country. The trek was quite tiring physically but the participants were motivated as it was the last day. They completed it in time. The participants covered a humongous 60 Kms trek in 3 days.

Finally the participants leisurely spent the evening at the local market before leaving for Pune. The Adventurous Journey was extremely memorable for all the participants. They learnt important life lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. This exhausting yet enjoyable journey left an indelible impression on each one of them.  Click for pictures

Friday 30 October 2015

We are the people we’ve been waiting for

John May address to delegates of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Forum 2015 in Toronto, Canada

Your Royal Highness, Honourable ministers, Chairman, My Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

We are the people we’ve been waiting for.

I was in the office of a ‘master of the universe’ the other day. Or at least that’s what we used to call people in the financial services industry. He’s responsible for the business of one of the world’s largest banks and we were talking about hiring the right people from university. “The problem is”, he said, these kids have brilliant qualifications, but they have absolutely no interpersonal skills. They can’t work in teams; they don’t relate well to customers; they can’t plan effectively. And these are the brightest of the brightest – fighting to get on our graduate trainee programme. If I have to read another application letter that tells me that a young person has wanted to be a merchant banker since she was eight years old – I will scream. I will genuinely scream.”

And then we talked, as he knew we would, about The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. How it helps young people broaden their horizons.  And I won’t say there was a sudden epiphany. My friend, the master of the universe, didn’t suddenly spring from his chair and punch the air, screaming eureka at the top of his voice. But he did say that he would look much more closely at a candidate’s resume for mention of The Award on it. Because a mention would tell him a great deal. 

 As Michael Smith of the law firm Baker McKenzie, a great supporter of the Award here, in Canada and the USA, says, ” We employ people from many different countries and we are proud of the diversity of our workforce. Being an Award holder shows that a young person has developed exactly the range of skills, behaviours and attitudes that we’re looking for in our new starters.

We are the people we’ve been waiting for.

I have no doubt that you have similar conversations every week. There’s a growing awareness in governments around the world that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. That a concentration over the last 30 years of educational reform on academic qualifications, to the exclusion of the wider non-formal educational curriculum, has led to young people leaving school poorly equipped for life and work. 

To be equipped properly for life, young people need to develop the qualities of perseverance, grit, curiosity, optimism and self-control. Economists might describe these qualities as non-cognitive. Psychologists might call them ‘personality traits’. To the rest of us, they’re just known as ‘character’ and the development of character is the business of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. 
Some of you were in Malta – so you know that I’m quite challenged when it comes to dealing with modern audio visual technology. The other day I was doing some clearing up at home and found one of these.. young people have never seen these. But for a moment, let’s just imagine the technology of the cassette recorder is still cutting edge. Let’s rewind, pause and fast forward.

If we rewind a moment, we’ve spent the last three years an Award family trying to get to grips with what in Malta I described as ‘Transforming the Award’. We’ve discussed much of that this morning and this afternoon there will be an opportunities to review some of the tools and services we’ve put in place. Thank you to all of you from NAOs who filled in the survey about your relationship with the Foundation. It’s told us a great many things – and we’ve posted the raw results on the Online Learning Hub for you to peruse. 

What’s come across to me, from the survey and from conversations with many of you, is that you generally like the direction in which we’ve been moving. 83% of respondents to the survey said yes to the question, “do you think that the Award is heading in the right direction?”

But as one of you commented:
“There are aspects of the change which are positive. E.g. the need for global standards, governance and licensing across all NAOs but, some of that change process has not been managed or supported as well as it might have been. There is still a need for the Foundation to “listen” more, involve all NAOs in the change and, not rush into specific timescales for some of the strategic changes.”

I liken the last three years to coffee making.

Cafetière and percolators.

We know we’ve been pressing down hard on the plunger of change. It’s now time to pause. And talk. And percolate. 

I hope this Forum will give us exactly that opportunity. When I wrote to you earlier this year, I said
“I’d like this Forum to be one that’s remembered for its straight talking; its creation of a space where a whole range of views can be heard and, more importantly, listened to; where leadership is shown by all stakeholders; where the instruments of decision making are clarified; and where our discussions lead to further action after Forum that will galvanise us all, enhancing the ability of the Award internationally and increasing the international capacity of the Award to grow.”

