The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has been up and running in many African countries for several decades now. Supporters of this type of programme, such as Tunde Folawiyo, are probably aware that over the years, the D of E has provided countless numbers of young people with the guidance they needed to overcome difficulties in their lives, and discover their talents and abilities. Here, we’ll be discussing the experiences of two youths from Kenya and South Africa, whose involvement in the D of E helped them to flourish, in spite of the challenging circumstances in which they grew up.
In Kenya, the award is known as ‘PA-K’ or the President’s Award-Kenya. Throughout the last 48 years, the programme has helped many young Kenyans to develop important life skills that have helped them to not only make positive changes in their own lives, but to also make a difference in the lives of those around them. Take for example, Julius Irungu Krush; this young man grew up in complete poverty, residing in the Mathare slums, where there was often no electricity or running water.
During his childhood and teens, Julius has no role models or authority figures in his life that he could look up to, or seek advice from. Discussing his upbringing, he explained that by the time he reached his teens, he began to feel as if there were no hope for the future – an opinion which changed quite dramatically when he discovered the award programme.
In particular, it was the Service activities which spurred Julius on, and made him feel far more optimistic about life. Tunde Folawiyo, and others who are familiar with the D of E, understand how valuable this particular aspect of the programme can be. Through the Services section, Julius discovered a passion for community work, and set up an initiative called Raising Hope, which focuses on mentoring children living in the Mathare slums, and helping them to cope with the problems they face in their environment. Julius’ experience in the programme inspired him to return to it, as a voluntary leader, after he completed his activities and received his Gold award.
A similar story was shared by a South African participant named Vionaver Booysen, at a D of E event held in Franschhoek last year. The programme here is called the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment, and has been in operation for over three decades. Vionaver Booysen grew up in a poor neighbourhood call Hanover, where the opportunities for education and employment were virtually non-existent.
But rather than allowing her situation to determine her future, Vionaver decided to take action. She joined the award programme, and began to work on a project called CASE (Community Action towards a Safer Environment) which focuses on improving the living conditions of the residents of Hanover. After becoming a Gold award recipient, Vionaver went back to work for CASE full-time, as a Youth Co-ordinator.