Last time, we heard from Tom, who is training on Expedition and Outdoor Leadership. Craig, who has completed Level 2 Expedition and Outdoor Leadership training, also talks about his experience with Duke of Ed...
What motivated you to get involved in leading DofE?
"I had been through DofE in school but I must admit I felt as though I was just doing it for the sake of doing so, it’s only now as I look back I realise not only how much fun I had, but also how it benefited me in other ways. I’d always enjoyed being in the outdoors so taking steps to train as a DofE leader for my company in 1st Ballyclare seemed like a natural progression. It was a great excuse to be out in the hills more often, but it was also a great opportunity to extend my mission field out into the countryside where I love spending so much of my time. I definitely feel close to God when I’m out in the mountains, it’s great to take a moment to absorb the beauty of His creation. And having the opportunity to talk about faith when out with the groups, even only a passing comment or taking a few minutes to chat just enhances the experience."
Best mountain you have ever climbed?
"Far from the most exciting climb, but probably my favourite and most often visited one is ‘Doan’ in the Mourne Mountains. It’s an easy enough hike in of around 90 minutes and only 250m ascent but the pay off is amazing. For a quick climb it gives you one of the best views in the Mournes, the walk takes you across the Mourne wall and into the heart of the high Mournes - meaning once you summit Doan you are met with a full 360 degree stunning view. You can see down into Silent Valley, Ben Crom and Lough Shannagh while Carn Mountain, Slieve Muck, Slieve Binnian, Loughshannagh, Lamagan, Meelbeg, Meelmore and Bearnagh (five out of the seven highest mountains) tower above. It is amazing – I’ve even had the exciting opportunity to camp overnight on the summit. On that occasion I was lucky enough to witness what’s called a cloud inversion where the clouds form below summit level and fill the landscape below! It’s the one I always recommend to people starting out that want a fairly straightforward hike with a big reward."
Funniest memory of Duke of Ed?
"The hardest I’ve ever laughed on an expedition happened this year while I was supervising a silver group in June. I was observing the group from about a two kilometres away as they were crossing an area of open ground on the approach to Scawt Hill in the Antrim Hills. As the group came into view the area they were crossing was entirely clear, but before long a herd of what must’ve been 30 or 40 cows started to appear coming up the hillside beside them. Soon the cows were beginning to catch up with the boys who had now spotted the large cattle herd chasing them down. When the cows and group eventually met, the boys were quickly encircled and the cows began to split the group up, as if in a coordinated attack. By this time I’d started hiking across to lend assistance to the boys who were now being harassed by the animals, coming down from the summit of Scawt Hill I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at my group being outsmarted by this herd of cows that now were chasing them around the hillside."
Why would you encourage young people to do Duke of Ed?
"DofE is more than the expedition, which tends to be the only thing which comes to mind when we think about it. And to tell the truth the expedition is probably the aspect of the award which has the most draw for our boys, but it’s so much more. Through working on the physical, skill and volunteering aspects of earning your DofE it gives you an excellent opportunity to grow as a person. Depending on your award level the time differs, but at the very least it’s several months where you have to dedicate yourself to developing an existing hobby or sport (or discovering a new one) as well as taking time to give back to your local community through volunteering. Not only are you getting to make yourself a much more rounded individual, it’s great for your CV in later life too. The value of DofE isn’t just the expedition, or the badge – it’s the things you have to do behind the scenes to earn it. Quite often it’s these less glamourous bit’s that we overlook – but those are the very bit’s which give the award real value."
Which part of DofE did you learn the most from?
"I feel that as a leader / supervisor, I’ve probably come to learn much more about DofE and it’s benefits, value and it’s opportunities. I must admit that growing up and doing DofE I was probably just going through the motions, now though I can reflect back on all that DofE has to offer.
Having completed my Level 1 Expedition and Outdoor Leadership training for BB/GB (and now working on my level 2) I’ve been able to see DofE from a new perspective as a leader rather than a participant. For me being in the outdoors is where I love to connect with God, spending time in His creation does a lot to rejuvenate my faith. As a DofE leader I have so much fun just being out in the hills, but when I’m on expedition with a group and I get to share that experience of being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation does my heart good. And being on expedition is just one more opportunity, outside of a normal company night, to engage in fellowship with our boys.
What did I learn the most from? Probably the better way to answer that is to say ‘who’ I learned the most from. And that has to go to the instructors who lead the expedition and outdoor leadership course, their wealth of experience over the years being passed down has been invaluable. Some technical guidance, but also what the soft skills of a good leader are and how those things benefit the groups under your care. It helps as well that your instructors are active BB and GB officers, their motivation to work with young people is rooted in faith and that really shows. I hope that I can pass on a similar ethos to our boys."
Why do you feel Duke of Ed benefits young people?
"As I’ve eluded to – I don’t think the boys always see the benefits until they reflect on the experience, as I’ve been able to do. When you’re flat out doing your volunteering, physical and skill – and probably to a greater extent on expedition, the head’s down and you just push through. But when you take the time to look back over the experience you realise that you’ve actually come really far. You’re further on in a hobby, a sport or other physical pursuit, you’ve upskilled in various ways through volunteering and by undertaking your expedition you’ve learned some really valuable skills and had the opportunity to operate independently. All these experiences are absolutely going to hold you in good stead for the future, any prospective employer or university entrance assessor etc. that looks at your CV to see you have earned your DofE and actually takes the time to consider the effort which has gone into securing the award will think highly of you over someone without it.
Most importantly, in BB, it’s a time (particularly on expedition I find) to further your walk with God. Expedition is a great time for fellowship as you spend time with your mates and your leaders, and it’s a great time to witness. Being out on expedition where passersby, other DofE groups / leaders, campsite owners etc. find out you’re on expedition with Boys’ Brigade that’s a wonderful way for the organisation to be visible and active out in the community."