So now to Fast Forward. We’re all going to get an opportunity tomorrow to do some dreaming, but to do so within a framework that really helps us to plan for the future. And we’re delighted that Group Partners, a consultancy team that are no strangers to the Award, are going to help us all with our thinking. 

But perhaps I could put some of this in context. Let me talk of the young people with whom we work.
We’ve had the ‘silent generation’, ‘baby boomers’, ‘Generation X’ and the Millennials. Each generation has its own characteristics, behaviours and attitudes, developed through the experiences of its formative years.   And now there’s a new generation, – the Twenty-First Century’s first generation, born after 1996. These are the children and young people we’re working now to educate. And, like each succeeding generation, they’re not the same as “us”.

Their childhood has taken place during a period of economic depression not felt since before the 2nd World War. Their Generation X parents have been absorbing the impact beyond the obvious financial strain; promotion opportunities have been obstructed by Baby Boomers postponing retirement and the rising tide of Millennials are already clamouring for a place at the decision making table. At the moment, this new generation are relatively compliant, but they are growing towards and through adolescence in an atmosphere of mistrust of “the system” – Will they, like the Silent Generation who lived through the Depression, react in a way that spawns the equivalent of the anxt of James Dean? The passion of Martin Luther King? The attitude transforming writing of Germaine Greer?

They are being parented in a very different way from the Millennials. Millennials were generally parented by Baby Boomers. They were taught that there would be prizes for everyone; that it was the welfare of a whole class of children that was important, not necessarily the individual; they were told that they could be anything, do anything – aspiration was all; 

Today’s young people are being parented by Generation Xers. They are being taught that only the best win; that their personal welfare is more important than their classmates; that they should do their best but be realistic in their aspirations. This is having an effect on the developing mind-set of this new Generation. 

They are growing up in a society that is more diverse than ever. They are more likely than anyone born before them to have friends that come from different social backgrounds, races and faiths. Gender roles are blurring. Diversity is mainstream. But there are massive challenges to face. This is the post 9-11 generation. Islamaphobia is continuing to grow. Extremism finds fertile ground to develop and grow in communities that struggle financially and where there is a high level of unemployment.

Research suggests that girls aged 8 to 15 have greater expectations today than ever before in obtaining a university degree, helping others live a better life and changing the world. They care more about their results at school and getting feedback from parents and teachers to help them do things better. Girls place a higher value than boys on being respectful, ethical and trustworthy, whereas boys favour being loyal and fun to be with. The women’s liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s has created a generation where girl power dominates. As this generation grows up, could it be the first truly to see equality in opportunity and success? Or will boys’ achievement levels in many countries continue to fall behind those of girls, leading to a new dynamic and a generation of dissatisfied and angry young men?

This is the most connected generation ever. Will the easy access, even by the youngest of this new generation, to devices that enable fast and continuous communication change the way they learn to communicate? As the Communication Lifestyle spreads and is adopted, will schools and businesses have to change? I think they might. Will this new generation, as adults, see themselves not as global citizens, but simply as connected ones – taking the global bit for granted? I think they might. And if that’s the case, then perhaps we need to look closely at how the Award, through its digital tools, can help connect young people – and leaders. We’ve taken the first steps in this area with the ORB and particularly the online learning hub, but what might follow?

When HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Kurt Hahn and John Hunt launched the Award nearly sixty years ago, it was to a different generation of young people. Hahn said that “There can be no doubt that the young of today have to be protected against certain poisonous effects inherent in present-day civilization. Five social diseases surround them, even in early childhood. There is the decline in fitness due to modern methods of locomotion; the decline in initiative due to the widespread disease of spectatoritis; the decline in care and skill due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship; the decline in self-discipline due to the ever-present availability of tranquilizers and stimulants, and the decline in compassion, which William Temple called “spiritual death.”

Perhaps the world has not changed so very much after all. What goes around, comes around.

What we can be certain of is that the Award has an important part to play in dealing with those “poisonous effects”. We know that it does so in a way that allows young people to take control of their own destinies, guided and supported by great adults. 

