Student who innovated to continue her DofE Award during COVID-19 pandemic finally receives Gold Award


London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) A Pakistani Christian student achieved her Duke of Edinburgh scheme (click here), Gold Award at 18 Y/O despite the pandemic lockdown preventing many from achieving their goal.

Initially, Hannah Chowdhry (19 yrs) set her heart on simply achieving the Certificate of Achievement, a certificate that recognized participants who managed to complete their Skills, Volunteering and Physical sections at Bronze, Silver or Gold level, but were unable to do their expedition and/or residential because of the pandemic lockdown (click here).

Hannah achieved this and was one of the first children in the country to attain this certificate especially at Gold level, partly because of her volunteering at British Asian Christian Association, throughout the pandemic lockdown, which also resulted in many other accolades such as the Rotary Young Citizen Award (click here), Young Ambassador for Fairlop Lions Club and Redbridge Council’s Young Citizen of the year (here).

Hannah had completed her expedition before the pandemic and so only needed to complete her residential to complete the whole award.  But she met with difficulties in arranging this, mainly because most residentials started a long time after the pandemic due to fears of COVID-19 infection still being prevalent, and because Hannah was taking 4 A levels at the time and an EPQ.

Eventually she was able to organize completion of her residential but only during the gap between finishing her A Levels and starting her law degree at university.

Hannah (2nd left) with all the young volunteers completing a DofE Gold Award residential at Revitalise Liverpool (a retreat for disabled people).

Hannah  completed the 1 week of volunteering in June 2021 at Revitalise in Liverpool, a retreat for disabled people (click here).  Work included being a constant companion and helper to severely disabled people who were taken on outings and enjoyed a relaxing stay at the hospitality centre.  Hannah really enjoyed the experience and hopes to volunteer there again with other friends she made while helping there.

Revitalise gave Hannah a very good reference and by July she was informed that she had completed her DofE Gold Award and it was a relief for Hannah, who always wanted to complete before starting university.

Unfortunately, a few months later Hannah was informed that she had not completed because an issue had been raised about the number of hours she had spent training for Badminton. This was because although she had spent 1 hour sessions learning at Redbridge Sports Centre, they had not opened till much later after the pandemic than the classes she had been taking at the same time at her school.  Her school Badminton classes had resumed as soon as school’s reopened across the country.  The school Assessors had written that Hannah had only undertaken 30 minute sessions and had not mentioned that she had also stayed a half hour after the training sessions to practice what had been learnt, a fact she had evidence for and the assessor acknowledged also.  Hannah had also been completing the 1 hour sessions at Redbridge college alongside the 30 mins at the school sessions, meaning she was well over the time allocation required for the scheme anyway.

The reassessment caused some delay but by October 2022 Hannah had again been a confirmed Gold Award achiever.

Unfortunately for Hannah her home address has long-running problems with Royal Mail delivery and in late January 2023 her Gold Award badge finally arrived at her parents home.  The letter arrived a few weeks after the date showing on the envelope which was already opened.  The award though elusive was finally at her family home awaiting Hannah’s return from Scotland where she is studying law.

The delay in the receipt of the badge meant Hannah would not see her badge until Monday 24th February after she was in London for a concert, her parents collected her from the O2 Arena and drove her to Luton Airport for a 7am flight, as she was eager to get back in time for her course at university.  While at the airport her parents were able to take a picture of Hannah holding her Gold DofE brooch which she worked extremely hard to achieve.

Hannah Chowdhry, after her DofE Silver Award expedition

Hannah Chowdhry, said:

“The DofE Award Scheme is one of the hardest things I have achieved.

“It was very rewarding too.

“I literally had to climb up a mountain to attain the award a physical exertion I will never forget.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a spanner in the works, but it was overcome.

“The skills I have gained from the program will stay with me for life.

“I would definitely recommend the award scheme to other young people, it’s character building.”

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