Dinu Wijetunga

Participant Gold

Participant Gold How Duke of Ed Helped me Become an Effective Volunteer

Entering the doors of my high school for the first time in grade 9, I knew I wanted to try new things and gain new experiences, but I didn't know where to begin. There were so many different extracurricular activities offered by my school; frankly, it was all a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, I learnt about the Duke of Ed Award from my brother. During family dinners, my brother (who was in grade 12 at the time) would talk at length about all his exciting experiences with the award, making me realize that it was exactly what I was looking for to guide my involvement in extracurricular activities.

Logging on to the online portal for the first time, I was amazed at how thoughtfully it was designed to provide a well-rounded experience for participants. Among the award sections, I had an idea of what I wanted to do for Skill Building and Physical Recreation, but I was stuck on the Service section. Although I had always wanted to make a greater impact in my community, up until that point I only participated in one-day volunteering events: nothing significant or long term. After talking to my brother, he referred me to the various resources in the Duke of Ed website and handbook (definitely check this material out if you are just starting the award!) Thanks to the information and advice provided through Duke of Ed, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: Volunteer as a Program Assistant at the ErinoakKids Center for Treatment and Development.

ErinoakKids provides a comprehensive range of family-centred treatment, rehabilitation and support services to children with disabilities. Through the ErinoakKids Theatre production program, over the course of several months, I helped a group of about 15 participants memorize lines, rehearse, and get their costumes ready for their adapted showing of Cinderella. This unique experience of helping participants to reach their maximum potential was immensely gratifying; it made me realize my passion for volunteering. Thanks to the interest sparked through the Duke of Ed Program, I continued to volunteer at ErinoakKids, but I also began branching out: helping children learn to swim through programs run by the City, providing tutoring and homework support for children living in at-risk/low-income communities, and volunteering my time as an Executive of a local organization committed to connecting youth with volunteering opportunities. All these experiences have allowed me to help my community with over 400 volunteering hours so far; an achievement made possible by starting the Duke of Ed Award.

My passion for volunteering also led me to take on a MEtoWE volunteering trip to Tanzania, where we helped build a schoolhouse in a rural community. After returning home from the Tanzania trip, which I took as part of my Duke of Ed Gold Project, I was determined to use the unique experiences I gained to make a difference within my school community - specifically to create an awareness about the less fortunate youth in developing nations. With tremendous support from my fellow Student Council Executives and Teachers, we planned various charity events at school and raised almost $8,000 for a MEtoWE community in India.

My initial interest in serving my community, which was which was amplified through Duke of Ed, motivated me to become the dedicated volunteer I am today. I am so thankful for the Duke of Ed award which has not only helped me give back to my community, but has also sparked a life-long passion for service.
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