With Duke of Edinburgh’s Award volunteering in the headlines, Year 11 pupil Max Wilkinson talks about achieving many of the ’25 activities every teenager should experience’ in his weekend work on a miniature railway.
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award volunteering is an integral part of bronze, silver and gold awards achieved by boys at John Lyon. This blog is in response to the DofE’s list of 25 activities every teenager should experience to build confidence, resilience and independence, reported widely in the national media. The list was based on a poll of 1,000 teenagers aged 14 to 18 which found that more than half had never had a part-time job, one in five had never been for a walk in the countryside and 52% had never volunteered.
Every Sunday for the past four years I have worked at the Great Cockrow Railway in Surrey, helping with the running of the miniature railway.
In the summer, I am usually found pulling levers in a signal box, driving steam trains or assisting passengers on the platform or in the ticket office. In the winter, when it is colder, darker and closed to visitors, maintenance is carried out replacing track and repairing engines and carriages.
The railway has 41 steam engines and 12 electric engines on site, each owned privately and are very rare and expensive. Open since 1968 the railway has grown and expanded, and is holding more and more special events.
It is interesting to learn that there are so few teenagers that volunteer. At Cockcrow we’re trying to get more and more teenagers like myself to come in and help out.
From when I joined, I have become less shy and more confident talking to different people of all ages. There are a range of people that I have to deal with including the passengers who may have a disability and require help getting in a small low-down carriage or someone who might be interested in seeing things behind the scenes.
It has also been fantastic to meet people with similar interests, including a number of volunteers who used to work on the real railways. It’s great because I am able to get in touch with people who might help me get into work experience, for example. There are also a lot of teenagers who are similarly aged and we keep in touch outside school and help each other out.
When I began volunteering at the railway I had no idea I would learn the skills to be driving passengers three years later. This may sound like a long time but from starting out only knowing a couple of people a lot has changed. I am also ready for lots of scenarios, such as potentially being the person required to be a First Aider at short notice.
Putting Duke of Edinburgh’s Award volunteering or any other volunteering on your CV will definitely make you stand out from everyone else. There’s also a lot of overlap with the things at this railway with real jobs which would speed up the training into jobs.
I have learned new skills and become more mature. I would recommend volunteering to everyone.
The full experience list of 25 activities:
Get work experience or a part-time job; Spend time getting to know an older person; Become a mentor to someone younger; Volunteer for a charity; Join a club for your hobby; Go to a music festival or a gig; Learn a foreign language; Set yourself a personal physical challenge; Learn first aid; Learn to manage your own money; Travel somewhere new; Experience a digital detox; Campaign for something you believe in; Learn to cook; Try vegetarianism or veganism; Spend time in nature; Carry out a random act of kindness; Learn about your history; Speak in public or in front of the school class; Create a piece of art or music (with your voice or an instrument); Go dancing; Dress for yourself, not others; Engage in politics; Learn about climate change; Have a conversation with someone you’ve never met
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is an extra-curricular activity for Y10, Y11 and L6.
DofE is a fun adventure and major challenge, with a wide range of activities offering endless possibilities. This is the world’s leading youth achievement award, designed to push personal boundaries, deliver new skills and enhance university applications and CVs. DofE gives boys the chance to do something completely new and improve on things they are already doing, taking them out of comfort zones and into places where individuals have to push themselves to achieve rewards. There are three levels of Award – Bronze, Silver and Gold – all of which require a commitment to community projects, physical activity and expeditions within the UK. Boys completing any of the DofE awards build confidence, resilience, skills for work and friendship groups.