But we only reach a million young people. And that’s not enough. I know that some people see a tension between growth of the Award and its quality. I don;t buy that. Growth and quality do not exist at two ends of a continuum. HRH spoke of this earlier. We can, and MUST, plan for universal access to good non-formal education and to the Award. I’m not sure how we achieve this – and tomorrow’s conversations can help to debate this matter – but I hold hard to a (perhaps naive) but very simple view. If the Award really is the wonderful thing that so many of us believe it to be, then it is nothing short of our duty (an old fashioned term perhaps, but one that I believe in); our duty to bring the Award within the reach of as many young people as we possibly can. And to do that with rigour, with skill and with urgency. I don’t know how far in the tape we have fast forward to find universal access. But it’s there on the tape. Somewhere.

So just before I finish – and remove the cassette tape from the deck – let me just share with you something that might help others get a feel for the power of the Award – and might help them think about volunteering to help young people. We know that when offered the Award there are few young people who reject it. One of our problem lies in persuading adults – whether policy makers, influencers, community leaders, teacher, youth workers, parents – that the Award is worth resourcing with their time, their talent and a financial commitment.

Results of our recent survey suggest many of you not getting as much help as you would like to grow the Award.

Many also asking for support with communications materials to grow awareness of the Award.

Impossible to grow the Award without growing the number of trained Award volunteers, especially Award Leaders.

Delighted therefore to premiere today a new film which may help you to recruit more teachers as Award Leaders.

I hope you’ll agree that this film breaks new ground for the Award.

We’ll be making this film available to all NAOs in early December.

You’ll be able to edit the voiceover to translate it into a local language, and the URL, so that you can direct people to your own website.

We will also be producing a shorter version which will be suitable for social media and broadcasting.

Special thanks to Victoria Selano from The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – Canada who has done an amazing job in helping us to produce this film, to Edwin, our Africa regional director, whose voice you will hopefully have recognised, and to the many Award participants and volunteers who took part. This film is very much a product of the Award.

Not all learning goes on in the classroom. Our Award participants and their leaders demonstrate this every day of the year in more than 140 countries and territories. They are the people the world has been waiting for. Our challenge is to swell their ranks. 

And, quite frankly, quite simply, quite outrageously, with them, to change the world.


International Gold Event 2014

Thursday 29 October 2015

Adventurous Journey for Gold and Silver Level

Gold and Silver participants of The Cathedral & John Connon School, Mumbai completed their Adventurous Journey  at Bhimashankar and Khopoli.  A report from the Award Leader follows.

The IAYP Gold and Silver Level Adventurous Journey camp was held from 8th to 11th October, 2015 at Khopoli and Bhimashankar. Forty-nine Gold and Silver level participants, accompanied by the Award Leader, left for Khopoli. On reaching Khopoli, the participants were given sessions on rope knots, how to handle various equipment and pitch tents. These sessions were lively, informative and helped refresh everyone's memory of these vitally important skills for safety and survival.

Early morning on the 9th of October, all the participants embarked on a trek to Bhimashankar. They were all transported to Khandas village by bus and then began the ascent from there. The trek was challenging and exciting; there were several spots that seemed impossible to climb but with the correct attitude and skill, all the participants were able to manoeuvre their way through the forest. Everyone was determined to complete the trek and reach the peak of the hill. After seven hours with a lot of encouragement from the team leaders, the group finally made it to the top. The trek was exhausting but it helped improve the participants' fitness and build their communication and coordination skills.

In the evening, the participants were divided into groups and took part in different team building games. In the first game, the participants had to form a circle and pass a hoola-hoop around the circle without breaking it. The games became more difficult as they progressed; in the last game, all the team members were blindfolded and the group leaders had to help them form a square. These games enabled the participants to think on their feet and prepared them for life-threatening situations.

On the morning of the 10th of October, the participants did some light exercise and then took a bus to the Bhimashankar temple. It was a beautiful historic monument that offered an insight into Hindu religion and culture. In the evening the participants undertook a few adventure activities. Both net climbing and jhummaring were good exercise; these activities also allowed the knowledge on equipment and rope knots to be put to good use.

The morning of the 11th was spent in some light exercise followed by lectures and a feedback session, after which everyone departed for Mumbai. All in all, the camp was challenging and tiring but it was a memorable and enjoyable experience. Click here for pictures