The Wessexes

Royal Association: The Earl of Wessex and The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation

Thursday evening will see the Earl of Wessex attend the International Golf for Youth Dinner held at Windsor Castle. The Earl serves as Chair and trustee for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Association, (IAA), a position he has held since 1987. The Earl also heads the International Council, (IC), the global governing body of the Association.

The Earl of Wessex with John Reilly MBE, Duke of Edinburgh's Award Centre Co-ordinator during his visit to Belfast Royal Academy in February 2015. The Earl met participants of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme.

The Earl of Wessex with John Reilly MBE, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Centre Co-ordinator during his visit to Belfast Royal Academy in February 2015. The Earl met participants of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

During the past 60 years, the awards handed out to youth on behalf of the International Award Association have become the world’s leading youth achievement award. Founded over half a century ago by The Duke of Edinburgh and Kurt Hahn, a German educationalist, the Award program was created as a result of the gentlemen’s belief that young people’s development lacked components of civilised living. They resolved to establish a programme that would provide a ‘do-it-yourself kit in the art of civilised living’.

From its beginnings in 1956, the program spread throughout the world; it’s universal appeal even surprising the Duke. “When the first trial of the Award was launched in 1956, no one had any idea quite what would happen. In the event, it was an instant success, and the Award has been growing and expanding worldwide ever since.”

The Association is comprised of 69 national award bodies and 350 Independent Award Centres, (IACs), located in over 140 countries and territories. There are four regional offices responsible for overseeing the Foundation. In Africa, the office is based in Nairobi Kenya; Kingston Jamaica in the Americas region; the Asia Pacific regional office in Sydney Australia, while the London office oversees the Europe, Mediterranean and Arab States, (EMAS).

The primary goal of the Award is to prepare youth ages 14 to 24 for work and life. No attention is given to background but to successfully completing the four sections within the three levels.

The Bronze Level is for youth over 14 years old; silver, for those over 15 years old, and Gold, for young people over 16 years of age. Each level and section has a specific time requirement that must be met before the young people can move forward. At the Gold Level, they must complete a residential Project where they work with others toward a common goal of their choosing. This experience lasts for approximately four nights and five days and is designed to provide them with a life-changing event that will broaden their horizons and open their eyes to different ways of life. Some examples of these projects might include; working with an international charity, restoration projects, residential language courses, participating in a youth camp overseas or volunteering with a national park, youth parliament or coaching opportunity.

Within Service, youth volunteers their time in their communities, providing such assistance as first aid, coaching, visiting hospitals, and helping those in need like the elderly and physically challenged.

The Skills section’s goal is for youth to either take up a new skill or to improve on a current one. These skills can range from music and arts and crafts to sports-related and nature and the environment. To communication skills such as website design, writing, languages, reading journalism and public speaking and games.

The Physical Recreation section seeks to improve the physical health and overall fitness of youth. They participate in such events as ball, water, winter and animal sports, athletics and martial arts.

The Bronze Level have to spend a minimum of three months participating in these activities; Silver Level participants, as little as six months, and Gold Level participants work for a year.

The final section that must be passed is the Adventurous Journey. Here, under close supervision, youth partake in a team journey or expedition. They plan, train and undertake this excursion in unfamiliar surroundings. They explore the natural world, river valleys, conducting health surveys or education in rural or remote areas. Climbing, sailing, cycling or completing other demanding journeys through other modes of grueling physical activity.

Bronze-level participants must complete a minimum of 12 hours of “purposeful effort,” over a period of two days and one night. For silver, it’s three days two nights, 21 hours. Whilst youth at the Gold Level has four days and three nights with a total of 32 hours required.

Prince Edward rounds out his busy week with a visit to Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society in Aberdeenshire on Saturday. Edward, who is Patron, will open the Fourth Haddo Arts Festival during his visit.

Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Office via Flickr