James Willis journey to become a Queen Scout
My name is James Willis, I’m 17 years old and I am an Explorer Scout in Legend Explorer Scout Unit. Legend ESU is based in Coggeshall, Essex and part of the Braintree District.
Over the past few years I have been working towards my Queen Scout Award, Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) and completion of training to become a fully qualified Young Leader.
When I joined Explorers in 2009 I knew that I wanted a challenge and something to work towards so I started planning what I needed to do for the top award a young person can achieve within the Scout Association, which is the Queen Scout Award. I started with Bronze DofE and completed that in under a year and was then awarded my Platinum Chief Scout Award. The DofE Awards are split into three sections – Volunteering, Skill and Physical plus an Expedition. For my volunteering section, I helped out at my local Cub Pack, which was required for 12 weeks but, I was enjoying it so much, I continued on with the volunteering past the 12 weeks and am still helping out now! To continue volunteering at the Cub Pack though I had to start Young Leader Training, this initially consisted of training modules A – K, starting with child safety & protection and finishing with First Aid training. After you have finished all the modules you complete the four missions which is simply putting your training into practice. The missions took approximately a year to complete and when I had successfully finished these I was awarded with my Young Leader belt buckle, which means that I am a fully qualified Young Leader. The expedition for Bronze consisted of a 2 day practice expedition in Danbury, Chelmsford and the qualifier expedition in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk. For each of the DofE expeditions you work in teams of 4 or 5 people planning the route, covering the specified distance over the duration of the two days, being totally self-sufficient, carrying tents, food, water, appropriate clothing, cooking equipment, maps and first aid kit.
Moving on, I then progressed to my Silver DofE, which consists of the same sections as Bronze but, for longer periods of time. The practice expedition was held in Kent and the qualifier in the Peak District, both for 3 days, 2 nights. When I had completed the Silver Award I was awarded with my Diamond Chief Scout Award. The main topic though was completing my Gold DofE, which forms a large part for gaining the Queen Scout Award. For my DofE Gold volunteering section, I applied to be a member of the Volunteer Team at Colchester Zoo, working 6 hour days every other week. This was a requirement for 12 months but I have enjoyed it so much, I am still there now and plan to continue, even though I have finished my DofE. Working at the Zoo I am in a customer facing role, giving directions and helping with general customer assistance. I also play a main role in the feeding times of the Elephants and Giraffes, handing out food and directing the public.
For my skills section of Gold DofE I focused on motorbike riding. For a year I rode my motorbike to and from College everyday, improving my skills and safety on the roads. For the physical section of the Award, I used my road running, where I ran regularly and was in training for the 10km race in London in July. For Gold there is also an extra section called the residential, for this I spent two week on site at the 2012 Essex Jamboree assisting with the set up and pack down. The Expedition stage of the Gold DofE is quite significant and takes a lot of preparation. There are two expeditions that must be completed over 4 days, 3 nights each - the practice expedition was completed in the Yorkshire Dales and the qualifier in the Lake District. The practice in the Yorkshire Dales was a hard few days, as it rained continuously every day but, the team pulled together and we had a brilliant time completing the challenge together, which was so rewarding at the end. The qualifying expedition was in the Lake District and we were there for a week. The expedition lasted 4 days and 3 nights and was the hardest challenge. The first and second day we had beautiful weather and the sun was shining but, on the third day the heavens opened to a torrential downpour but, the waterproofs worked a treat! Across the 4 days we hiked over 80km and climbed some incredible heights, seeing parts of the country you would never normally get to see and I am very proud to say I didn’t get any blisters!!
During the DofE Awards I met some amazing people and formed some really special bonds with my team mates. It was an amazing experience, which taught me many life skills in team work, discipline, independence, survival, first aid and never giving up!
Lake District August 2012 – Gold Qualifying Expedition
The Duke of Edinburgh Award, although it forms a large part of the Queen Scout Award, it is not the only thing that you need to do in order to achieve it. There are several other components to complete, which are:
· Be a member of the Explorer Scouts for a minimum of 18 months.
· Complete 18 nights away as an Explorer.
· Complete two activities from the International Environmental Values List – for which I completed the International and Environmental Partnership Awards.
I have been a member of the Scout Association for just over 11 years, since joining Beavers at the age of 6 and during this time I have been very lucky to have fantastic leaders in each Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and now Explorers who have given me incredible opportunities to take part in many activities and learn many skills, all of which have led to me being able to achieve the Queen Scout Award, which I was awarded in October 2013. I am very proud to be part of the Scout Association and this is my proudest achievement to date – I am now really looking forward to going to Windsor Castle to meet Bear Grylls at the Award Ceremony in April 2014!