I’m Sandra Swieter (nee Livingstone) I was born and raised in PEI and had the chance to complete the Bronze Level of the Duke of Edinburgh Award program in grade 9.
The program hadn’t been set up to complete the higher levels in the school curriculum and I really wanted to complete the higher levels, so I pursued the activities on my own in grades 10 and 11 to complete the Gold level. I was beyond thrilled to be invited to Rideau Hall in Ottawa to be presented with the Gold Award by Prince Philip. I love traveling, taking photos, spending time with friends, being active, and teaching/motivating others., Cornwall, PEI, Award Alumni.
Getting involved in volunteer activities for the Award started me on my lifelong journey of volunteering my time and money to help others. I learned that nothing is impossible and with the right motivation and attitudes and by asking others for help, we can always achieve what we set our minds to do! Because of this experience when I was challenged to complete each level on my own, I discovered that I could do whatever I wanted to do.
From my experience, I’ve encouraged other young people to get involved in the program. I enjoyed the volunteering part of the Award, so I continued to look for opportunities to help others.
When I became a teacher and had my summers and Christmas holidays off, I started traveling overseas. I spent a summer at a seniors’ home in Venezuela, a summer helping a missionary family in South Africa, a month doing humanitarian work in Ukraine, a few weeks assisting a missionary family to pack and move from midUS to Mexico, and lots of other short-term volunteer opportunities with Big Brothers-Big Sisters of PEI, Compassion Canada, and church/community/school volunteer groups.
The other passion is physical fitness. I’ve enjoyed staying physically active through walking, kayaking, swimming, skating, skiing, and biking. I love helping people help themselves. Being available — even if not the most capable — is what is required. My confidence definitely increased while participating in the Award activities. Once I discovered that I was able to complete the Silver level activities, I was more determined to work toward the gold. Completing the Gold level encouraged me to participate in other “hard” things, and I was able to become a Scuba DiveMaster and was almost ready to give up during some of the testing activities. But what I had learned about myself when I was young enabled me to push myself beyond my limits and achieve what I probably would never have done otherwise!
Other benefits include meeting others who went through the program and even beginning my journey as an Award Leader (however, I wasn’t able to do it very long as I got married and moved to US). Completing all the required activities and achieving the Gold award makes me feel very proud and so thankful that as a 16-year old I set my mind to completing this program.
I think it should be incorporated into the school curriculum as there is so much for kids to learn while participating in this program. Teamwork, organization, selflessness, communication, and leadership are all skills that are practiced and learned. Most likely everyone who gets involved will see a positive increase in his/her self-confidence!